Thursday, July 31, 2014

Boardwalk Tales: The Specters of Neptune's Kingdom

It was the summer of 1910 when the Plunge Natatorium had its first death. It occurred suddenly and unexpectedly. An twelve-year-old boy climbed to the third story of the Plunge building and settled himself into the three-story slide. The slide was not meant for such a small child but the lifeguards were still inexperienced and no one was paying attention. The boy pushed off, but immediately leaned to the left and plummeted into the cement side of the ladies' pool. His death was instant but significant. Within a year, the slide was removed and the lifeguard corps were founded. But the boy never found peace.

Two decades later, during a 1936 practice of the Water Carnival, a second tragedy struck the Plunge. A male performer in his early twenties, swinging on the high trapeze above the current site of the Buccaneer Bay Clubhouse, fell two stories and crashed into the pool bottom. Although he was pulled out after only two minutes, he was unconscious and had inhaled too much water. He died and the Carnivals continued, like nothing happened. Safety was not improved, and it took a court order to halt the use of children  as performers five years later in conjunction with the start of World War II to put a halt to the Carnivals. Again, the man was never given proper rest. The pool was emptied, his body removed, but his soul remains disturbed.

Finally, in the dog days of summer in September 1963, a woman with her family went to the Plunge for a relaxing afternoon. The days of slides and carnivals were over, but risks were always present in large pools. After diving from the board on the second story, her toe got stuck in the outtake piping that lined the bottom of the pool. None of the lifeguards saw her struggling in the crowds of children hanging out in the pool. Her body was discovered nearly an hour later, when another adult swimmer brushed against her and screamed. Lifeguards removed the body and the pool was closed indefinitely. It never reopened and became a miniature golf course the next spring. The days of the Plunge were over, but the spirits of those who died in the building will never forget.

Today, the trio of haunts populate the three accessible stories of the building. The boy, who died so tragically in 1910, passes his time around Hole #15 of the golf course, messing with the wiring on the security camera, and causing Guests to miss their holes-in-one even when they putt perfectly. Sometimes, he can be heard giggling on quiet evenings. The performer who fell from the trapeze in 1936 generally hangs out in Smugglers Arcade, moving the "no food or drinks" signs around and casually flipping the "course closed" sign over. Those performers were always clowns, and its no surprise that this one loves to stop balls at the top of the hump on Hole #18 or right before they go in the center hole. The woman who died in 1963 generally is in the basement, floating around the Arcade Tech Shop, Games Maintenance & Stock shops, and Technical Services, though sometimes people have seen her messing with the lights in the employee restrooms or in the breakroom. But when she's bored, she will swim up to the first floor and pass through the golf course as a cold breeze on a warm night, sending chills down the spines of golfers and employees alike. Even though the Plunge left us in 1963, these three swimmers will continue swimming until they find peace in safer pools...

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