News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 11, 2009

RUB OF THE GREEN: Strange stories connected to golf

By Bob Arnett

TERRE HAUTE — Not all things go “bump in the night,” but there are certainly some strange goings on that are connected to the world of golf.

Anthony Pioppi and Chris Gonsalves have collaborated on a book entitled “Haunted Golf, Spirited Tales from the Rough.” With a foreword by Peter Oosterhuis, this book serves up a mysterious mix of spirits and events that would certainly appear to be unfathomable to many.

One story concerns the great Henry Longhurst, an outstanding golf journalist as well as a popular golf commentator known far and wide as the best in the business.

Longhurst and Sir Douglas Bader, an English World War II hero, became the best of friends during the later years of Longhurst’s life. Bader had lost both legs in an airplane accident, but that hadn’t stopped him from making twenty-two confirmed kills while utilizing two metal prostheses.

Henry Longhurst was a scratch golfer who had been captain of his Cambridge University golf team. He also had a German Amateur golf championship in his resume.

Bader, despite playing golf without his legs, managed to bring his handicap down to four. He and Longhurst became good friends who would converse long into the night as they undertook to solve the problems of golf, politics and life, only concluding their conversations at the time their gin bottles had been emptied.

On one particular night the subject shifted to the question, “What truly lies beyond mortality?” The two friends managed to reduce the question to, “Is the grass really greener on the other side?” On July 21, 1978, Henry Longhurst died of cancer. What occurred after that is the essence of a most interesting tale that makes for spellbinding reading.

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Doris Gravlin was a 30-year-old nurse who was estranged from her husband, Victor Gravlin. Although Victor wanted Doris to come back to him, the fact he was an alcoholic kept her from even considering reconciliation. After receiving a note from Victor, Doris decided to meet him.

They talked at length on the beach near Victoria Golf Club’s seventh hole before Victor in a rage, pulled out a rope, twisted it around Doris’s neck and choked her to death. He then dragged her body down the seventh fairway and tried to hide his murderous deed.

Within a few days the body of Doris Gravlin was discovered. Sometime later a badly decomposed body was found floating in the surf. It was identified as the corpse of Victor Gravlin. Police theorized that after killing his wife, he walked into the ocean and took his own life.

Since that time the ghost of Doris Gravlin continues to haunt Victoria Golf Club on a frequent schedule. A local newspaper published a story detailing an encounter with Doris’s ghost in the mid sixties. At that time the newspaper was deluged with stories regarding sightings of the ghost of Doris Gravlin. Other instances near the seventh hole have left witnesses shaken and panic stricken.

The Victoria Golf Clubhouse has also been the site of some eerie happenings. On numerous occasions night security guards say they have heard footsteps and music resonating from empty rooms. Victoria Golf Club is located at 1110 Beach Drive, Victoria B.C., Canada.

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Hilton Head is indeed a coveted locale for golfers. Harbour Town Golf Links, a Pete Dye creation, is one of the most admired courses anywhere in the U.S. as well as a popular, annual stop on the PGA Tour.

Back in October 1898, a hurricane with winds of 150-mph bore down on Hilton Head. Adam Fripp was charged with keeping the light burning in the lighthouse, however, the storm extinguished it, and Fripp worked frantically to reignite it when he suffered a heart attack and died. His 20-year-old daughter, Caroline, worked as hard as she could to keep the searchlight illuminated, but the storm exhausted her and she died a few weeks later. She was buried in her favorite blue dress in a grave near her father. It wasn’t long before Caroline’s ghost was observed wandering about, especially during hurricane season.

In recent years, the specter has been witnessed by many and she is now known as The Blue Lady, a reference to her favorite blue dress in which she was buried.

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The Biltmore Hotel and Resort located in Coral Gables, Fla., was just the place for Thomas “Fatty” Walsh and his buddy Arthur Clark. They were fleeing further questioning in regard to the murder of mob boss, Arnold Rothstein back in New York.

Fatty knew his way around when it came to the underworld. He had worked at various times for Meyer Lansky Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Dutch Schultz and Rothstein. Now it was time to lay low and the Biltmore was just the place. The Biltmore was managed by an old friend, Eddie Wilson.

Everything about the Biltmore was class, from its 276 rooms, a 700,000-gallon swimming pool and its championship golf course designed by Donald Ross. In 1926 an exhibition match featured Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Tommy Armour and Leo Diegel.

With prohibition in, Eddie Wilson could use Fatty’s talents in offering some of the country’s well-heeled players a safe place for the recreation of their choice. It was offered on the 13th floor of The Biltmore. During the day the 13th floor was a large empty room. By night it was an opulent destination for the affluent who wished to drink, gamble, listen to an outstanding band, and not worry about the law. Fatty Walsh and Eddie made a good team as they filled the 13th floor nightly with women in evening gowns and men in tuxedoes.

The partnership didn’t last, however, as Wilson and Fatty began accusing each other of skimming and it was dissolved when Walsh put some bullets into both Fatty and Arthur. Fatty died of his wounds, but Art survived. Eddie who always clamed to be protected by law enforcement was whisked off to Havana where he was never heard from again; Fatty, however, wasn’t willing to leave quietly, in fact he may never have left at all. You see, Fatty Walsh always had affection for blondes as well as a fascination about the 13th floor.

After Fatty’s death the elevators at the Biltmore began to take on a life of their own and the high jinks concerning the 13th floor multiplied. At one time there were dozens of spirit entities to be found at the Biltmore.

By the end of World War II, the Biltmore fell on some hard times. The Department of Defense took over the property and made it into an Army Air Force hospital. The location also served as a morgue and autopsy theater for the University of Miami Medical School. During those years players on the golf course began reporting ghostly lights, haunting voices and music all coming from the empty hotel. Some nights more that 100 people would gather on the fairways to witness the unearthly spectacle.

At one time the Dade County sheriffs and Miami police raided the old hotel figuring to find vagrants and drug users, but they failed to find anyone who was alive.

The Biltmore has since been restored and now is one of the favorite destinations of former President Bill Clinton. He favors a suite once occupied by Al Capone. Incidentally, it’s located on the 13th floor With tales of spooky events from Canada and throughout the U. S., the authors have served up a generous mix of strange happenings at golf courses and resorts in 19 various locations.



Hats off to new city golf champion, Chris Cassell. Chris was an outstanding high school golfer who always displayed the class and the confidence of a winner whether it was on the golf course or the basketball court. I would bet that Cassell will add some more city championships in the years to come. Nice going, Chris.



Congratulations to Chris Keen and Tom Jones on their 20 under par effort in winning the Brazil Two Man a week ago. Both Keen and Jones have what it takes to put plenty of red numbers on a scoreboard. Also, kudos to Chris Keen for a great job in directing the Terre Haute Golf Association during the past two years.



TIP OF THE WEEK: With inclement weather around the corner and courses playing longer don’t fall into the habit of swinging harder to get the required distance from a club. Take more club and swing easier. This will pay dividends in the long run.

Keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.