By: Kendall Jones on October 30th, 2020
5 Bone-Chilling Construction Site Ghost Stories
Happy Halloween! Do you believe in ghosts? What about apparitions, ghouls, haints, haunts, phantasms, phantoms, poltergeists, specters, or spooks? Ever experience unexplained phenomena on the jobsite like missing tools or eerie sounds? Probably, but not necessarily the work of spirits from beyond the grave.
Earlier this year we came across a story about a ghost bridge caught on security cameras at a construction site. That got me digging into other stories about haunted construction sites and construction-related ghost stories. (My research found a lot more than I expected.)
So in honor of All Hallows’ Eve, I present these five spooky construction site ghost stories guaranteed to send a shiver down your back, chill your bones, and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
NYS Education Building – Albany, NY
The New York State Education Building, designed by Henry Hornbostel and constructed between 1908 and 1911, was the “first major building constructed in the United States solely as a headquarters for the administration of education.” The building is also allegedly haunted by a ghost named Jason.
I’m assuming Jason is a nickname because, according to the story, the ghost is the spirit of an Italian stone mason who died while working on the building during its construction. (Maybe because Jason rhymes with mason, or perhaps his name was Giasone and it got anglicized to Jason.)
Jason was working in the basement when he accidentally fell into a space where concrete was being poured. Instead of trying to rescue Jason, the Irish foreman, angered by Jason’s clumsiness and ineptitude, told the workers “Keep pouring,” trapping Jason’s body and his ghost in the building for eternity.
Jason still haunts the building to this day. Employees working in the basement, which they refer to as “The Dungeon,” have reported sensing an unwelcome, chilling presence and seeing a shadowy figure out of the corner of their eyes. Others have reported Jason as being a friendly spirit, by taking out books that are hard to find and even leaving them open on the correct page.
Marina City – Chicago
Designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg and constructed between 1961 and 1968, Marina City was built to be a “city within a city.” The multi-use, multi-building complex included a bowling alley, gym, ice rink, marina, swimming pool, retail stores, restaurant, theater and twin residential towers nicknamed the “corncobs.”
The complex’s East Tower appears to be cursed. During construction in 1961, three construction workers plummeted to their deaths when a scaffold fell from the 43rd floor. Later that year, six men were injured when an elevator malfunctioned and a seventh was injured while providing aid. The next year, another worker died after he suffered an apparent dizzy spell and fell from scaffolding on the 40th floor to the street below.
Those construction accidents were just the beginning in a long line of accidental deaths, murders, and suicides, according to Chicago Hauntings:
“In August of 1966, Roy Holland, a real estate developer, was found to have been dead for three weeks when his body—and three suicide notes—were discovered in his 48th floor apartment.
In May of 1967, 39-year-old June Fleck leapt from her fiancé’s 50th floor apartment shortly before they planned to marry.
In January of 1969, a retired government worker shot his 88-year-old mother and then turned the gun on himself in their 46th floor apartment.
In June of 1973, 42-year-old Sandra Easton, a computer programmer, leapt to her death from her 52nd floor apartment, crashing through the canvas roof of the complex’s ice rink (today the site of Smith & Wollensky restaurant). Just two years earlier, Easton had been saved from an earlier attempt to jump.
In 1972, 25-year-old Gloria Kirkpatrick, 39th floor resident and manager of the Marina City Theater (now the House of Blues), was stabbed to death outside the building.
In January of 1976, 25-year-old Kenneth Parvin fell to his death from a 57th floor apartment, landing between the two towers on Marina City Drive.”
Legend has it that all of these deaths occurred in the East Tower. While that's not entirely true, there have been a high number of murders, suicides, and accidental deaths at Marina City outside of those listed.
Is Marina City’s East Tower cursed? Are dark forces at work at the site? There have been numerous sightings of apparitions and ghostly figures and reports of electronics malfunctioning. Not to mention the icy drafts and feelings of deep depression reported by residents over the years.
Poinsett Bridge – Greenville, SC
Constructed in 1820, the oldest surviving bridge in South Carolina, and possibly the Southeast, is reportedly haunted. The stone bridge is believed to have been designed by Robert Mills, who also designed the Washington Monument and features a 14-foot Gothic arch.
The bridge, no longer in use, is located in the Poinsett Bridge Heritage preserve and visitors have reported a number of ghostly encounters over the years. People who park their cars in the lot across the street often find they won’t start when they are ready to leave.
Floating, glowing orbs of various colors are another common occurrence, often coming straight toward visitors before disappearing, as well as loud screams from the top of the bridge and voices coming from the arch below. Still other have reported being grabbed by rough hands and seeing white figures around the site of the bridge.
So, what haunts the Poinsett Bridge? Some believe the bridge was built on an old Native American burial ground, despite the fact this was Cherokee territory and they didn’t bury their dead in the ground. Another story involves a slave who was lynched or beheaded at the site.
The third theory involves the death of a stone mason or multiple workers, depending on the story, who were entombed in the bridge during construction. In some versions, the worker, or workers, died from malaria. Another tale claims they got swept up in a flash flood in Little Gap Creek or were the victims of some other construction accident. The dead workers were then buried underneath or within the bridge where they continue to haunt the site to this day.
Old Main, University of Arizona – Tucson, AZ
The history surrounding the founding of the University of Arizona is wild. During the 13th Arizona Territorial Legislation in 1885, Tucsonans were hoping to reclaim their city as the capital of the territory, which they had lost to Prescott back in 1877. Barring that, they wanted to receive the financial allocation to build an insane asylum. Instead they got stuck with an allocation of $25,000 to build a university.
In order to get the money, two gamblers and a saloonkeeper had to be goaded into donating the 40 acres needed to build the university. In 1887, construction began on the university’s first building, Old Main. Carlos Maldenado, a businessman from Sonora, Mexico, was chosen to supervise construction of the building.
Carlos was known to stay overnight at the Old Main while it was under construction. It was a few miles out of town and there were rumors that some residents were plotting to burn it down, apparently still angry over losing out on the capital and insane asylum.
One morning, workers showed up on the site to find Carlos’ horse already hitched to the post. Upon searching the building and calling out his name, they finally found Carlos sitting in a chair with a buffalo skinners knife sticking out of his throat. His killer was never found.
Old Main was eventually completed and was used from 1891 until it was condemned in 1938 after years of neglect. That may have been the end of the story and the building demolished if not for WWII. The U.S. Navy took control of the building in 1942 and made repairs to use it as a training facility, which they later returned in 1945 for $20,000.
Workers doing construction during that period reported seeing the head and shoulders of a Mexican man floating around the various room. They later identified the spirit as Maldenado based on a photo they were shown of him.
Maldenado still haunts the Old Main and over the years has been more active during renovations of the building, with the most recent being completed in 2014.
Paramount Arts Center – Ashland, KY
The Paramount Arts Center, originally known as the Paramount Theater, was initially planned to showcase silent films product by Paramount Studios. Plans changed and when it was built in 1931 it was one of the first transitional theaters constructed to accommodate the recent arrival of “talkies.”
The Art Deco theater was designed by Rapp and Rapp and plans had to be scaled back by a third due to the Great Depression. During construction, a crew of four were working in the auditorium one day. At lunchtime, three left to grab a bite to eat while one, a man named Joe, stayed behind. When the workers returned, they came upon a terrifying site. Joe was hanging by the neck from the stage rigging, stone dead. Whether this was an accident, or an act of suicide remains a mystery to this day.
Since Joe’s death, there have been a number of ghostly encounters at the theater. Employees and visitors have experienced cold drafts, mysterious lights and sounds, items going missing, and being tapped on the shoulder only to find no one behind them. The ghostly figure of Paramount Joe in overalls has also been spotted sitting in the audience of the theater on several occasions.
Paramount Joe is said to be a friendly spirit, unless you mess with his things. Billy Ray Cyrus apparently signed a poster for Joe when he was filming the music video for “Achy Breaky Heart.” It hung in the lobby along with other signed photos of past performers.
Years later, some of the signed pictures and posters were removed to free up space on the walls, including the one signed to Joe from Billy Ray Cyrus. The following morning when workers arrived at the theater, they found all the remaining pictures that were left hanging up were now laying on the floor. Joe’s picture was quickly hung back up and hasn’t been moved since.
Know of any others we left out? Every experience a ghostly encounter on the jobsite yourself? Feel free to share them in the Comments section.
Hope you all have a Happy Halloween, and may your tricks or treats be rock-free.
About Kendall Jones
Kendall Jones is the Editor in Chief at ConstructConnect. He has been writing about the construction industry for years, covering a wide range of topics from safety and technology to industry news and operating insights.