Friday, October 29th, 2010

Ghosts on the loose in the USS Olympia…or maybe just a bid for tourists

Color me skeptical, but I find it odd that they Inky runs a full article on the hauntings of the USS Olympia now that the organization that runs it is threatening to close the site down in November. Odd that the ghost article brushes past that fact. If you haven’t seen it, the USS Olympia is a relic from the Spanish-American War and, along with its WWII-era submarine friend, the Becuna, a staple of regional class trips to the Philadelphia waterfront/historic district.

“I’m a complete rationalist,” said Jesse Lebovics, manager of the Olympia and submarine Becuna for the Independence Seaport Museum. “I can explain most of it.

“But [the ship] certainly has a colorful enough history that I think if something were to be around, it makes sense it would be around the Olympia,” Lebovics said.

Sure, Jesse, nice “but” there. I’d think a few ghosts would be mighty convenient for you though.

I don’t necessarily blame the folks who run the Olympia for pitching this story. After all, we’ve seen Eastern State Penitentiary go from moldering historical curiosity to one of the most popular “haunted” places in America by embracing the ghost tourist industry. (By day a historic gem, by night a history-making cash cow.) And the Independence Seaport Museum is still reeling from the scandal left behind by its former president, who ran the place as his own personal cash/political favor machine.

Apparently, the ISM has already pimped out the ship to the ghost TV reality show industry, a necessary first step, I’m sure, before they partner with a ghost tour outfit. That is, if they can put it together in time. According to previous reports, they’re looking to sell it for $20 million or they’ve threatened to sink it off the coast of Cape May. My thinking is that it will join the SS United States and become another ghost ship of Philadelphia.

Um, not in the haunted sense, but the abandoned, looming over Ikea sense…although the Olympia doesn’t necessarily loom over anything.

You want to save the Olympia? Save the waterfront. May my father, a highway engineer since the 60’s, forgive me, but let’s get rid of I-95. The idea is so mad it might work.


I can’t link it directly, but check out picture number four in the gallery. The caption says it all: “In recordings, Harry Burkhardt says, he has heard voices, including one that told him: ‘Save the ship!'”

Harry, are you certain Jesse wasn’t whispering in your ear?