Super Bowl Goes Dark As A Graveyard: Superdome Blackout Spurs Talk Of Voodoo Curse

 @rpalmerscience on February 04 2013 3:08 PM
Superdome In Partial Darkness
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome field is covered in partial darkness during a power outage in the NFL's Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans Sunday. Reuters

The official explanation for the Super Bowl blackout might just be a normal power outage, but for the more superstitiously inclined, it’s just another ill-fated event in the New Orleans sports arena that can’t seem to catch a break.

For many Americans, the Superdome’s name is inextricably linked with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when up to 26,000 people hunkered down in the stadium in August 2005. With no medical staff, water purification equipment and inadequate sanitation, conditions inside the Superdome quickly deteriorated.

But the unsavory pall that haunts the Superdome stretches back even further to a sinister connection with an old graveyard.

Workers excavating the site in the 1970s found their backhoes unearthing skeletons and coffins from the ground. The Superdome site turned out to lie over part of the old Girod Street Cemetery. Though the graveyard was deconsecrated in 1957, it soon became apparent that the remains of people that were never claimed by family members still remained. Some corpses dated back to the 1850s, when yellow fever ravaged Louisiana.

"You know, it's really not kosher to plop a sports facility on the remains of one's ancestors,” Ava Kay Jones, a New Orleans voodoo priestess, told the Times-Picayune in 2004.

New Orleans’ hometown team, the Saints, may have won a Super Bowl championship in 2009, but that was a lone bright spot in what has been a perennially disappointing team. The Saints’ first season ended with a 2-12 record, and they only managed to scrape together a winning season by 1987.

Radio stations and team management have brought in voodoo priestesses to perform rituals to purify the arena. But even those efforts ran into hitches -- one priestess was upset after being menaced by a Cleveland fan in a dog mask; that night ended in victory for the Browns. Jones performed a ritual before a playoff win against the Rams in 2000, earning a callback a season later. But after her performance, fans tossed bottles and garbage in the endzone, over where the graveyard had rested, and the Saints were trampled by the Rams, 34-21.

On Sunday, Entergy Corp. and SMG, the Superdome’s management company, quickly explained the mechanical cause of the blackout in a statement.

“A piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system,” the statement said. “Once the issue was detected, the sensing equipment operated as designed and opened a breaker, causing power to be partially cut to the Superdome in order to isolate the issue.”

The backup generators immediately kicked in, and full power was restored about 34 minutes after the stadium plunged into near-darkness. Entergy and SMG are still investigating the cause of the abnormality.

“The power outage was an unfortunate moment in what has been an otherwise shining Super Bowl week for the city of New Orleans,” the city’s mayor Mitch Landrieu tweeted on Sunday night.

Despite the more practical explanation, Twitter was aflutter with talk of a Superdome curse, though many were more concerned with making Beyoncé jokes. But perhaps the curse is merely a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"The curse is more of a joke than a reality," voodoo priestess Bloody Mary told the New York Daily News in 2010. "The more you talk or joke about things, the more power you give them.”

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