MILWAUKEE – First Carlos Gomez heard voices. Then he watched his iPod go haywire after he got out of the shower, sending him scrambling for the lobby without stopping to put on his pants and shoes.
After last year's experience, the Minnesota Twins outfielder didn't want to go back to Milwaukee's Pfister Hotel. But Gomez had to stay there when the Twins were in town to play the Brewers last month, so he brought some protection: teammate-turned-roommate Francisco Liriano and a Bible.
"Everything's scary," Gomez said. "Everything in the hotel, the paintings and pictures, it's a lot of old, crazy stuff. No good, man. No good."
The Pfister is Milwaukee's most regal address, having hosted every U.S. president since William McKinley and scores of celebrities who can take a self-guided tour of the hotel's Victorian art collection. Today, it's the place to stay for upscale business travelers and out-of-town visitors, including many Major League Baseball teams. Commissioner Bud Selig, a Milwaukee native, is a frequent visitor.
But some players don't care for the 116-year-old hotel's posh accommodations and reputation for privacy. They swear it's haunted.
Gomez, San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval, St. Louis' Brendan Ryan and several Florida Marlins all say they've had odd experiences, though Ryan later said nothing really happened. Others aren't willing to talk publicly about what they've seen and heard.
Brewers visiting clubhouse manager Phil Rozewicz has heard it all from sleepy-eyed players who would rather hang out at Miller Park than spend one minute more than they have to at the Pfister.
"There was a rookie ball player and he was back in his room and he woke up in the middle of the night and his blinds were open, the window was opened and he was panicked," Rozewicz said. "So he went into the bathroom, splashed water on his face, came back out and went to bed. Shut the blinds, the window. Woke up in the morning. Same thing. Slept on the couch in the lobby the next night. Refused to go to his room. Finally, went to a Motel 6 or whatever up the street and just stayed there."
Of course, some of this could be mischievous teammates pulling pranks. But Pfister ghost stories go well beyond the ballpark.
Allison Jornlin, who leads haunted history tours for the folklore research organization Milwaukee Ghosts, said guests have reported seeing a "portly, smiling gentleman" roaming the halls, riding the elevator and even walking his dog. The apparition is said to resemble Charles Pfister, who founded the hotel with his father, Guido.
"His ghost is thought, usually, to behave very well," Jornlin said. "But MLB players seem to bring out his mischievous side."
"Obviously, he's a Brewers fan," Jornlin said.
But even some of the Brewers won't stay there in the offseason.
"Even if I come into town for FanFest or whatever, I'm staying somewhere else," said Brewers center fielder Mike Cameron, who moved his family to another hotel after one night last offseason. "I mean, it's not a bad place. But there has been a lot of stories, a lot of creepy things that have gone on."
Hotel general manager Joe Kurth won't acknowledge any specific ghost stories from ballplayers or other guests, citing privacy concerns. But he doesn't shy away from the rumors, suggesting that guests interested in seeing a spirit might want to stay in the hotel's historic wing.
The Pfister does have its fans. Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy loves the quiet atmosphere, though the same couldn't be said for Tracy's players when he was managing the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I was hearing suggestions, to the point that they were saying, "I've got to go to a different hotel,"' Tracy said.
That sounds familiar to Gomez, who said he hears voices and noises when he stays there and had his worst experience after hopping out of the shower last year.
He'd just started putting his clothes on when his iPod started playing with a static noise. He grabbed it and the iPod changed music suddenly before going to static again.
"I grabbed my pants and my shoes and I ran to the lobby," Gomez said.
Gomez wishes the Twins would stay somewhere else.
"I'm scared to go there," he said. "They should change the hotel. Everybody here doesn't like the hotel. Why (do) they always put us in the same hotel when you can't sleep?"