The Bills Curse
There are many reasons for the Bills lack of championships since the AFL-NFL merger—pre-game partying, missing helmets, Scott Norwood. But perhaps a supernatural element may be in play. Since leaving the Rockpile, the Bills are cursed. Ralph Wilson (nee Rich) Stadium sits on hallowed ground.
Skeptical? Do yourself a favor and type Ralph Wilson Stadium into Google Maps and notice what landmark you’ll notice directly north of the stadium: Sheldon Cemetery. For some reason, there’s a tiny cemetery planted a Hail Mary throw’s distance away from the stadium, a small green island surrounded by acres of concrete. In that cemetery is a plaque that reads, “First recorded burial John Sheldon Jan 16, 1832. His father, Joseph, was the first Sheldon to settle here in 1805. Cemetery restored by the Junior Yorkers & Orchard Park Historical Society. An early Erie Indian village was also located on the site of this stadium.”
Orchard Park happens to have a town historian, Sue Kulp, who generously shared her file on the Sheldon land and family. But while it includes precious little about its native history, it does offer some further information: “It is said that the stadium site was once the site of a Wenroes Indian Village, dating back to 1630.” Kulp’s file also identifies the small stream that runs below the eastern edge of the site as “Smoke’s Creek.”
Using Wenro Indians as a search item in the library, I was able to locate a 1920 “atlas of aboriginal localities” by archeologist Arthur C. Parker published in the New York State Museum Bulletin. The atlas includes sites where any Native artifact had been discovered. Most are of the mundane variety, like site 31: “Camp site on Harris Hill on the Stevens farm in Clarence township.”
But the narrative for stadium site, area 51 (you just can’t make this up), is extensive. It reads: “Village site, extensive, in East Hamburg at the junction of Smokes Creek and a small brook. The site is on the George Ellis and Charles Diemer farm east of Abbott Road. The occupation is identified by Professor Houghton as Wenro. A large cemetery was destroyed by contractors and many clay vessels were broken and thrown in excavation.”
Could there be a lingering curse in the air? The way the lake winds swirl through the stadium has become something of a legend in itself since it was opened in 1973. Could those winds be the embodiment of spirits intent on sabotaging the Bills’ success? Can all of these loose ends be resolved by blaming the Bills’ failures on the supernatural?
These are things to ponder, perhaps, the next time you find yourself a six-pack deep in an oversized suburban parking lot in the fall.
Aaron Lowinger is a poet, reporter, and proud father who lives on Buffalo’s West Side. For more, visit aaronlowinger.com.