Greysolon Plaza elevator death in 1979 — fact or urban legend?

A woman I know from my hometown is an alumnus of UMD, and said that while she was in school UMD had the same overcrowding problem that it has now. Instead of housing students at Edgewater, they housed them at the Greysolon Plaza. She also said that there was an elevator accident in which some UMD students were killed. I can’t find this information anywhere online, can anyone confirm that this actually happened?



about 13 years ago

She is correct that UMD housed students at Greysolon Plaza and I recall news reports of an elevator incident.  My recollection is vague, but I'm thinking it involved students opening the doors and climbing out when the elevator was stopped between floors. I don't think there was a death (certainly not more than one), but I could be wrong.  This would have been no earlier than the fall of 1982, as that's when I moved to Duluth.


about 13 years ago

I'd say urban legend.


about 13 years ago

True.  I think it was the fall of 1979. I was a student there at the time.  There must be some archived issues of the Statesman at UMD where this could be verified.  It was one student.


about 13 years ago

From the News Tribune Attic ... this story from the DNT of Oct. 26, 1979:

Student's fatal fall apparently accidental The fatal fall of an 18-year-old UMD freshman in an elevator shaft at Hotel Duluth early Thursday appears to have been accidental, UMD officials said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. Joel Ray Engle, 18, Fifty Lakes, Minn., a resident of the hotel, had boarded the elevator on the 14th and top floor around 12:25 a.m. with seven or eight other students, Duluth police said. The elevator was stopped between the 14th and 12th floors because someone on the elevator pressed the emergency-stop button, police said. The hotel has no 13th floor. The student pried the elevator doors apart and several climbed to the 14th floor without injury. Engle apparently tried to lower himself to the 12th floor, lost his grip or slipped, and fell to the bottom of the shaft. ... Due to an on-campus housing shortage, UMD has quartered students at Hotel Duluth for four years. ... There are 275 UMD students, mostly freshman, now living at the hotel.

Paul Lundgren

about 13 years ago

Clarification: Note that the newspaper article from 1979 refers to the building as the Hotel Duluth. It became the Greysolon Plaza one year later, with 150 apartments for moderate-income elderly people. (As a hotel it had 400 rooms.)

And, of course, the other notable untimely death in the Hotel Duluth was in 1929 when a 350-pound black bear wandered in and was shot dead by Sergeant Eli LeBeau of the Duluth Police Dept.


about 3 years ago

I was a year behind Joel and two years ahead of his brother in high school. He was a big, strong guy. Hearing he died in this way was shocking. This happened a year after a traffic accident that seriously injured two of his classmates and killed a popular former student (who had never missed a day of school in 12 years). Small school, less than 50 kids per grade.

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