By best-selling paranormal author Joni Mayhan
As someone with mediumistic abilities, I can tell you that most of the movie theaters I’ve been to have a ghost or two hanging around. Contrary to popular belief, someone doesn’t have to die in the building for it to be haunted. Places like movie theaters offer a perfect situation for earthbound souls. Ghosts might linger there because it is a place they once enjoyed or they could simply choose it due to the bounty of energy it offers.
Earth-bound souls need energy to function. If they can’t find it through natural sources, they often turn to the living for fuel. Most people are unaware when energy is being pulled from them. They might feel disoriented or somewhat weary after an encounter. Others will feel a physical sensation while the energy is being drained from them. One common sign is the feeling that your body is vibrating from the inside out. When this happens to me, I create a shield of energy and protect myself, which is something that takes practice to master.
Other factors that contribute to a theater haunting is the space. Theaters are dark and windowless and are vacant for the majority of the day. If a ghost is quiet, most people won’t know it is there. It can silently creep from person to person, devouring the plethora of energy like a ghost buffet. Other ghosts aren’t as quiet. Below are several theaters where ghosts openly make their presence known.
Palace Theater – Los Angeles, California
Visitors to the Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles often see the shapes of people walking around the third floor balcony area. Others have seen a woman dressed in a white lacy gown drifting across the stage, disappearing as soon as she reaches the back stage. With the ample history behind the theater, it’s no wonder it’s haunted. Originally built for part of the Vaudeville circuit, attracting top performers such as W.C. Fields, The Marx Brothers and Sarah Bernhardt, it is the oldest theater in the country. Having been built before the days of amplified sound, all the seating was designed to be within 80 feet of the stage, including a third floor balcony that was originally set up for “blacks only,” with a separate entrance to prevent mingling of the races. A box containing the cremated remains of two adults and a child was found in the basement, lending more validity to the haunting.
Lincoln Square Theater, Decatur, Illinois
This theater was also designed with Vaudeville in mind. Opening in 1916 in downtown Decatur, the theater has every reason to be haunted. Once the site of a massive fire that burned down the hotel that once stood in it’s spot, it’s also the site of a supposed brutal tragedy. According to a popular legend, a stagehand named “Red” fell off a catwalk that stood 75 feet off the ground, snagging a hook on the way down that ripped his arm off before he landed in a bloody heap. History tells a different story. Apparently, Red simply fell asleep and died of natural causes, but it has been said that his ghost still lingers at the Lincoln Square Theater. People frequently hear ghostly footsteps, witness doors closing by themselves and feel cold spots in the old theater.
Sterling Opera House – Derby, Connecticut
Built in 1889, this Italianate-style structure is off the charts haunted. When I investigated there in 2013 and 2014, I had several experiences I couldn’t explain. As we sat on the stage, hoping to make contact with Andy, the little boy who haunts the theater, we were in for a surprise. The ball that we brought, hoping to trigger activity, went sailing off the stage all by itself. During my second investigation, I sat in stunned disbelief as a foggy white mass drifted over my head while I sat in the wings of the stage on a set of stairs.
Reasons for the hauntings are difficult to pinpoint. Some suggest that the lost souls come from the jail rooms that were built beneath the structure after it was turned into a county hall and police department not long after closing as a theater in 1945. Others believe it could be due to its 56 years as a theater, showcasing notable performers such as Harry Houdini, actor Lionel Barrymore, Amelia Earhardt and comedian Red Skelton. For many years, people have reported seeing a woman sitting in the lower balcony. The Sterling Opera house has sat vacant since the 1960’s and is now closed down to visitors, living ones at least.
Click HERE to hear one of the EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) that I captured there.
Golden State Theater, Monterey, California
Footsteps can sometimes be heard on the stage when the theater was supposedly empty, while others felt an icy chill in the projection room. Was this imagination or the work of something paranormal? Witnesses to the activity are firm in their beliefs. History seems to support some of the basis behind the haunting.
The State Theater first opened in 1926, showcasing premium performers such as Bob Hope and many other rising stars of the 1930’s. The interior of the theater was designed to look like a Castilian castle courtyard with a fresco on the ceiling and border lighting that simulated sunrises and sunsets. With a plethora of hidden passageways and rooms below the stage, the theater was filled with intrigue from the very beginning. According to legend, a projectionist committed suicide on the third floor, lending even more credibility to the hauntings. People often feel his presence on the third floor and sometimes hear disembodied footsteps echoing through the building.
In 1990, a non-profit group began restorations of the theater, even adding a Wurlitzer pipe organ to replace the original organ. The theater was acquired by a private investor in 2005 who began efforts to transform the theater back to its original glory, but it the project wasn’t completed and the theater was rented to a church for several years before reopening recently as a theater again. The Golden State Theater is still open and curiosity seekers can see for themselves if the theater is indeed haunted.
The Paramount Theater – Austin, Texas
Built in 1915, this classic revival styled theater hosts live performances, as well as movies. Originally opening as The Majestic, it was built as a vaudeville venue, but was renovated in the 1930’s into a grand movie palace. It hosted performers ranging from Houdini to Katherine Hepburn, also premiering the 1966 movie Batman.
Patrons and employees have witnessed two distinct hauntings in the theater. A lady in white with an air of sadness about her often drifts down the red staircase prior to the nightly performances. Some people believe she might be a war widow, since the theater sits on the site that once occupied the War Department of the Republic of Texas. Others have witnessed an elderly well-dressed man with a cigar who paces back and forth in an opera box. Guests often smell cigar smoke in the box. Were these ghosts former patrons who refused to leave the theater or is there a darker story behind their appearances?
Perhaps one of the more chilling accounts of the paranormal comes from a longtime custodian. While he was working in the auditorium early one morning, he heard footsteps and looked up to catch sight of a pair of white nurse’s shoes walking down the hall. As he glanced upwards, he was shocked to see that they weren’t connected to a body. They disappeared after a few seconds and haven’t been seen again.
The Paramount now offers more than 250 performances a year, screening over 100 films as well. Ghost seekers and movie buffs can take advantage of their amazing venue.
Even though these famous theaters are known for their paranormal activity, you don’t have to travel far to experience your own ghost sighting. Just pay closer attention at your local theater and you might encounter something yourself.
Signs that a ghost is nearby might include the feeling of being watched, cold drafts or goosebumps and possibly even phantom touches. For more information about the way you might feel ghosts, please read my paranormal blog post HERE. If you feel you might have a ghost that has attached itself to you, read my article on The Ghost Diaries HERE.
Joni Mayhan is a paranormal investigator and the author of 15 paranormal books. She also teaches an online Paranormal 101 class for those who are interested in learning more about the paranormal world. To learn more, check out her website Jonimayhan.com