One superstition in the theatrical world is that every theater has a ghost because of this many of these buildings have traditions to appease the restless spirits. One common one is the use of a ghost light, which is a single light that is always on in the center of the stage. It’s said that this provides the spirits with the opportunity to perform on stage and keeps them from cursing the theater. In reality, the ghost light is there so that people will not trip and fall into the orchestra pit while walking across the darkened stage.
Full disclosure – I’m a complete skeptic when it comes to the paranormal. I’ve been visiting places that you’d assume would be full of ghosts: abandoned asylums, prisons, houses, and theaters. However, I have never come across anything that didn’t have a rational explanation.
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays so I’ve put together a list of some of the theaters I’ve visited that have ghost stories attached to them.
The first theater is the Warner (Pacific) Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. It is allegedly haunted by the ghost of Sam Warner, of Warner Bros Pictures. Warner died of pneumonia a day before the film he had been working on – the “Jazz Singer” premiered. His ghost was said to use the elevator in the theater until it stopped working after an earthquake in 1994. Warner’s ghost has also been blamed for many items going missing only to turn up in different locations hours or days later.
Next is the Variety Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio. Patrick Colvin, the building’s caretaker, has witnessed lights turning on and off, doors closing and opening, and has heard voices throughout the building when there is no one there. He has named many of the ghosts and greets them every time he enters the building.
The third is the Lincoln Square Theatre in Decatur, IL. The Lincoln Square is said to be haunted by a former theater worker named “Red”. People claim to have heard him whisper, and seen him walking around the stage area. According to one website, there was a stagehand nicknamed “Red” who worked at the theater during the vaudeville era. He took a nap in the theater after eating his lunch one day in 1927 and never woke up.
Fourth on the list is the Loew’s Poli (Palace) and Majestic Theatres in Bridgeport, CT. According to one site, the complex may have been built on a Native American burial ground due to artifacts found during the construction of the building. People have claimed to hear the muffled sounds of a crowd and see shadowy figures move through the auditorium.
Last is the Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena, CA. Rumors that the Rialto is haunted have been around for years. One story says that it’s haunted by a woman who committed suicide on the balcony. Another story says that a man went insane in the projector room. It’s alleged that the ghost of an older man has been seen on the balcony and that the stalls in the girl’s bathroom shake when there is no one around.
I’ll be back in a few days with an update post on what I’ve been doing these past few months. Happy Halloween!
4 thoughts on ““Haunted” Theatres”
One slight correction:
The Rialto is in the city of South Pasadena, not Pasadena.
A close by theatre that has a ghost is the Pasadena Playhouse. It is the founder, Gilmor Brown, who died in 1960.
About 20 years ago, more or less, a member of the audience at The Met committed suicide from the Balcony. It was during intermission in a live radio broadcast. The rest of the Opera was cancelled and that ghost may be there hanging around since The Met closed due to COVID-19. Another member of the orchestra was murdered in a stairwell there too. Leonard Warren died in performance at The Met on 39th St on stage too.
Fun posting Matt. Having worked in live theatre for the past 60 years, I can confirm your opening statement that theatres all carry an oral tradition of being “haunted” by one or more ghosts. I am always amazed as to why and how these traditions get started.
That being said, you will never convince some people that they don’t really exist, and likewise you’ll never convince the rest of us that they do exist.
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