AMERICAN THEATRE | No One Is Alone: Theatre Ghost Stories, Vol. 6

Ghost gentle on the Herberger Theater Middle of Phoenix, Ariz.’s Stage West. (Photograph by Greta Haug)

As theatre employees proceed to grapple with problems with racial injustice and considerations about unhealthy labor practices, in addition to the challenges of placing on reveals in the course of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the business has its share of real-life horrors to take care of. This piece, the newest installment of a Halloween series American Theatre has revealed annually since 2016, discusses frights of a distinct sort: ghost tales from throughout North America. As theatre districts start to look less like ghost towns and the theatre discipline comes again to life, we hope these spooky tales will help increase your spirits.

Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Toronto

When in 1998 Hilary Prue started working as an usher on the du Maurier Theatre Centre, now referred to as the Harbourfront Centre Theatre, she heard about two spirits who allegedly inhabited the venue: a girl carrying a Victorian costume and a person sporting a bowler hat. These fashions roughly align with the origins of the constructing, which was constructed on the shore of Lake Ontario in 1926 to carry ice used for delivery and storage. In keeping with legend, that construction, generally known as the Ice Home, grew to become a brief morgue after a ship sank within the harbor. “Rumor had it,” Prue says, “that not less than one safety guard stop after seeing one or each of these ghosts throughout a late-night lockup.”

Prue, who’s now making a podcast about disability representation in movies from the angle of disabled folks reminiscent of herself, initially didn’t encounter something supernatural on the du Maurier. That modified when she joined the theatre’s workplace workers in 2000. She says it took a while for her to get accustomed to the noises of an outdated constructing with uncovered air ducts, and she or he recollects at some point when she was alone within the workplace “and heard a bloodcurdling scream. I checked—nobody else was within the constructing.” A minimum of certainly one of her colleagues reported having an identical expertise.

“What plagued me, although, was this sense like I used to be being watched,” she notes. A number of occasions when she was alone, “it was like somebody was watching me from a low spot round a nook, then I’d look and the air would rush away.” She provides that a couple of occasions she puzzled if a co-worker of hers had are available along with his kids. “I believed {that a} child was taking part in round, however this was by no means the case. Clearly this was disconcerting, however there wasn’t actually something to do about it. It grew to become much less frequent over time.”

She served as home supervisor and in different roles till 2004, and people occurrences stopped utterly in 2001 or 2002, across the time one other particular person started working within the workplace full-time. Present workers don’t have tales to share, however two TV reveals about ghost searching have recorded episodes on the theatre, and there have been a number of sightings through the years, together with mysterious people noticed in the home.

Throughout Prue’s time on the du Maurier, such experiences led a handful of workers members to ask some local ghost hunters to take a look at the house. Prue helped maintain that go to secret, to make sure that no potential paranormal intelligence would find out about it prematurely; she merely left a couple of doorways open for workers to let within the crew. She says the ghost searching group “noticed the lady in her Victorian costume, and the person with the bowler hat was following behind this group mimicking them and their sensors. However then they talked about a 3rd ghost: slightly boy who hid from this group within the rafters of the theatre.” That’s when she realized: “Instantly all of it made sense—what I sensed within the workplace was a child taking part in hide-and-seek. A part of me thinks it was a ghost and that he needed to play however bought uninterested in me not becoming a member of, or simply bought used to me being there and stopped watching.”

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Huntington Theatre, Boston

Haunting a theatre isn’t at all times youngster’s play. The workers on the Huntington Theatre in Boston (previously generally known as the Boston College Theatre and the Huntington Avenue Theatre) have come to just accept that the founding father of its first resident firm continues to reside there. A portray of the Australia-born actor and supervisor, the namesake of the Henry Jewett Gamers, which opened the Repertory Theatre of Boston in 1925, hangs within the staircase within the constructing’s fundamental foyer, and staffers of the present theatre firm have discovered to deal with it with nice care.

“We’re at all times very cautious to ensure that every little thing’s excellent along with his portrait or he will get upset,” attests Virginia V. Emerson (she/her), the Huntington’s assistant costume director. Of explicit significance is the sunshine that illuminates the portray, which depicts Jewett in costume as Macbeth. Emerson, who has labored for the group since 1988, says she and her colleagues have discovered that if the sunshine isn’t functioning correctly, unusual occurrences deliver folks to that aspect of the theatre till somebody fixes the sunshine. As an illustration, there could also be a disturbance within the rest room of the higher foyer when nobody has been in that space for some time as a result of the theatre has been darkish for per week, or “for some unusual cause, the UPS man left packages in that foyer” as an alternative of the opposite foyer, the place deliveries are normally dropped off. Throughout a repainting a few decade in the past that required the portrait to be taken down, Emerson says there have been minor glitches and technical points all through the constructing till it went again up. On one event, a Genie raise “labored completely effective at some point,” however then “the subsequent morning they went in, and, like, some piece had fallen off” that simply might have brought about a critical accident in the event that they hadn’t seen.

To forestall these points, the workers has taken pains to ensure that Jewett is comfy at any time when they’ve wanted to maneuver the portrait. Emerson explains that for the present renovation, an entire overhaul, “the scene store has constructed a particular crate for his portrait,” replete with a light-weight that’s stored on 24/7. As well as, the constructing supervisor “went out into the theatre and talked to all of the ghosts and allow them to know what was occurring, all of the issues that had been going to get torn out, what was going to remain, and the way lengthy it was going to take and warranted them that we’d all be again.” Emerson and a number of other of her colleagues within the costumes division did the identical with the wardrobe inventory rooms so any spirits there “wouldn’t get upset, as a result of we wish our renovations to go easily.”

Based mostly on the sightings through the years, these precautions could also be warranted. A few years in the past, when the manufacturing supervisor for Boston College on the time was early in his tenure, late one evening after a costume rehearsal he uncared for to activate the lights of the first-floor hallway as he walked to his workplace, so it was darkish apart from the streetlight coming in from the alley via a window in that space. “So it was backlit,” Emerson says, “and he appeared down the hallway and will clearly see Henry wanting simply as he does in his portrait, in costume because the Scottish King.”

Emerson and others have additionally noticed a piano taking part in by itself. When a small upright rehearsal piano was saved on the basement stage close to the dressing rooms, typically music may very well be heard, showtunes from the Nineteen Thirties and ’40s. “On a pair events,” she says, “I heard the piano, and once I stepped out into the hallway, there was no person there.” The corporate discovered extra about their paranormal neighbors when, round 15 years in the past, a medium visited the theatre. Emerson says the medium advised that the piano participant’s title was Leo and that he performed for the spirit of a singer and showgirl named Gloria who had starred in musicals. Since studying that data, Emerson says she and others will reply to the piano taking part in by moving into the hallway and calling out, “Hey, Leo, the way you doing?”

Emerson additionally remembers an apparition being noticed on the opening evening of a play that occurs to characteristic a ghost, the corporate’s 2008 co-production with Chicago’s Goodman Theatre of Conor McPherson’s Shining Metropolis. Throughout a scene through which the characters talk about the ghost, a mysterious determine appeared onstage “and type of waved on the viewers” and light away. That specter was noticed by one other member of the costume store who has labored for the corporate for greater than three a long time. As Emerson notes, with few Boston-area theatres that characteristic costuming on the Huntington’s stage, “while you discover a place, you stick round.” It appears the identical is true of the theatre’s ghosts.

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Academy Theatre, Meadville, Pa.

For New York Metropolis-based actor and barista Kayla Styborski (she/they), ghostly encounters happened not at a theatre however after they frolicked in a single. In 2011 Styborski participated in a youth theatre camp on the Academy Theatre, the place they heard tales of a ghost named Ernie—Ernest P. Hempstead, that’s, the previous newspaper editor whose efforts led to the development of the theatre in 1885. They went on to carry out in reveals on the Academy, additionally working backstage and serving to with field workplace and concessions. “Everybody there, in the event that they really feel slightly uneasy within the theatre by themselves,” they are saying, “will go ‘Hello, Ernie!’ to really feel higher and know they’re not alone.”

Whereas these efforts appeared to maintain Hempstead’s specter at bay, on a couple of events starting in 2016, unusual issues occurred that advised he adopted Styborski out of the theatre, they usually might sense his presence “on the automobile rides house or in my home.”

How did they realize it was him? “I had some candles on prime of an outdated TV in my room, and a few days—after they weren’t lit, fortunately—they might simply fall over. No sounds or something would trigger it, they might simply fall. Ultimately I caught on that it will occur after I used to be on the Academy.” However certain sufficient, when Styborski referred to as out “Ernie!” the problems would cease for some time. A few their mates had studied supernatural phenomena, however even these of us couldn’t determine why the spirit was following them. A minimum of they discovered the significance of greeting Ernest.

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Valley Youth Theatre, Phoenix, Ariz.

Just like the spirits related to the Huntington and the Academy, the ghosts that allegedly inhabit Valley Youth Theatre appear to have an affinity for gentle sources. Normal supervisor Tiffany Owen (she/her) experiences that a number of folks, together with leaders and inventive workers, “consider there are two girls who sometimes occupy the entrance a part of our theatre: loft, foyer, sales space.” There isn’t definitive data on how they got here to establish these ghosts, however the construction has served quite a lot of functions, so numerous folks have handed via: “Our constructing has been many issues through the years,” explains Owen, “from certainly one of Phoenix’s first auto dealerships within the Forties to an vintage store to the theatre it has been for the final 22 years.” Owen says their ghosts “have been recognized to show lights on and off in the home or the foyer when there have been one or two folks within the constructing and nobody was close to a change. I’ve seen them stroll via our sales space from a distance a number of occasions whereas locking up after rehearsal.”

Owen, who’s been on workers since 2014, mentions that she “grew up dabbling within the paranormal: seances, Ouija boards, and so forth.,” so she believes she could also be a bit extra delicate to the presence of spirits than others within the group. Fortunately, the theatre’s supernatural inhabitants seem like pleasant ghosts: “They appear content material to reside there and customarily not hassle anybody,” Owen says, “however I at all times make a degree to say hey and good evening.”

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Herberger Theater Middle, Phoenix, Ariz.

Phoenix could also be one thing of a sizzling spot for paranormal exercise, as a result of the Herberger Theater Center—whose resident organizations embody Arizona Theatre Firm, Childsplay, iTheatre Collaborative, Arizona Broadway Theatre, and Arizona Opera—has additionally reported a number of ghost sightings.

Director of manufacturing providers and services Tami Updegraff (she/her) first started working there in 1995 as an over-hire technician. She joined the workers in a full-time capability in 2003 for a couple of years, then returned in 2011, at which level she “began feeling like I may not be as alone as I believed I used to be. For me it’s at all times in Stage West stage left, when I’m locking up the constructing.” Updegraff notes that, whereas she doesn’t consider she’s significantly “delicate to the supernatural, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen and felt an apparition whereas locking up the theatre on a number of events.”

One evening in 2015, when Updegraff was sure she was alone within the constructing “and had been for hours, I went in to lock up certainly one of our areas and noticed the stage proper aspect tab curtain transfer as if somebody had pulled it apart and wrapped themselves in it—like a baby may taking part in hide-and-seek.” Is it potential somebody was really there? “There was no logical rationalization for the aspect tab curtains to be transferring,” she says. “I turned on the work gentle as I approached and located completely nothing however the curtain itself with slightly sway in it. Chills shot via me. It was not potential they had been transferring with the air air flow/AC as a result of I personally had turned these off earlier within the day.” The incident happened simply after Middle Dance Ensemble closed its staging of Shakespeare on the Herberger, which included dances impressed by a number of performs by the Bard, together with Macbeth. Updegraff thinks it was no coincidence that her first ghostly encounter adopted a manufacturing tailored partly from the Scottish Play. “It was virtually an invite,” she says.

The incident after Shakespeare on the Herberger was hardly the workers’s first interplay with a spirit. Mark Mettes (he/him), president and CEO since 1990, recollects one such encounter that happened round 2000 within the dimmer room that overlooks the deck of Stage West from the fifth stage of the constructing.

“The enclosed room takes up a few third of the extent, with electrical disconnects and cabling taking over a big portion of the opposite house,” explains Mettes. “The one approach as much as that stage is by a metal ladder connected to the again wall exterior the dimmer room.” He says a technician from an outdoor firm was in that room with the door open whereas servicing the dimmer system. “The technician was concerned in his work however seen out of the nook of his eye {that a} man in overalls got here up the ladder and slowly walked towards the dimmer room. As a substitute of strolling into the room, the person walked previous it and down a slim space between the room and the railing.” Mettes continues: “Assuming the person was one thing earlier than coming into the room, the technician continued his work. After a number of minutes with out seeing or listening to the person, the technician determined to look and see what the person was doing.” That slim space the place the mysterious determine walked previous led to nothing however a brick wall and a railing 5 flooring above the stage, however the man was nowhere to be discovered. “The realm was empty. Shaken, the technician determined it was time to take a break and went all the way down to the ladder and outdoors to smoke a cigarette, which is the place he relayed his story to us.”

Ghosts appear to be particularly interested in the Herberger Theater’s lighting areas. Senior manufacturing supervisor of lighting Greta Haug (she/her), who’s been on workers since 2003, recollects sitting within the gentle sales space one evening round 2008 ready for the present to start out. “The sunshine sales space is an extended room with doorways on both aspect; I used to be sitting on the gentle board in the course of the room, going through the door that we at all times use,” she recounts. “Nobody ever makes use of the opposite door, because it’s very inconvenient to get to, significantly when the viewers is being seated,” as was the case in that second. Then it occurred: “In a totally quiet room, I heard the unmistakable sound of the door behind me opening after which closing. I turned, however there was nobody there. I might see the catwalks exterior that door, and there was additionally nobody there. I’m certain I wasn’t alone that evening.”

Viewers members have seen apparitions as properly. Simply final month, throughout a stand-up efficiency by Max Amini, attendees seen some uncommon issues. Mariam Kumar, vice chairman of Engineering Alliance, says she noticed, out of the nook of her eye, a spirit leaping over the seats whereas folks entered the auditorium earlier than the present. What she seen “jogged my memory of a mischievous teenage boy,” she says. “He was wearing an outdated paperboy go well with and hat.” Then, an hour or so into the set, “the comic stopped, appeared round for a couple of seconds and mentioned, ‘I swear somebody simply walked behind me!’” At that precise second she noticed a black shadow or mass concerning the measurement of a seaside ball on the home left aspect of the stage. On her approach house she talked about what she noticed to a pal who was additionally on the present, and he mentioned he seen the black shadow too. Kumar admits she doubted herself as a result of she’s seen paranormal entities earlier than, and was shocked that each of them skilled it this time. “It was comforting to know one other particular person noticed the identical factor as I did.”

Advertising and marketing supervisor Mark Mettes Jr. (he/him), who has been with the group since 2016 and was within the crowd that evening, confirms that nobody might have been onstage with Amini. “I can let you know he was far sufficient upstage that nothing would have been close to him and nothing was occurring behind him,” Mettes says. If it was a ghost, what was it doing there? Amini occurred to be performing the present on his birthday, so maybe the spirit needed to have fun with him.

It’s no shock that the workers continues to be aware about ghosts within the constructing. Since her preliminary expertise in 2015, Updegraff says, “I have a tendency to show the lights on once I first stroll in, although failed to take action a few week in the past and was reminded why as I walked via—instantaneous shivers.” Apart from the joy on the comedy present final month, although, there haven’t been many paranormal encounters these days, given the realities of the pandemic. “We, together with the remainder of the world, had been shut down for over a yr, and through that point positively stored the ghost gentle plugged in.”

Russell M. Dembin (he/him) is a former managing editor of this publication.

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