Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Seeing the Light (Haunt Brief)

Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium
705 Elvis Presley Avenue
Shreveport, Louisiana

I saw the light! I saw the light!
No more darkness, no more night!
Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight.
Praise the Lord, I saw the light!
--“I Saw the Light,” Hank Williams, 1948

The great Elvis Presley, a son of Tupelo, Mississippi,  as
he appeared in his 1957 film, Jailhouse Rock. His appearance
at the Shreveport Muni catapulted him to fame. Courtesy
of Wikipedia.
On October 18, 1954, a nervous young man stepped to the microphone at the Municipal Memorial Auditorium in Shreveport. It can be certain that he could not have imagined that his performance that night would eventually lead to Grand Avenue, upon which this auditorium sat, being renamed in his honor. The young crooner with the provocatively swaying hips and sensuous baritone was Elvis Presley and he was making his first appearance on the radio show, Louisiana Hayride, a popular country music program that would eventually launch many important careers. The “Muni” stage saw the likes of many great singers in the flush of youth: names such as Johnny Cash, George Jones and Hank Williams.

Besides hosting Louisiana Hayride from its beginning in 1948 to the end of its first run in 1960, the Municipal Memorial Auditorium accommodated graduations, local theatrical events, a variety of musical performances and billeted soldiers during World War II. The building served as a center for Shreveport’s cultural life but it also played in role among the city’s dead as well. The exuberant Art Deco fa├žade of the auditorium hides a darker function: the building was reportedly used as a temporary city morgue.

The elaborate facade of the Shreveport Municipal Memorial
Auditorium. Photo 1995 by Dtobias, courtesy of Wikipedia.
This plethora of functions have left a spiritual imprint on the building. One paranormal investigation of the building captured an EVP—electronic voice phenomena—of a woman’s voice ardently stating, “I love Johnny Cash,” while another investigation yielded the sound of applause in the empty auditorium. The stories from this historic edifice are numerous and fascinating.

In an article by Debe Branning on Examiner.com, she relates the story of a workman who was in the building setting up for a sporting event. Though no one else was supposed to be in the building, the workman kept spotting a young man sitting in the audience. He would see the man sitting in one section and moments later, the man would have moved to a different section. Eventually, the workman stepped outside to retrieve a tool from his truck and encountered the strange man outside the building. The workman inquired if he could help the young man.

“I just come by to see what time the fights start,” replied the young man. With a smile he faded away before the workman’s bewildered eyes. The workman was later told of a young boxer who was killed in a car accident on his way to fight a match in the auditorium.

According to Drs. Gary Joiner and Cheryl White, authors of Historic Haunts of Shreveport, there have been two notable investigations of the building: Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations—the first team to investigate the building—and Everyday Paranormal who investigated the building for the Discovery Channel show, Ghost Lab.

Investigating rumors of shadow figures, voices and doors opening and closing on their own, the teams captured a great deal of evidence. Louisiana Spirits captured numerous EVPs during their investigation aside from some personal experiences including some team members smelling flowers and baby powder in one of the dressing rooms. In addition, one of the team members was pushed and scratched by something in the basement area that once served as the morgue.

Hank Williams performing in 1951. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
During Everyday Paranormal’s investigation, the team collected one particularly good A-Class EVP stating, “We saw the light.” No one on the show made the connection of this line with the well-known Gospel song by Hank Williams (which I’ve quoted above). The connection grows even stronger when it’s noted that Hank Williams’ fame was propelled by his appearances on the Louisiana Hayride the same year his song, “I Saw the Light” was released.

Also during the course of the investigation a door in the ballroom opened on its own volition after a team member specifically closed it. Another door closed after the team hired a band to play rockabilly music in hopes of stirring up the spirits of this most spirited location.

Sources
     Examiner.com. 10 June 2013.
Go Go Luckey Entertainment & Paper Route Productions. Ghost Lab, Episode
     1.01, “Disturbing the Peace.” Premiered 6 October 2009.
Hank Williams. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 11 June 2013.
Joiner, Gary D. & Cheryl H. White. Historic Haunted Shreveport. Charleston, SC:
     History Press, 2010.
Louisiana Hayride. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 1 March 2013.
Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Investigations Summary Report:
     Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, Shreveport, LA. Accessed 2 March 2013.
Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 11 June 2013.

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