Saturday, April 4, 2015

Phantoms of the Operas, Y’all—13 Haunted Southern Theatres

Among theatre folks, there’s an old saying, “no good theatre worth its salt will be without a ghost.” The South is not immune to this phenomenon, and its landscape is dotted with many theatres that claim to have a ghost. The variety of theatres is quite astonishing; from 1920s-era movie palaces, to opera houses, to performance spaces created out of old buildings, to modern performance centers, and even cinemas, Many of these sites have wonderful and creepy stories to tell.

Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts
501 Broad Street
Gadsden, Alabama

This prominent corner of Broad and 5th Streets has witnessed much of Gadsden’s history. A home once stood on this corner until 1860 when the First Baptist Church erected a church here with a graveyard surrounding the building. Around the turn of the 20th century, the church was sold and the graves—at least most of them—were relocated to nearby Forrest Cemetery. Afterwards, a furniture store operated on the site until the building of the Imperial Theatre, which opened in 1920. The theatre changed hands a few years later, was extensively remodeled, and then reopened as the Princess Theatre in 1926. The Princess—a vaudeville and motion picture house—provided the citizens of Gadsden the utmost in comfort and technology until its destruction by fire in 1963. The corner is now occupied by the starkly modern Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts.


Within the Center's modern corridors, galleries, studios and performance spaces there are spirits. Author Betty McCoy reports that two visitors encountered the spirit of a child who was apparently quite confused. The spirit of a young girl is known to have appeared at the Princess Theatre just after it opened in 1926, and many patrons encountered the young and quite curious entity. Is this the same spirit that appeared in the modern arts center? As long as spirits linger, the questions will remain.

Sources
Goodson, Mike. Haunted Etowah County, Alabama. Charleston, SC:
     History Press, 2011.
Hardin Center for Cultural Arts. “About the Center for Cultural Arts.”
     Accessed 18 March 2013.
McCoy, Betty S. Haints, Haunts and Hullabaloos: Etowah and Surrounding
     Counties. CreateSpace, 2011.

H Street Playhouse
1365 H Street, Northeast
Washington, D.C.

Things have a strange way of disappearing at the H Street Playhouse. Some believe that these odd disappearances may be linked to a spirit within the old theatre. Take, for instance, the matter of the disappearance of the theatre’s router from the office during a meeting. Members of one of the theatre companies were meeting in the building when the Wi-Fi suddenly went out. Heading back to the office, which is only accessible through the room in which the meeting was being held, the router was discovered to have completely vanished.

H Street Playhouse, 2012, by Smallbones. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Costume pieces and props also have a tendency to disappear right before performances. A t-shirt hanging on a rack disappeared without a trace. In another instance, prop money seemed to have departed briefly from the bag in which it was stored during the show. As money was required during the scene, the actors pulled together what bills they had on them to use, though when the props master opened the bag to dole out money for the upcoming scene, the prop money had reappeared.

If the kleptomaniac of the H Street Playhouse is, in fact, a spirit, then there is the question of identity. Tour guide and author Tim Krepp speculates that the spirit may either be the shade of Bruce Robey, whom, with his wife, founded the H Street Playhouse or perhaps the spirit of a young boy who was severely burned in a fire across the street in 1905. But, perhaps the spirit's identity lies somewhere in the playhouse’s marvelous history.

The Romanesque Revival-styled building was built in 1928 as an automobile showroom. At the time, this particular stretch of H Street boasted so many dealerships it was called “Automobile Row.” This building served as a showroom until 1942 when the building was renovated for use as a cinema for the African-American community that occupied this area. As the social upheavals of the mid-20th century led to the neighborhood’s decline, the building was used for a variety of purposes until its conversion to a live theatre in 2002.

Sources
Bell, T. David. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for
     Plymouth Theatre. December 2003.
Krepp, Tim. Capitol Hill Haunts. Charleston, SC: History Press,
    2012.

Coconut Grove Playhouse
3500 Main Highway
Miami, Florida

This most famous of Florida theatres went suddenly into a vegetative state in 2006 under mounting debt. Since the theatre company’s closure, the theatre has been embroiled in a mounting drama between a cast of politicians, preservationists, thespians and developers. Occupying a prominent corner on Main Highway at Charles Avenue, the location has developers salivating over the money that could come from a luxury condominium development on the site. Some government officials, preservationists and thespians would reopen the playhouse as a theatre and hopefully revive its cherished name. Before its closure, the theatre was a major economic driver in Coconut Grove, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city.

Coconut Grove Playhouse, 2011, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
As the drama fills courtrooms, offices, and boardrooms outside of the theatre, faces have been seen peering from the buildings upper windows: spiritual guardians of this 1927 edifice. Ghost tours pass by the site regularly as the Mediterranean Revival structure sits forlornly with its doors locked. The theatre opened gloriously as the Player’s State Theatre on New Year’s Day 1927—a jewel in the Paramount crown. All the amenities of the best theatres were incorporated here including a huge Wurlitzer Concert Grand Organ and air conditioning. Riding high on the great Florida Land Boom of the '20s, the theatre’s fortunes ran out when the real estate bubble burst and the theatre closed in the early '30s. It was not until 1955 that it would resume use as a theatre, but only after being transformed for use as a live-performance venue.

It struggled even as a legitimate theatre though it did host a grand assortment of prominent actors and productions on its boards. Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot had its American premier here, and the stage has seen the work of such noted thespians as Jose Ferrer, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and Ethel Merman. But, until the actors in the current drama come to a resolution, the theatre and the spiritual spectators peering from its windows will continue to wait for Godot’s eminent arrival.

Sources
Bandell, Brian. “Coconut Grove Playhouse hit with foreclosure.”
     South Florida Business Journal. 17 January 2013.
Feldman, Hal. “Do ghosts walk among us?” Pinecrest Tribune.
     28 June 2012.
Uguccioni, Ellen and Sarah E. Easton. Designation Report: Coconut
     Grove Playhouse. City of Miami. 2005.
Viglucci, Andres. “Coconut Grove Playhouse board decides not
     to fight imminent state takeover.” Miami Herald. 2 October
     2012.
Viglucci, Andres. “Plan for larger theatre at coconut Grove
     Playhouse remains alive.” Miami Herald. 12 March 2015.
Viglucci, Andres. “State says shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse
     could be sold to private bidders.” Miami Herald. 14 December 2012.
Viglucci, Andres. and Christine Dolan. “FIU, Miami-Dade in
     possible deal to save Grove Playhouse.” Miami Herald. 13
     March 2013.

Springer Opera House
103 10th Street
Columbus, Georgia

As a kid, the Springer Opera House was the first local haunting I was familiar with. I recall the intense jealousy I felt when my sister got invited to a birthday party at the Springer, and I wasn’t allowed to tag along to “see the ghost.” As a theatre major at nearby Columbus State University, I visited the Springer a number of times and saw a few performances, though I was distracted by the fact that there may be ghosts wandering about the antique promenades and taking their seats in the boxes on either side of the stage. 

In school, I also began to hear stories from my friends who had worked in the old theatre. Some of the experiences didn't appear believable—like the story of a sound technician being levitated in the booth—while others seemed quite credible—a friend’s encounter with a little girl in a hallway who seemingly wanted to play tag but disappeared. When I got hired to work on a book about the Springer, I was excited at the possibility of garnering first-hand experience with the spirits of the theater.


Interior of the Springer Opera House, 1979. Courtesy of the
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
I was asked by F. Clason Kyle to work as an editor on his book, In Order of Appearance, a history of the theatre and the many famous personalities—Edwin Booth and John Philip Sousa, to Minnie Maddern Fiske and Burt Reynolds—to have walked its boards. Mr. Kyle and I first began by organizing much of the archival material the theatre had. We had our own little room stuffed with boxes of old programs, promotional materials, business papers and the occasional artifact. The theatre was supposed to possess a beaded purse once owned by famed Polish actress, Helena Modjeska though we weren’t sure where the purse was, so we went looking for it.

After sifting through the various boxes within the archive room, we decided to expand our search, still to no avail. When we returned to the archive room I walked directly to the box I had been sorting through. Sitting atop the papers was an antique purse and a pocket watch. While this was not the Modjeska purse we had been searching for, the miraculous appearance of these items was startling. The room had been locked during the search, so where did these items come from? Perhaps the Springer's ghost is similar to the H Street Playhouse’s kleptomaniac spirit?

During my two years working on the book, I also heard footsteps on the second floor and a door slamming shut by itself during a rehearsal, but many others have had more spectacular experiences. The educational director, whose office was located on the second floor, regularly saw a man walking past her doorway. She also felt a strong, motherly bond towards the spirit of a little girl that had been reported throughout the building as well.

Within this 1871 building, it seems that the little girl and a male may be the more active among a host of spirits. The theatre’s artistic director, Paul Pierce, wrote a book about many of the experiences in the Victorian theatre including his own. Pierce had arrived at the theatre early one morning to open the tool room for technicians who were setting up for an event. As he walked through the scene shop, Pierce realized there was a man walking next to him. Pierce described him as, “slight of build, he was a young gentleman with a thin, unruly, Van Dyke beard and wearing an ill-fitting tweed suit.”

Pierce walked through the shop with this figure playfully mirroring his every stride through the room. They turned a corner and the figure walked behind a screen leaning against the wall. The figure did not emerge from the other side.

Sources
Kyle, F. Clason and Lewis O. Powell, IV, editor. In Order of Appearance:
     Chronicling 135 Years on America’s Most Celebrated Stage. Columbus,
     GA: Communicorp, 2006.
Pierce, Paul. The Springer Ghost Book. Columbus, GA: Communicorp,
     2003.

Paramount Arts Center
1300 Winchester Avenue
Ashland, Kentucky

Just seven months after the Ashland Opera House was destroyed by fire in 1931, the Paramount Theatre opened as a movie palace for the citizens of the city. When the Art Moderne-style theatre closed its doors in 1971, locals purchased the building as a performing arts center.

The Paramount Arts Center gained its ghost fairly early in the theatre’s history when, as legend holds, a worker somehow died when he became entangled in the rigging above the stage. Whether this act was an accident or suicide is unknown, but strange things began to be reported in the building. Over time, theatre staff members dubbed the entity “Paramount Joe.”



Paramount Arts Center, 2007, by YoungAmerican.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.
In 1992, local musician Billy Ray Cyrus (father of Miley Cyrus) chose the theatre for the filming of the video of his hit song, “Achy Breaky Heart.” While there, he was told the story of “Paramount Joe,” and Cyrus claimed that he spoke with the spirit during a break and signed a poster for him. Some years later when an executive removed the poster from its place in the box office the staff returned the next day to find all the pictures had fallen from the walls some having their glass and frames broken. After Paramount Joe’s signed poster was restored the pictures have not moved, at least not of their own accord.

Sources
Ball, Linda Larimore. National Register of Historic Places
     Nomination Form for the Paramount Theatre. October 1975.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky. Mechanicsburg, PA:
     Stackpole Books, 2009.
Conley, Caitlin. “Paranormal activity at the Paramount Theatre.”
     The Parthenon. 27 October 2011.
Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS:
     University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy
     Press, 2010.

Abbey Players Theatre
200 South State Street
Abbeville, Louisiana

The Abbey Players had its founding in 1976 when a small group of thespians staged a successful production of Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers. The theatre company was incorporated the next year with the intention of presenting quality theatre to the region. After spending a few years staging shows at various venues throughout town, the group rented an old building on South State Street, which previously housed the Reaux Lumber Company. The building dates back to 1908 and was originally opened as a saloon. After adapting the building for use as an arena stage, the company now produces 3-4 shows per season, as well as children’s productions.


Company members have had experiences in the building that may be paranormal. These include the shade of an elderly woman and the voice of a young girl among other unexplained noises. An investigation by Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations captured a number of personal experiences for the team as well as EVPs. During the investigation, Louisiana Spirits discovered a cold spot that seemed to move around a dressing room. The investigators were also greeted by a disembodied voice saying “hi.”  These experiences are highlighted in Chere Coen’s Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana

Sources
Coen, Chere Dastugue. Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana. Charleston, SC:
    History Press, 2013.
Finding a Home: Beginnings.” Abbey Players. Accessed 3 March 2013.
Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Investigation Summary    

Patapsco Female Institute
3655 Church Road
Ellicott City, Maryland

The immortal words of Shakespeare have been uttered within the walls of the Patapsco Female Institute for almost two centuries. Even with only the exterior stone walls remaining, the ruins now provide a perfect backdrop for productions by the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Shakespeare’s numerous ghosts may even provide a camouflage for the ghosts that reside among the romantic ruins.

The Patapsco Female Institute opened in 1837 as an elite finishing school for young women. One of the more well-known alumnae was Winnie Davis, daughter of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The great granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson, Sally Randolph, served as a headmistress.

It was during the balmy days leading up to the Civil War that a daughter of a Southern planter was enrolled here.The young girl hated the school, longed for home and her father would not allow her to return home. The student contracted pneumonia and her body left the school in a coffin. However, the white-gowned apparition of the former student still wanders the grounds.

The school closed its doors in 1891 and throughout the 20th century the building served as variety of uses including a convalescent home after World War I, a private residence and a theatre. After local officials condemned the building in the late 1950s, the owner gutted the building of its woodwork leaving just the yellow-tinted local stone walls standing. The space is now owned and operated by the Howard County Government as a historic site and an events space.

Sources
Hannon, Jean O. Maryland Historic Trust Worksheet for Patapsco Female
     Institute. January 1978.
Hirsch, Rona S. “Ghostly images, spirited debate.” Baltimore Sun.
     31 October 2001.
Norotel, Russ. Ellicott City’s Guide to Haunted Places. Cosmic Pantheon
     Press, 2008.
Okonowicz, Ed. Haunted Maryland. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole
     Books, 2007.

Cinemark Movies 8
Mall at Barnes Crossing
1001 Barnes Crossing Road
Tupelo, Mississippi

Any location can be haunted. While most people would not expect to encounter a spirit within a fast food restaurant, big-box retailer (like Wal-Mart or Toys R Us) or a recently constructed building, it does happen. In some cases, recent tragic events may spur such a haunting, but other times, there is no obvious reason at all. Such is the case of Tupelo's Cinemark Movies 8. According to CinemaTreasures.org, this theatre was opened in 1992, seating over 1,900 people and a few spirits. A female spirit, nicknamed Lola, quite mischievously moves things and has been seen peering into the break room trashcan. She apparently gets the brunt of the blame when things go wrong or missing. Another spirit, seemingly male, is more elusive and tends to frequent the projection room.

Sources
Cinemark Movies 8. CinemaTreasures.org. Accessed 27 March 2013.
Steed. Bud. The Haunted Natchez Trace. Charleston, SC: History
    Press, 2012.

Mountainside Theatre
688 Drama Drive
Cherokee, North Carolina

Part of my own heart lies in the mountains of Western North Carolina around Cherokee. While I was in college I spent the three greatest summers of my life working on the historical drama, Unto These Hills, which has been performed at the Mountainside Theatre since 1950. It’s a humbling experience to be able to tell the story of the Cherokee people who have existed in this area for millennia. Even more humbling is being able to tell that story surrounded by the spirits of the characters and their living descendents.

The theatre is truly a sacred space where we can commune with the spirits of the past, both figuratively and literally. From my first day here, we were always made aware of the presence of spirits in this enormous amphitheatre. Among the host of spirits are Cherokee, sacred spirits from Cherokee mythology (see my entry on my own experience with the Cherokee little people) and former cast members. Some of these spirits can be truly frightening while others provide comfort.

Entrance to the Mountainside Theatre, 2012, by Lewis O.
Powell, IV. All rights reserved.
In recent years, the Cherokee Historical Association—which operates the drama as well as the Oconaluftee Indian Village (it’s also haunted)—has operated a “Haunted Village” attraction around Halloween. This includes a ghost walk through the theatre and cast housing. In 2013, a zombie run was held at the theatre. During this event participants were chased through the theatre complex and cast housing by a variety of zombies. This included an area just behind the theatre called the ready room. This space is a partially enclosed are where actors may wait once they have put on their costumes. On the wall here is an old pay phone.

The ready room phone, 2014, by Lewis O.
Powell, IV. All rights reserved.
I was told this story last summer when I was working in Cherokee. One evening in 2013, an hour or so after the zombie run the local police department received a panicked phone call from the Mountainside Theatre. A terror-filled voice begged for help from the theatre. The Cherokee Police Department responded and sent police up the driveway behind the theatre. The theatre complex was quiet and empty without a living soul to be found. The call had been traced to the theatre pay phone. It was discovered, however, that the phone was disconnected.

This is one of countless stories that have been told about the theatre.

Sources
Connor, William P., Jr. History of the Cherokee Historical
     Association 1946-1982. Cherokee, NC: Cherokee Historical
     Association, 1983.
Powell, Lewis O., IV. “Getting Personal—Cherokee, North
     Carolina.” Southern Spirit Guide. 7 September 2012.
Powell, Lewis O., IV. “Mountainside Theatre—A Peronsal
     Experience.” Southern Spirit Guide. 10 May 2011.

Dock Street Theatre
135 Church Street
Charleston, South Carolina

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church aggressively pushes itself into Church Street. Its columned porches thrust out so far that the street must curve to accommodate it. Above the street, the tremendous spire rises like an upright, moral finger, a reminder of the moral duties of the citizens of The Holy City. In the next block south of the church and within the shadow of the spire sits the Dock Street Theatre grinning garishly with its whimsical columns at St. Philip’s and the stringent Gothic Revival face of the French Huguenot Church directly across Church Street.

Theatre has always thumbed its nose at the self-righteous morality of good, church-going folk while often lampooning their foibles and failures on its boards, pulling down the saints from their lofty niches. In turn, the righteous have worked to reign in and silence the heckling theatre. This certainly was the case in Colonial America, a place still reeking of the Puritanism and strict morality that afflicted and bound the earliest settlers. Theatre most certainly struggled to gain a foothold on this steep religious mountain. The original Dock Street Theatre opened its doors in 1736 as, quite possibly, the second oldest edifice devoted to theatrical performance in the colonies.

As a part of a city in its early evolution, the original structure lasted a little less than two decades before that spark of a city’s growth, fire, reduced it to a hollowed shell of brick. The theatre was rebuilt and remained a theatre through the remainder of the 18th century. In 1809 the structure became home to the Calder House Hotel (later known as the Planter’s Hotel) run by Alexander Calder—an ancestor of the 20th century American artist of the same name—to serve wealthy visitors to the city. During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration cobbled together the collection of old buildings on this site into the current reincarnation of the Dock Street Theatre which incorporates an 18th century styled theatre and possibly a few brick walls dating to the original 1736 theatre.

Dock Street Theatre, 2011, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.
The building incorporates a certain spiritual fabric within its aged physical fabric. Most sources refer to two spirits who reside within the old theatre, though I venture that with the Dock Street Theatre’s long history, there’s also quite a good bit of residual energy manifesting itself.

One of the spirits has been identified as the great British thespian, Junius Brutus Booth. Renowned for his portrayals of Shakespearean characters, Booth fathered three sons who were also destined for the stage: Junius Brutus Jr., Edwin and John Wilkes, three thespians who left their mark on the theatrical world and one who would leave a mark upon the world stage. Edwin followed in his father’s footsteps to become one of the greatest tragedians of his day whilst Junius Jr. found better success in the managing of theatres. John Wilkes earned his notoriety as Abraham Lincoln’s assassin.

According to numerous—mostly paranormal in nature—sources, Booth the elder did stay in the Planter’s Hotel and that the well-dressed gentleman’s spirit seen in and around the theatre is his shade. Though it does ask the question of why would Booth haunt this hotel of all the numerous hotels where he stayed? According to the managing director of the theatre Booth was an alcoholic and possibly mentally unstable. During a stay in Charleston Booth allegedly beat his manager with a fire iron. Just as modern actors and performers are prone to bouts of bad behavior, so were the actors and performers of old. It seems this may belong to the phenomenon of historic landmarks picking among their most famous patrons or residents in order to identify their spirits.

Nevertheless, the spirit is still seen within the theatre. A man in a tall hat and overcoat is sometimes seen in the balcony and may sit in on rehearsals. In her Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, Denise Roffe reports on a young woman who saw this gentleman standing in the balcony when she visited.

Though, other stories center on a spirit known as “Netty” or “Nettie.” Likely dating to the same time as the gentleman’s spirit, legend has it that Nettie was a “working girl” who provided entertainment to the gentlemen who patronized the hotel. The legend continues with her dying a violent death on the balcony of the hotel, just above the entrance. While she was out upon the balcony one evening, the steel beam supporting the balcony was struck by lightning and she was electrocuted. According to author Terrance Zepke, her spirit form has been observed by passersby and also captured on film. Additionally, she lingers in the second floor backstage hall where she apparently appears to be walking on her knees as the floor was raised during the building’s renovations in the 1930s. Netty is still walking on the original floors.

Sources
Bull, Elias B. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for the Dock Street Theatre. 2 January 1972.
Macy, Ed and Geordie Buxton III. Haunted Charleston: Stories
     from the College of Charleston, the Citadel and the Holy City.
    Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston. Columbia, SC:
     U. of SC Press, 1997.
Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina.
     Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.
Zepke, Terrance. Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Sarasota, FL:
     Pineapple Press, 2004.

Paramount Center for the Performing Arts
518 State Street
Bristol, Tennessee

In 1991 at the age of 60 the Paramount Theatre, run down and virtually abandoned, rose like its “Mighty Wurlitzer” organ once did from the depths to be reborn as the Paramount Center for the Performing Arts. Opened in 1931, the theatre was meant as a cinema and its small stage had to be enlarged to accommodate live performance in the modern day. Sitting proudly on State Street not far from the Tennessee/Virginia state line, which divides this city, the theatre continues to attract people from all over the region.


According to a 2009 article from the Bristol Herald Courier, the site of the Paramount Theatre was previously haunted. On that site, Bristol’s first hospital stood, a building that had previously been a hotel. During its time as a hotel, a man was shot and killed there. After that, the hotel had trouble renting his room after that as patrons reported hearing and feeling odd things in that room. There is a spirit still hanging around the theatre, though no indication it is the same from the old hotel. The Executive Director has reported that footsteps are still heard in the empty building with the sound of doors opening and closing as well.

Sources
Netherland, Tom. “A Timeless Stage: Memories of the Paramount
     Center.” Originally published in Bristol Herald Courier, 17 February
     2009. Republished in A! Magazine for the Arts, March 2013.
Paramount Center for the Arts. Cinema Treasures. Accessed 5 March 2013.

Cameo Theatre
703 State Street
Bristol, Virginia

State Street divides city of Bristol and marks the state line between Tennessee and Virginia. The Cameo Theatre, on the north side of the street, is in Virginia while the Paramount Center for the Performing Arts, just a few blocks down, sits on the south side of the street in Tennessee. The division between the theatres also marks a gulf of fortunes between them as well. While the Paramount Theatre remains open as a performing arts center the Cameo is currently for sale. Two years older than the Paramount, the 1925 theatre was opened as a vaudeville house and recently served as an arts facility, hosting arts classes for children. Sadly, finances did not allow that to continue and the theatre was put up for sale in 2010.


According to V.N. Phillips’ book, Ghosts of Bristol: Haunting Tales from the Twin Cities, the Cameo replaces The Black Shawl, Bristol’s most infamous brothel. Pocahontas Hale, the establishment’s madam, is said to notoriously patrol the sidewalk in front of the Cameo Theatre. Her shade has been spotted wearing the black clothes and wrapped in the black shawl that she always wore in life.

Sources
McGee, David. “Cameo Theatre annex’s inventory being
     sold off to make way for new owner.” Bristol Herald Courier.
     16 June 2010.
Phillips, V.N. Ghosts of Bristol: Haunting Tales from the Twin
    Cities. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.

Old Main
Campus of Marshall University
Huntington, West Virginia

With a cornerstone laid in 1869—just 32 years after the founding of Marshall Academy on the same spot—Old Main continues to carry Marshall University towards the horizon of the future. The structure’s nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places contains the sentimental statement that “alumni consider Old Main and school itself to be identical. Old Main is Marshall University and Marshall University is Old Main.” Not only does this monumental Tudor structure carry students and faculty forward as a university centerpiece and administration building, but it carries a spirit or two as well.

Old Main, 2013, by WVFunnyman. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Old Main embodies the history of the school itself in its walls. It is not actually a single building, but five buildings that have been joined over time. Originally, one of these building contained an auditorium, though the space has been unused since 1990. School legend relates that a well-dressed man could sometimes be seen back stage during performances. Actors and crew back stage would see the man who would be gone with a second glance. This man was identified as a theatre director from the 1920s. The director supposedly disappeared after it was discovered he had embezzled money from the school.

Sources
Bleau, Edward R. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for Old Main—Marshall University. 28 December 1972.
Bozzoli, Carlos. “Old Main Building.” Marshall University
     Architectural Guide. Accessed 14 March 2013.
Donahue, Kelly. “Untitled article.” The Parthenon. 29 October 1996.



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