L.A’s Haunted Vogue Theater!

The Vogue Theatre sits on a glamour free stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, sandwiched between the sidewalk stars of Guy Lombardo and Tommy Dorsey. It’s an unimposing structure—neon letters lurking behind the braches of an ambitious tree—but Fritz loves it. The geriatric German immigrant has been the Vogue’s projectionist since the theater opened in 1936. He’s pretty possessive about it. Touch his equipment, and you may suddenly suffer chest pains or find it difficult to breathe. See, he can’t exactly tell you to back off. He’s been dead for more than 15 years.

His heart stopped right there in the projection booth, in the middle of a matinee. Of course, because Mann’s—the theater chain that owns the Vogue and the famous Grauman’s Chinese down the street—doesn’t keep personnel records after seven years, no one seems able to verify that Fritz, as the ghost calls himself, existed at all. But why get hung up on technicalities? “Usually an entity won’t tell you its last name,” says parapsychologist Larry Montz. His spectre-sleuthing organization, the International Society for Paranormal Research, began leasing the Vogue in 1997 and now conducts ghost expeditions there at $45 per head. “But we’ve had so much validation already, it’s a moot point to have a researcher go back through newspapers or whatever.”

Haunted movie theaters are rare, as hauntings go. Typically, Montz says, the dearly departed hang around either because they had a strong emotional attachment to a location or because they experienced a traumatic death there and are unable to move on. As a result, screen palaces don’t get much paranormal play. Few people spend more than two hours in them, and traumatic experiences rarely rise above the level of watching, say, Freddy Got Fingered. Still, Fritz isn’t alone. In fact, you can find spirits squatting at cinemas across the country.

The Avon in Decatur, Illinois, for instance, can’t evict its early title holder. Current owner Skip Huston was rummaging through a bin of marquee letters in the abandoned theater several years ago when he heard an odd noise: footsteps. He glanced over his shoulder. Nothing. A few minutes later, he heard it again. And again. The fourth time, he turned toward the sound. There, in the doorway, stood a man, clad in a white shirt and black pants. Huston spoke to him, but the man stepped out of sight. Huston didn’t know who he’d glimpsed until he stumbled across the obituary for the Avon’s second owner, Gust Constan. Constan reopened the Avon theater with his brothers in 1924. According to local legend, he ran it for most of his life, only to be tossed into the street after the Kerasotes theater chain bought him out. Great story, but not true. Constan died on February 24, 1965. His brothers did not sell the theater to Kerasotes until April 1966, more than a year after Constan’s death.

A more famous phantom once frequented the alley beside Chicago’s Biograph Theater. Public enemy number one John Dillinger was gunned down by FBI agents as he left a showing of Clark Gable’s Manhattan Melodrama, on July 22, 1934. He was shot twice, one bullet entering the back of his skull and exiting his right eye. Conspiracy theorists contend that the dead man wasn’t Dillinger at all, but, regardless, the shadowy figure that witnesses used to see running into the alley and then falling onto the pavement seems to have gone the way of Jimmy Hoffa. The goodfella ghost hasn’t been spotted for almost 20 years.

Sam Warner has been gone awhile, too. One of the four studio-founding Warner brothers, Sam started showing up at screenings at the Pacific Theatre in Hollywood—just a few blocks east of the Vogue—in the 1940s. Sitting in a pinstriped suit, he would watch the last show of the evening and then stand up, walk toward the screen, and vanish into it. One story has it that then-manager Bob Lang (son of director Fritz Lang) dispensed his entire supply of aspirin one night to an audience who witnessed Warner’s eerie exit.

When he still had a pulse, the mogul had overseen construction of the theater, but its lagging progress prevented it from premiering The Jazz Singer, the first talking feature, as planned. In late September 1927, at the age of 40, Warner fell ill, suffering from acute sinus trouble and lung congestion for about two weeks before slipping into a coma, from which he never recovered. He died on October 6, the same day that The Jazz Singer premiered in New York.

Other theaters have more gruesome tales to tell. The Lyric in Tupelo, Mississippi, was one of the only standing buildings after the tornado of April 1936. Townsfolk transformed the theater into a makeshift hospital. The popcorn machine sterilized medical instruments, and crawl spaces temporarily stored the dead. At least one of those victims still lingers, but employees of the Lyric take the traumatic past in stride. They’ve named their ghost Antoine (for no apparent reason), and they accuse him of such minor offenses as stealing keys and humming to himself. “I have a feeling,” theater director Lynn Nelson says, “that Antoine gets blamed for a lot more than he has actually done.”

The KiMo in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has its own tragicomic poltergeist. Six-year-old Bobby Darnall died in the theater on August 2, 1951. During the short film, This is America, the boy became frightened by the sound of an onscreen siren and fled from the balcony. Just then, a water heater below the staircase exploded, killing him. After all these years, though, Bobby has kept his childish attitude. And his appetite. When the KiMo became a stage theater, performers and crew maintained a tradition of stringing stale doughnuts along an electrical cable behind the scenery. But on the opening day of A Christmas Carol, the show’s director tossed out the dozens of dusty pastries, and Bobby was, well, pissed. When the show began, onstage doors and windows opened and closed by themselves. Cables fell from the fly space. Stage lights exploded. “So they went out and bought two dozen doughnuts and put them up everywhere,” technical manager Dennis Potter says. The evening show went off without a hitch. Today a shrine near the stairwell houses souvenirs of past shows and, of course, a stack of doughnuts.

Ghosts can, in fact, be quite sweet. They’ve been known to illuminate unplugged lights and even offer advice. When Chris Barnett, projectionist at Decatur’s Avon Theatre, was struggling with an ancient projector moments before showtime, he suddenly received a “directive” from the ether about how to operate the equipment. So it’s almost understandable why Avon owner Skip Huston is, perhaps, a bit too charmed by his resident spook. “When I die,” he says with a chuckle, “I’m moving in.”

Source: http://www.nicolekristal.com/toetag.html

About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).