Springer Opera House

One of the most popular hang outs for ghosts is in stage theatres. The older the theatre, the more likely it will have its share of ghost stories. But, why is this? No one can say for sure, but one popular theory is that actors of the past loved the stage so much that even death won't keep them away.

It starts with actors auditioning, and then preparing for a role. In preparation for the role that they've worked so hard to get, actors immerse themselves in the persona of their character. The energy generated by their intense concentration works to create a highly charged state of emotion. Add to this the exertion of the back stage crew, the passion of the directors, and the excitement of the audience. All of these elements serve to magnify the level of intensity. It's a well accepted scientific fact that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; only altered. Suppose then, that all these cumulative emotions are somehow permanently ingrained in the atmosphere of the location, resulting in odd occurrences that our knowledge of science can not explain.

Paranormal researchers speculate that such an outpouring of intense emotion can create a psychic imprint on the environment. Many well documented hauntings are at locations where extreme emotions have permeated the location. Battlefields are a prime example of this. Visitors to places such as Gettysburg report the same anomaly over and over again. A specter of a Civil War soldier may be seen patrolling the same location by different individuals at different times. The same repetitious phenomena are often reported in old theatres. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as a residual haunting. Science as we know it is incapable of explaining how this can happen, but researchers of the paranormal believe that the phenomenon is similar to a recording that replays itself at certain times. When do these certain times occur? It sometimes happens on the anniversary of the event, or when there are thunderstorms in the area. Solar flares and the full moon are also associated with an increase in paranormal phenomena.

At the Springer Opera House in Columbus, GA, an apparition of a man wearing a top hat is frequently reported in the same room. It's a small office and this apparition so frightens a woman that works across the hall; she insists the door remain closed. Is this frequently seen apparition a residual imprint reoccurring in that room, or is it a spirit that chooses when it wants to be seen? It's not easy to tell the difference.

This leads us to a brief discussion of intelligent hauntings. This type of haunting is not imprinted, but is caused by a sentient entity. These entities interact with the living and show themselves in various ways. They toy with us by moving objects, creating knocking sounds, calling our names, touching us, etc. We believe that the Springer has both types of hauntings- residual and intelligent.

On Halloween of 2003, Foundation for Paranormal Research (FPR) conducted an all-night investigation at Springer Opera House. We were invited in conjunction with a local TV station that filmed our live investigation. FPR investigators Vicki Luibrand, Debra Bates, Cherie Searcy, Jennifer McElhannon (Jen), Rick Heflin and I comprised the team. The station manager and a couple of other staff members accompanied us throughout the night.

Rick and I were the first to arrive, and were given the grand tour of the theatre. We learned that the theatre opened in 1871 and is designated as the State Theatre of Georgia. The interior is grand indeed. The stage is unusually large for a theatre of it's time and the plush rows of seats seem to go on forever. There are 3 tiers of balconies, and an impressive proscenium arch. Before you even get to the theatre, you pass through an immense lobby decorated with statuary and antiques.

Our tour took us through long hallways where offices are located, the dressing rooms, the basement/crawl space and the workshop area. One of the most interesting rooms was the costume room, which is on the upper level. There was even a bar/lounge where the actors relax and socialize after performances.

The stage manager was quite friendly and eager to point out the paranormal hot spots. He also shared some of his experiences. One of the most common occurrences is when the lighting turns itself on and off. This has happened to him repeatedly. There was also the time when lighted candles were being used as a prop in one of the plays. After the performance, the candles were extinguished. A short while later, the stage manager returned to the stage area and the candles were relit. This was evidence of an intelligent haunting. Something was having fun, but it was not funny because of the obvious fire hazard involved.

We were told another story involving the stage area. A worker was high above the stage on one of the beams. Suddenly he saw a little girl appear on the other end of the beam. He was so startled that he lost his balance and almost fell off the beam.

The costume room is one of the most interesting places in the theatre. There are rows and rows of every kind of costume imaginable and we had some fun trying on the hats and wigs. This room is the "home" to a friendly ghost named "Tuxedo". The room is very large, and is packed with so many costumes that the actors often have trouble finding what they need. We were told that all they have to do is ask "Tuxedo" to get it for them, and the item will mysteriously appear.

The night we were there, we didn't spend much time in the costume room. It was dark and stuffy and we weren't picking up much activity. We later found out this was a mistake. Days after our investigation, a psychic actor told the stage manager that Tuxedo was disappointed that we didn't stay longer in the costume room. He was warming up to us and would have made his presence known if we had given him more time to get used to us. Patience is crucial when one is doing paranormal research. (Many times we get the feeling that the spirits go into hiding when people come looking for them.)

There are several theories as to why spirits hang around instead of choosing to move on. They either don't know they are dead, they are afraid to move on, or they have such a strong attachment to something that they don't want to leave. The attachment is usually to places, but can also be to living people and even objects. Antiques are sometimes followed by a spirit that just can't give up a beautiful piece that they loved so much in life. And some spirits have made the transition to the other side, but still like to come back to visit.

The ghost of Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, (President Lincoln's assassin) is said to haunt Springer Opera House. Both men were stage actors, and Edwin did many performances at Springer. He has been seen there by many different people. His attachment to the theatre is not surprising. Acting in this prestigious, beautiful theatre probably gave him such complete fulfillment that he doesn't want to leave. He may be the ghost in the top hat that frightens the employee across the hall.

One of the rooms, called the red room because it is painted red, is haunted by a female spirit. One of our more sensitive investigators is Cherie and she felt an angry female presence in this room, one that did not appreciate our intrusion into her space. As soon as we entered this room, we began photographing orbs. Orbs are circles of light that are often photographed in haunted locations. They are rarely visible to the naked eye, but the camera sees them. They are believed by many paranormal investigators to be spirits of the dead appearing in their simplest form. We didn't spend much time in that room because Cherie felt uncomfortable. Our intent is to study the entities, not annoy them.

As we left this room, we headed down a hallway known to be paranormally active. We were accompanied by the reporter and camera man. As we passed by one room with a locked door, the door knob began to rattle. Several of us witnessed the movement and the sound, but there was no explanation as to whom or what was causing it. We could only guess that something was trying to get our attention, and it did! I took a photograph of the door as it was rattling. When I later reviewed the picture, I discovered a small orb over the door.

Another paranormal hot spot was the workshop. Here is where carpenters and stage hands build props that are used in the various productions. Several workers have reported seeing an apparition move through this room. It appears to be male, and follows the same path each time it has been seen. We aimed our cameras in the direction of the sightings and once again photographed orbs. This activity is most likely residual in nature.

A female employee told Vicki a story about a short set of stairs that lead to a room called the piano room. There are doors on each end of the stairs. The woman was standing on the stairs between the doors, when she was awed by the sudden appearance of colored lights. They were shooting all around her. Both doors were closed and there was no rational explanation for the lights. As she told Vicki this story, they were standing by these stairs. Vicki turned and took a picture of the stairs, and then immediately recorded a disembodied voice yelling, "You!" This anomaly is called electronic voice phenomena or EVP.

Recording EVPs is one of the most fascinating occurrences in paranormal research. Haunted locations often produce sounds that are not audible to the human ear, but are later heard on audio recorders. This kind of evidence is more compelling than the orbs that we so often photograph. We have many recordings of disembodied voices that are directed at us. We have been sworn at, insulted and poked fun at. Occasionally an EVP will actually answer a question. At one location, the investigator asked how many spirits were in the room. An EVP was recorded answering, "Deuce, two". When we get these responses, we can only conclude that an intelligent entity is interacting with us.
But, EVP can also be residual in nature, such as a woman's scream that repeats on the anniversary of her suicide, or the sounds of horse's hoofs pounding across a field.

Early in our investigation, both Cherie and I witnessed the same phenomena in the same location, but not at the same time. We were standing on the same spot on the 2nd floor balcony and were looking across to the other side of the theatre. We both saw a rolling mass of something pale and white in the aisle. It moved slowly towards the back of the theatre and vanished.

The most interesting event of that night occurred in a small room adjacent to the employee's lounge. In the room is a bench and across from it an antique desk. We were told by the stage manager that a ghost called Artie likes to sit on that bench. He has been seen there so many times, that the bench is called "Artie's Bench". We of course had to investigate this. Vicki set up her video camera and aimed it at the bench. She also set up her audio recorder, while the rest of us took still shots.

Debra, Jen, Cherie and I took turns sitting on the bench. The camera began recording orbs moving around the bench area as we watched them on the view finder. When it was Jen's turn to sit on the bench, she raised her arm over her head with her open palm towards the ceiling. She asked Artie to touch her on the hand. Right after that, an orb appeared on the video camera above Jen's head. It quickly swooped down and smacked her on the hand. Jen immediately shrieked in pain and ran out of the room. The orb made a 180 degree turn and flew back from where it came. Jen ran up to me and cried out to us, "It's burning! Something hit my hand and it really burns." Her palm was bright red and I could feel the heat emanating from it. Jennifer had just been slapped by a ghost.

Vicki recorded several EVPs during the time we spent at Artie's bench. One sounded like a southern woman saying, "Is there a man sittin' somewhere?" Another voice sounded like a man saying, "...the bench". Could this be Artie referring to his bench?

Other documented EVPs from that night include a comment after one of the film crew said, "Now would be a good time to go home and get my..."and he was interrupted on the tape with a loud, clear, "You betcha!" Maybe our presence was not appreciated by that spirit.

Many EVPs are not clear enough to be understood, and some of these were recorded that night. They sound like a whispering in the background of human conversations. We make it a point to never whisper on an investigation, so when we record one, we know it wasn't one of us. There was one other clear EVP recorded that night. It is the voice of a man saying, "We know you here." Was this voice intelligent or residual? It could be referring to us humans, or perhaps it was an imprinted voice commenting on something from the past.

Debra had an experience on the second floor balcony which began with her entering a cold spot. She was immediately chilled and turned to face the cold. She then shot loads of orbs on her digital camera. Then, all of sudden they disappeared, and it got warm again.

Later in the night while Cherie was resting on a couch in the second floor hallway, something soft and gentle touched her. I took a nap in the same hallway across from Cherie and caught numerous orbs with my digital. We also videotaped many orbs moving in the same area. This hallway is believed to be one of the most paranormally active parts of the theatre. While I rested on my couch I had the strong feeling that Cherie and I were not alone in the hallway, and I don't think we were.

At one point during the night, Vicki thought she heard the soft voice of a young girl whisper "Hi". She was standing by a tier of seats near the stage. I was next to her when she heard this, but I heard nothing. The soft voice was not picked up on her recorder and it might have just been Vicki's imagination. But then again, maybe it was the voice of the little girl that the worker saw high on the beam over the stage.

This ends the account of our over night investigation at Springer Opera House. It was truly one of the most remarkable nights of my life, and one of FPR's best investigations. I will wrap it up by adding one more tidbit. Years before we were there, another member of FPR was attending a performance in the theatre. She noticed a person sitting a couple of rows in front of her, and watched as the figure disappeared into thin air.

Bev Greenfield
Foundation for Paranormal Research

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