Ornery Ghosts At the Opera House
Wisconsin prides itself so much so that they self promote the entire state as being "America's Dairyland," which in itself is reason enough for tourists to be guaranteed that they will satisfy their dairy cravings by personally tasting some of the highest quality cheese, milk and butter on the planet in one simple visit to the Midwest state.
Wisconsin is also known for a few other tourist attractions that draw in hundreds of thousands of visitors annually that include everything from the popular Oshkosh Oktoberfest to the EAA Oshkosh Air show and the famous, as well as seriously haunted Oshkosh Grand Opera House. The historic building was built in 1883 and is still in operation today. The Victorian stone structure proudly stands out as being the oldest theater in Wisconsin still in use, and it is one of the most haunted buildings in the entire state.
Oshkosh sits proudly in Winnebago County, Wisconsin and is the home to several historical buildings found nestled among the streets in the oldest part of the city. A historic graveyard is the final resting place for many of these early settlers responsible for establishing industries that supplied jobs to the citizens that eventually became a permanent part of the local history. By 1870 Oshkosh was the third largest city in the state of Wisconsin largely due to the accessible waterways and railways, and for the readily available employment from the lumber industry and the Oshkosh Brewing Company.
Business leaders and other well to do citizens soon took notice of Oshkosh's rapid growth, and real estate developers and architects began to stake ground with entertainment venues. William Waters, a skilled architect with an intense flair for creativity designed and built the now openly Grand Opera House in the heart of Oshkosh so that everyone would have access to the theatrical building which featured colorful talents portrayed in stage productions and events that drew in crowds by the hundreds. News of the new theater spread around the world, and soon it began to attract brilliant acts from around the country which often included Opera, Vaudeville and Broadway Musicals.
The Grand Opera House at the time was known as the Granada, and was purchased by W.G. Maxcy and W.D. Cummings in 1918 and later sold to Sol Winoker in 1948 for $40,000. In 1950 it was sold again and renamed the Grand Theater. Renovations became the main theme of the theater with everything from a new entrance to the building to the original features being completely covered by plaster was on the itinerary that continued for two decades. During these periods of unsettling circumstances and pure chaos rumors began to surface that the theater was haunted. 3.5 million dollars later the Grand Opera House was fully restored to her original grandeur and in 1986 she opened her doors and allowed visitors to step back into time as if it was an entire century earlier.
The fastest way to stir up entities is to remodel and the theater was no stranger to that process. Years of disruption to the structure shook up a whole nest of spirits ready to come out and see what all of the hubbub was about. Workers were starting to become familiar with an apparition that appeared regularly. It is believed that the ghost is none other than Percy Keene, a previous employee of the theater from 1895 through the year of his death in 1967. That same year that Percy passed away a group of film students witnessed a male apparition with shiny round glasses smiling at them as he watched them making their film. Footsteps throughout the theater and particularly on the steps leading to the balcony are a constant source of irritation, because there is no known reason for them other than the presence of a busy ghost who is running errands or quite simply pacing the floors.
The audience never fails to be included in a hotbed of paranormal activity with unsuspecting guests sitting right next to unoccupied chairs where apparitions appear in direct view to the performing artists up on the stage. The performers do not typically let on that they have witnessed these ghosts so that they do not frighten the paying guests of the theater. However random screams from the audience has given the impression that from time to time visitors have caught a glimpse of a spirit sitting next to or in front of their own occupied seats. The cold spots are a dead give away, as is the feeling of being brushed up against by absolutely nothing at all. A ghost dog has been witnessed on several occasions frolicking throughout the theater, scaring visitors half to death as they jump to get out of the way of the running pooch that appears to be on some type of guided mission. Perhaps the loyal guard dog has been summoned by Percy from another location in the theater.
Today the Grand Opera House is running on full speed and October is a popular month to visit the spirits of the theater. Happy Hour sets off the evening which is then followed by a grand tour where according to the experienced tour guide you will meet some of the legendary characters of the opera house's 128-year history, and learn about the mysterious tales and possibly meet the spirits that still inhabit the historic building today. Visitors will not only enjoy the paranormal activity, but there is a vast array of talented live stage acts, concerts, and movie screenings along with yearly community events. The theater has become well known for the children's Student Discovery Series, an event filled with a multitude of performances by talented and creative students.