Burlesque Haunts: Jim Thorpe

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MauchChunkNowBurlesque Haunts: Behind the Curtain at the Mauch Chunk Opera House

by: Femme Vivre LaRouge

Reports of apparitions and applause, spectral piano playing, whistling, and much more abound at the old opera house in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.  For the past two years Jim Thorpe Burlesque, also known as Dragontown Burlesque, has held the Jim Thorpe Burlesque Festival at the historic Mauch Chunk Opera House, and from what I hear, there’s an audience around before the crowd ever arrives.  Jacqueline Hyde, performer and Production Manager of Dragontown Burlesque, was kind enough to share her chilling personal experiences with me.  For starters, she felt hot and cold spots in the upstairs balcony, and the sensation of ‘walking through webs.’  Then, backstage she continued to sense cold spots in the space and began to hear ethereal voices and movement near her.  But the strangest interaction came the next day when Jacqueline was teaching a class on the stage.  “I was facing the curtains and I saw as though someone was putting their hand on the curtain and running it up and down the curtain.”  Although no one was visible behind the curtains, and there was no breeze to stir them, the movement continued, going up just as high as arm’s reach, and down to a similar point at the bottom of the curtain.  Rather than cancel class, Jacqueline chose to address the entity feeling up the curtain: “When I asked it to stop because it was being disruptive the curtain went back to normal instantly.”

800px-Downtown_Jim_ThorpeNestled beautifully amongst the mountains of Pennsylvania, Jim Thorpe is a picturesque Victorian village of around 5,000.  Voted one of America’s “Top 10 Coolest Small Towns,” the borough was originally named Mauch Chunk, meaning Bear Mountain.  The opera house was built in the early 1880s, to accommodate both the town hall, and a farmer’s market.  Becoming a fixture on the vaudeville circuit, the opera house hosted big-name performers such as Mae West, W.C. Fields, Al Jolson, and John Phillips Sousa.  Then, in 1927, the venue was converted to a motion picture house, operating in that capacity until 1959.  Serving as a common warehouse for many years, the opera house was rescued by the Mauch Chunk Historical Society in the mid-seventies and restored to its original glory.  Now the opera house is in constant use for live performances and events.

MauchChunkOperaHouseSepiaThe Jim Thorpe Burlesque Festival, produced by Brooke Au Buchon (aka Madame Corsetiere), has contributed to the preservation of The Mauch Chunk Opera House with the shows held there.  Although the festival will be moving to a larger venue next year, Mrs. Au Buchon is also the Vice President of the Mauch Chunk Historical Society.  As she has spent a great deal of time in the theatre, she had a few spooky stories of her own to share.  While inspecting the seating prior to the 2011 festival, Brooke decided to take a peek in the old projection room.  “It was brightly lit from a high window that faces the street, and contained nothing but an old desk and dusty scraps of wood and wire.  As I turned to close the door behind me, the shadow of a person passed across the floor, as though someone had walked in front of the window.  The window is far too high to reflect traffic from the street, and the top of the nearest tree is a full story down.”  Dragontown Burlesque is named after Madame Corsetiere’s own business, Dragontown Corsets, and they also host an annual Halloween show, Boolesque.  In 2010, while preparing for the show, Au Buchon went to wash her hands after moving some beer kegs.  Alone in the venue, she made her way through the dimly lit theatre to the ladies’ room.  “There are two doors you must pass through to get in, and they create a small vestibule between them.  I entered the first door, and it closed behind me.  I held the second door open, and fumbled for the light switch in complete blackness.  Before I could find it, there was a very loud noise from the back right-hand corner of the room.  It was the unmistakable sound of heavy furniture being dragged across the floor.  However, there is no furniture in the room at all, and the area the sound came from is only occupied by a toilet cubicle. In fright, I turned back, still in darkness, and tried to open the first door.  I couldn’t.  It felt like someone was holding it closed, as I would pull and the door would crack open slightly under my weight, and then slam shut again.  This only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity.  Whoever was holding the door did finally let go, and I practically fell into the lobby.”

MauchChunkSoundboardMany others have had otherworldly encounters at the Mauch Chunk Opera House, and the site has been investigated by several paranormal societies.  One such group, the Blue Mountain Paranormal Society, invited the public to join their investigations, thereby raising money for the historic venue.  The group detected shadows and phantom whistling, temperature fluctuations, and electromagnetic field changes.  Investigator Beth Dennis responded to a tingling sensation by pointing her camera into the dark and filming where she could see nothing.  She states, “The next day when I reviewed the video, I saw the outline of a gentleman wearing a hat.”

Another organization that has examined the opera house is NEPA Paranormal, whose medium, Lauri Moore, came into contact with the ghost of an usher at the opera house.  He seems to have been concerned about her safety as she navigated the balcony area in the dark.  Although the usher was kind to Lauri, demonstrating an unearthly loyalty to his job, he did chide her for being late.  The word ‘tardy’ was caught on the group’s Ovilus, or ghost box, a piece of equipment which amplifies vibrations so that they are audible to the human ear.  When the NEPA team posed the question, “Who’s with us this evening?” the answer on both the EVP and Ovilus was ‘ghost.’

To listen to the EVPs obtained that night at the opera house, visit: http://www.nepaparanormal.com/page43.php

You can also listen to EVPs obtained by the Hazleton Paranormal Society: http://www.hazletonparanormal.com/mcoh.html and view videos from the investigation by A&E’s Psychic Kids and CT Paranormal Encounters And Research: http://www.cpeargroup.com/id103.html

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