With summer travel season upon us, we decided it was the perfect time to start this Monthly Feature that we’ve had in our pockets for a while now. We will feature a new Burlesque or Pin-Up Haunt every month. Have a local legend of haunted theaters, celebrity burlesque ghosts, or the like? Shoot it over to firstname.lastname@example.org we’d love to hear from you!
Burlesque & Pin-Up Haunts
The Palace Theatre – Columbus, Ohio
By: Divertida Devotchka Photo: George Faerber
The Palace Theatre in Columbus, Ohio opened in 1926 and was originally a vaudeville house, the construction of which was personally overseen by Edward Albee, a well-known vaudeville impresario. According to the Palace Theatre’s website, from the 1930s through the 1950s, the theatre was the most active venue for live shows in the city of Columbus. Many of the biggest names of the era graced its stage, such as Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Jack Benny, Glenn Miller, Harpo and Chico Marx, and last but certainly not least, both Mae West and Gypsy Rose Lee. In 1989, the theatre was purchased by the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, known as CAPA, which also owns and operates several historic theaters in the city.
Internet research on this venue does reveal several anecdotal supernatural experiences there, but according to CAPA publicist Rolanda Copley, no one is aware of a haunting in their theatres. Some Columbus residents disagree with this assessment. Nellie Kampmann has done extensive research on paranormal activity in the Columbus area and her book, The Haunted History of Columbus, Ohio will be printed next fall by The History Press. Kampmann’s take on the theatre is quite different from that of their publicist.
“I’ve never been able to warm up to the place myself,” Kampmann said. “I am psychically sensitive, and there’s always been something about it that has felt very cold and unwelcoming to me. It didn’t surprise me when I found out that it had a reputation for being haunted.”
According to Kampmann, the theatre’s ghost made its first appearance at a reopening party after CAPA renovated the theater. “The festivities included a séance to contact Harry Thurston, the magician rival of guest of honor Harry Blackstone, Jr.’s father. Instead of reaching Thurston, something unexpected happened. One side of the medium’s face suddenly sagged, and she had difficulty speaking,” said Kampmann. “The ghost that she was channeling claimed to be the spirit of a stroke-ridden man who had died in the theater.” Some believe the man had been murdered, but no one is sure exactly what happened. It is said that many people experience a “suffocating presence” in the balcony where the man was reported to have died.
Kampmann said that the cleaning staff has also reported strange happenings. “They use a vacuum cleaner that straps on like a backpack in order to give them more mobility when cleaning the stairs. One day, one of the cleaners was vacuuming when the vacuum stopped,” Kampmann said. “She checked to see if maybe she had accidentally yanked the cord out of the socket. It was still plugged in. Then she checked the on/off switch and found that it had been turned to “off.” She flipped it back on and went back to vacuuming.” This same sequence happened again, and the cleaner turned the vacuum back on and continued working. “Five minutes later, the vacuum suddenly stopped again,” Kampmann said. “She looked around and decided that the theatre was clean enough!”
Want more burlesque haunts? Marilyn Monroe’s Ghost