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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Ghosts haunt UA

    Workers at Centennial Hall say the theater is haunted. Rumored inhabitants include a young man who makes horse-like noises and a woman who makes appearances during classical music concerts.
    Workers at Centennial Hall say the theater is haunted. Rumored inhabitants include a young man who makes horse-like noises and a woman who makes appearances during classical music concerts.

    While Centennial Hall and Marroney Theatre are best known for their theatrical and musical productions, when the lights go out, performances of the supernatural variety are rumored to take place within the halls and stages of these two UA landmarks.

    Jeffrey Warburton, Marroney’s lighting technician and an associate professor of theatre arts, was working late one night programming the light board for an upcoming production when he said he had a spectral encounter.

    “”I heard someone coming up the stairs,”” he said.

    Warburton called out to whoever (or whatever) was making the sound.

    “”Then I felt this wave of cold air going across me,”” he said. “”It curled the hair on my neck.””

    The sensation subsided. Then he heard the sound of someone walking back down the staircase. When he looked around, Warburton said he found nothing. He was alone.

    Warburton’s second supernatural experience at Marroney was just as bizarre.

    “”I was working again late at night and I didn’t have my keys,”” he said. He remembered giving them to a student he was working with earlier, but when asked, the student said he had given them back to Warburton.

    “”I walked out into the backstage part of the theater, and I heard a foghorn,”” he said. He thought it was one of the sound technicians, but he looked around and realized that “”there wasn’t a soul in the theater.””

    He said out loud, “”OK, where’s my keys?”” and then heard something fall on the ground between two chairs in the middle of the audience area. His keys were lying on the ground between the two chairs, in a spot that he had looked at earlier.

    “”There are legends and stories around the world of ghosts inhabiting theaters, going back hundreds of years,”” said Jonathan Holden, head of public relations for UApresents. “”There’s an old adage that says every good theater has a ghost.””

    Centennial Hall, home of the UApresents productions, is no
    exception.

    The venue “”is rumored to have a couple of ghosts,”” Holden said. “”One is a young man in his 20s who sometimes wanders around backstage and up on the catwalk. He has also been heard making strange horse-like noises – like neighing or whinnying.””

    The other ghost is rumored to be a woman dressed in Victorian-era clothing who appears during classical music performances at Centennial, Holden said.

    “”Many years ago, a custodian reported feeling someone brush by them while they were cleaning up,”” he said. “”Of course, there was no one there.””

    Forty percent of Americans believe in ghosts and 22 percent are not sure, according to a 2005 Harris Poll report on religious and spiritual beliefs.

    “”In different communities you have a collection of stories that support this notion or keep it alive,”” Holden said.

    Ghost stories have been a part of Western mythology for centuries, he added.

    Historically, the supernatural may have been merely a way of promoting the theater, Holden said.

    There are many traditions in theater dealing with superstition and the supernatural, like the tradition of saying “”break a leg”” before a major performance, he said.

    One of the most infamous superstitions in theatrical history revolves around Shakespeare’s “”Macbeth,”” said Dr. Jerry Dickey, head of the theatre studies division of the School of Theatre Arts.

    Since the play’s first performance about 400 years ago, there have been a number of tragedies associated with it in theaters around the world, he said.

    In one incident in Europe, an actor replaced the stage dagger with a real one and ended up killing another actor on stage, Dickey said.

    “”Every 50 years or so there’s an incident to add to the lore of the play,”” he said. “”Some actors are so superstitious they don’t even say the name of the play.””

    Dickey also mentioned the tradition of “”the ghost light.””

    “”Basically, it’s a single light bulb left burning in the middle of the stage at night,”” he said. “”The tradition started hundreds of years ago in England.””

    The practical purpose of the light is for safety reasons, so a custodian or technician working late wouldn’t trip over set pieces, Holden said.

    There is also an urban legend of a burglar falling down in a dark theater and suing them for his injuries, he said.

    “”The flip side is that it’s also associated with a light that allows spirits to see their way through a darkened theater,”” Dickey said.

    Centennial Hall does not have a ghost light, Holden said.

    While Warburton’s personal experiences have led him to accept the possibility of the supernatural, Holden is less sure.

    As to why theaters specifically seem to be hot spots for ghost sightings, he offered one explanation.

    “”Theaters are large, cavernous places, and we’re accustomed to being in them when they’re full of people,”” Holden said. “”Being in a theater when it’s empty, it’s definitely a different feeling. People may perceive things that are a result of their own perception.””

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