theater

Abandoned Catskills

From the 1920s to the 1970s, New York City Jews flocked to Catskill resorts in the summer months to escape the stifling heat of the city. There were once over 500 resorts and hotels in the area, known as the “Borscht Belt“. Many famous comedians and entertainers got their start here. With increasing religious tolerance and the advent of widespread commercial airliners, many families chose to vacation elsewhere and dozens of these establishments now lay abandoned.

Some were re-purposed as condos, but those also failed. Many owners hope casinos will revive the area, while these magnificent structures slowly rot away. It’s surreal how many millions of dollars were sunk into these places over the years. Now it’s all just a faded memory.

Abandoned Catskill Drive-In

Mountain Drive-In, off NY State Highway 52, east of Liberty, New York, silently sits in ruins like a scene from the Fallout series. A faded sign still advertises “Mountain Fest ’97”, so I assume that was when it closed. According to Cinema Treasures, it opened in 1951 and once had three screens. More info and pictures from 2007 here.

From the 1920s to the 1970s, New York City Jews flocked to Catskill resorts in the summer months to escape the stifling heat of the city. There were once over 500 resorts and hotels in the area, known as the “Borscht Belt“. Many famous comedians and entertainers got their start here. With increasing religious tolerance and the advent of widespread commercial airliners, many families chose to vacation elsewhere and dozens of these establishments now lay abandoned.

Millikin University’s Rail Girl and Other Tales

Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois began its career with great fanfare. Named after the man who bankrolled the school, James Millikin, it opened in 1903 and was dedicated by Teddy Roosevelt. Classes begin on September 15 of that year. Its numerous ghost stories have their origins early in its history.

One story, involving the light of a long-deceased railroad crossing watchman named Tommy, has been told on campus since the 1930s. The old gymnasium, now used primarily as a storage area, is the scene of echoes from days gone by. According to Troy Taylor, students have heard the sounds of sports being played while alone in the abandoned gym.

Many students believe the ghost of a woman named Bernice Richardson haunts Ashton Hall, Millikin University’s oldest all-female dorm. Richardson killed herself by drinking carbonic acid in her bedroom on February 1, 1927.

According to author Tom Ogden, “Her ghost appears only from the waist up. The apparition moves slowly from one end of the third floor to the other, going from room to room by passing through the walls. She also moves objects, makes belongings disappear and reappear, raps on the walls, and messes with the lights and doors.”

(more…)

Rockford University’s Whispers of the Past

Rockford, Illinois’ first college, established before the city was even chartered, was Rockford Female Seminary.  Jane Addams, who would go on to fame as a social reformer and co-founder of Chicago’s Hull House, was a graduate of the seminary in 1881. In 1892 RFS became known as Rockford College, which remained a predominately female academy until 1958.

In 1964 the campus was moved from its home along the river to its present location along State Street. It changed its name to Rockford University in 2014.

While rich in history, Rockford University is also rich in ghostlore and the origin of a wide variety of alleged haunts. No less than three buildings are said to be home to restless spirits, along with one memorial arch, which was built using materials from the original Rock River campus.

Blanche Walker Burpee Center, Adams Arch, and the Clark Arts Center run the gambit of ghostly phenomenon, from disembodied voices, to moving objects, to phantom reflections, and a whole host of other unexplained things.

Out of all of the buildings at Rockford University, the Clark Arts Center, which contains both Cheek and Maddox theaters, is thought to be the most haunted. Ancient frescos depicting figures in various stages of celebration, often playing instruments, line the hall outside Maddox Theatre. Their cherubic faces, it has been said, change expressions and even watch the audience as the guests filter in for a performance.

(more…)

‘The Gipper’ Still Roams the University of Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame was founded in 1842 by Father Edward Sorin, a Catholic priest, and was an all-male institution until 1972. Its motto is, “Vita Dulcedo Spes” or “Life, Sweetness, Hope,” a reference to the Marian hymn Salve Regina. In honor of the Virgin Mary, the university is home to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Built in 1896, is a replica of the original in Lourdes, France. Other famous religious buildings on campus include the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a neo-gothic church built in 1888.

Notre Dame is famous for its football team, the Fighting Irish. It was this athletic legacy that gave birth to the university’s most enduring legends. In 1920, George “The Gipper” Gipp, from Laurium, Michigan, was selected as Notre Dame’s first All-American football player. Unfortunately, he died of a streptococcal throat infection at the age of 25 on December 14, 1920. Ronald Reagan famously portrayed George Gipp in the 1940 film Knute Rockne, All American.

(more…)

Akron Civic Theatre’s Ghostly Trio

Originally known as the Loews Theatre, the Akron Civic Theatre was designed by Viennese architect John Eberson in grand “Atmospheric” style. The ceiling was painted to look like the night sky, and it is one of the few theater ceilings that can rotate. The Civic is believed to be haunted by three ghosts. A girl who allegedly committed suicide by jumping into the canal behind the theater has been encountered walking along the edge of the canal, weeping uncontrollably. The ghost of a longtime employee of the theater, a janitor named Fred, has been spotted all over the building. Finally, the anonymous ghost of a man has been seen sitting in the balcony. These phantoms make the Civic Theatre one of the most spirited in Ohio.

The Akron Civic Theatre is located at 182 South Main Street in downtown Akron, Ohio. L. Oscar Beck began construction on this site in 1919, intending to build an impressive entertainment complex called The Hippodrome. His project went bankrupt in 1921 and the site stood incomplete until Marcus Loew, founder of the Loew’s theater chain, built the Loews Theatre there in 1929. It was an ambitious project incorporating Moorish and Mediterranean architecture and decor. The theater lobby extended over the Ohio and Erie Canal. It had many owners over the years, including the Akron Jaycees and the Women’s Guild. In June 2001, the Akron Civic Theatre closed to undergo a $19 million renovation. Today, it is one of only sixteen remaining atmospheric theaters designed by architect John Eberson in the United States.

(more…)