The unexplained hauntings of The Grand explained

Courtesy The Grand Oshkosh — Many people believe the Grand Oshkosh is haunted.

Courtesy The Grand Oshkosh — Many people believe the Grand Oshkosh is haunted.

Aubrie Selsmeyer, Staff Writer

While October has just ended, it’s Halloween year-round for members of The Grand Oshkosh.

The Grand holds the title for the oldest operating theater in the city and the most actively haunted. I sat down with two members of The Grand, Director’s Assistant Amber Hammond and Community Relations Manager Molly Templin, to bust myths and speculations about Oshkosh’s oldest theater. 

It has been rumored that the restoration of the building is what caused the stir of paranormal activity, but Hammond disagrees. In fact, she said the restoration had the opposite effect on the spirits that inhabit The Grand. The paranormal activity actually slowed down during the 2009-10 remodeling.

“During construction, we asked the crew and building operation guys if they witnessed anything, and the answer was always no,”  Hammond said.

To get an explanation as to why the activity went quiet during construction, The Grand looked to what paranormal investigators have previously hypothesized, being that the spirits actually enjoy their home being unkept. 

So, did paranormal activity spike due to the restoration of the theater? No. Myth busted.

I also had to ask about the story of the stage manager who supposedly still resides in the theater and who has been reported to perch on the balcony and smile down at performers when the crowds are absent.

Templin said they are not allowed to disclose the identities of who they believe the spirits to be. However, she said they do have a spirit they refer to as their “benevolent stage manager.”

“We don’t know any of their spirits’ actual names,” Templin said. “For example, the lady in the balcony is known as Rose because she has been seen wearing a pink dress, but now people have seen her in a blue dress, so it’s all very debatable.” 

Next, I asked about the reports of the “phantom dog” that runs through the audience and across the stage while performers rehearse. 

“The Grand has gone through multiple re-namings over the years,” Hammond said. “When it was an adult movie house back in the day, the manager of the theater lived in apartments above the Grand’s original entrance. And unfortunately, he had a dog who passed away in his apartment. So, now he roams the theater all the time and can occasionally be heard scattering around on the cement in the basement.” 

Phantom dog? True!

When you read about The Grand, you cannot miss the story of the orange mist or haze that supposedly appears across the stage with no explanation. This, however, is not a common occurrence for the theater. 

According to Templin: “People just came in one day and an orange mist was covering all of the seats and the stage. We had a show the previous night, but it didn’t involve anything crazy, so it wasn’t like the smoke machine was still on. It was just this weird orange mist covering the entire main hall.” 

Those hoping to catch this happening during a visit to The Grand may have to set their sights on another phenomenon since the orange mist was a once in a lifetime happening — at least as of now!

Before I got into their personal experiences with the theater, I needed to myth-bust one more story I had learned about. Do seats in the audience truly get “pushed down” by spirits who appear to be watching the performances after hours? 

Templin said this happened during a tour she was giving recently. She said she had just told  her group that “sometimes seats just fall down,” and less than 5 minutes later a boy on her tour raised his hand and asked her if it was planned for a seat to be down in the audience. Both Templin and Hammond were unfazed by this and said that it happens all the time. 

“I like to say that they own the building and we get to use it,” Templin said.

She said, “The lady in the balcony has been heard laughing during dress rehearsals when there is no one at all in the audience.” She also said that walking through the aisles of the auditorium can be compared to walking into a “brick wall of cold.” Temperature drops are a common indicator of a spiritual presence as they are drawing from all of the energy in the surrounding environment and draining warmth from the air. 

If you thought that the ghost stories couldn’t get much better, they do. Hammond shared her personal experience with her favorite spirit who resides in the theater — a little boy who has a soft spot for the women of the theater. 

“I often use the dowsing rods to communicate with the spirits,” Hammond said. “ I firmly believe that when I go down into the basement the spirit of this little boy touches my arm. We call him our prankster ghost.”

Hammond said the “coolest thing” that happened with her and the little boy occurred just over a month ago as she was giving a tour. “As I was talking during the tour, a white outline walked directly across the hallway in front of me. People will often report that they saw “shadow figures” during their visits to The Grand, but this was not that. It was more like a white outline of him, and I actually had to stop the tour because I have never seen anything like this.”

Hammond said during their theater ghost tours they have actually gotten the little boy to move objects for guests, such as a bat decoration that hangs from the ceiling. 

Templin added: “The ceiling almost collapsed in 2009, and one of our spirits was seen [previously] up at the very back corner of the balcony pointing toward where the structure was failing. But nobody knew what he was pointing to…”

“We always tell our guests that the theater is a place for imagination, so if you believe in ghosts, we have them,” Hammond said. “The whole point is to let your imagination run a little wild while you’re here, and we encourage you to.” 

I asked both Hammond and Templin what was the most fulfilling and exciting part about working for this historical, haunted gem. 

Templin said it brings joy to people during tough times. 

“This is what I’ve wanted to do, this is what I went to school for,” she said. “And I really love the fact that we work in events and we work in the business of bringing people joy.  I feel like that’s what everyone needs,” she said, adding that she also enjoys giving people more access to the arts. 

Hammond said her favorite part of the job is creating their events, including their lounge events such as trivia, bingo and karaoke.

The Grand has concluded its ghost tours for the year, but other activities are now planned, such as Trivia Tuesdays with prizes, Bingo Wednesdays (beginning on Nov. 9), and many entertainers taking to the stage in the month of November. More information on those events can be found at