Apparently, it is hard for spirits to give up a
favorite pastime like watching live performances.
Spirits can’t seem to let go of the opportunity to perform on stage.
A disgruntled spirit shows its frustration.
Spirits find ways to amuse themselves.
Elks Theatre is described as being “a classically designed, turn of the 20th century” structure. It is approximately 95 feet (29 m) wide and 125 feet (38 m) deep.
The Elks Theatre is housed in a grand, three story, historical building, which dates back to 1905. It is run by a non-profit organization, The Elks Theater and Performing Arts Center (ETPAC). According to their mission statement, “the mission of the ETPAC is to enhance the community of Prescott by providing space for practice, rehearsal and training of the performing arts.”
An endowment was set up when ETPAC bought the building, the purpose of which was to fund “the perpetual operation and maintenance of the theater and performing arts center.”
As a result of this, children, youth and adults of any economic level can participate in the arts for a low fee that covers costs and salaries.
This large building is divided into two equal sections. Small businesses, dance studios, dance halls and event rooms are located in the front section of all three floors. The second back section is the theatre and its support space.
The first floor is mostly made up of small businesses that help support the other activities that take place here.
The dance studios/activity halls are on the second floor. The most popular classes are in dance, with opportunities for everyone to enjoy this art form. One dance studio has a “floating Hickory dance floor, while the other studio has a “sprung Marley surface.”
Each studio “has its own adjustable lighting, heat and air conditioning and high quality sound systems.” They are quite nice places for a dance class, or a rehearsal space for an upcoming performance.
The second floor is also home to five Wenger music and voice isolation chambers, and a digital recording board; both are promoted on the Elks Theatre website.
The event rooms are on the third floor, and can hold a total of two hundred people. An extra perk is the whole floor sound system, along with adjustable lighting, heating and air conditioning. A variety of social events and meetings can be held in this space.
A completely new chef’s kitchen is located between these two large event rooms. It comes with warming ovens, grills, griddles and more kitchen equipment to help prepare meals for sit down events. The folks in Prescott can rent these rooms for social events or meetings.
The entrance to the Elks Theatre is located on East Gurley Street, in the center front section of the building. As the visitor enters, they walk into a rectangular foyer, with chairs and sofas along the walls.
In the back of this space is the small lobby and the staircase that leads to the balcony seating. A door located on the back wall of the lobby is the door that leads into the right side of the first floor of the restored theatre auditorium and stage.
Stepping into the auditorium is like stepping back to 1905! The simple grandeur of its early beginnings has been restored; a stunning success. The theatre takes up three floors of space. The inside of the auditorium is well-designed as there is not a bad seat in the house.
The design of the balcony seating area is a stunning and grand curved shape, giving everyone a great view of the stage area. It provides not only seats for patrons but also for theatre business offices.
First floor seating has just the right slope to give all patrons a great view to enjoy the live or film entertainment.
There are staircases on either side of the stage that lead up to the theatre boxes, which were rebuilt from rare historic pictures in an effort to restore the theatre to its original exact appearance.
Off the back stage area wall on the left side, a staircase leads down to the basement Green Room, where modern dressing rooms branch off hallways that are decorated with pictures from the many performances that have graced this stage since its beginning. It is indeed a bright, welcoming, modern space for performers to ready themselves.
The original dressing room, active during the early years of the Opera House is used for storage now, as the new basement rooms are quite modern and quite an upgrade. My, how times have changed!
While the Elks Theatre doesn’t produce its own plays, other theater groups and school drama productions, high school music bands etc. rent the space to showcase their own plays and concerts.
Other folks in need of a large auditorium also rent the theatre, which is still a very popular venue for such groups as community music organizations, tribute bands, magic shows, etc. It is perfect for high school graduations as well, much more upscale for this kind of special occasion than a mere gym or football field.
The Elks Theatre also screens films and classic films. The list of films shown here in the summer of 2021 includes: Junior Bonner, Rebeca, Animal House, and the Grown Up films, One and Two.
In 1904, the population of Prescott was booming, and the need for a fine arts center was pressing. The Elks Lodge of 330 gave this daunting challenge to a committee, the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks. They came up with plans for a three story building that could not only house Elks Lodge 330, but also a lovely, large Opera House. The plan would cost a whopping $15,000 dollars which was raised with fundraisers and donations.
The Elks Opera House was opened with great fanfare in January of 1905.
The auditorium had over nine hundred seats. Though it was built at an extravagant cost, it was well worth the effort and expense, bringing drama, music and other entertainment to the stage, and providing wholesome entertainment to Prescott.
The Elks Lodge was also located in the same building. Other businesses filled the remaining first floor spaces.
It was enthusiastically received and supported over the years by the people of Prescott, serving a variety of performance groups besides Opera, such as Vaudeville, Musical acts, boxing matches, movies, plays, church services and even political rallies, high school graduations to name a few.
After a screen was added, silent films made their debut in 1915, aiding the growing popularity of films here. In 1929, a sound system was added as the “talkie” revolution was were here to stay and was received with enthusiasm. Movies were a staple here until the 1980s.
When the Elks built a new lodge, they sold the Elks Opera-turned-Movie House to a private owner. A series of private owners have since tried to take good care of this community treasure.
Different owners have taken the reins and over the years have remodeled the stage area to keep up with the evolving movie industry. When wide screen films came into style, the historic box seats were nuked.
Through the eras, styles changed. The beautiful, elaborate stenciling decor of the auditorium was removed or painted over several times to give the theatre a more upscale, modern, fresh look.
The theatre was eventually turned over to the non-profit Elks Foundation, who began the long process of restoring the auditorium. With the help of a local construction company and restoration specialists, the renovation process started much like an archeology dig.
Boatloads of paint and paper were removed from the walls, uncovering the old elaborate stenciling and ceramic squares. A basement workshop was established to restore what was uncovered, reattaching original squares and replicas to the walls, recreating the 1905 decor. The remodeling changes made for wide screen films were undone.
When the renovation was finished, more room was allotted for the seating of each patron on both floors. To give patrons even more comfort, the seating capicity was reduced to 400.
In 2001, the Elks Theatre was purchased by the city of Prescott. Because of the Prescott’s partnership with theArizona Elks Foundation, the restoration of the Lobby, Green Room, Dressing Rooms in the basement area and other parts of the building was accomplished.
The most amazing find was a hidden stairway that was reestablished.
The restoration which ended up costing $1.75 million, was completed in 2010. The Elks Theatre shines again in all of its 1905 splendor.
Also returned to its rightful place was Bill, the decorative Elk at the top of the building, previously removed when the building was repurposed after the Elk Lodge moved to newer quarters.
In 2012, Prescott sold the building to ETPAC. They came up with plans to renovate the front section of the building. These improvements were finished in 2016.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
It is not surprising that there are spirits attached to the theatre. A lot of history has happened here, including tragedy and even a bit of mayhem.
Restoration of a building can bring back spirits who are attached to a structure because of the happy memories associated with it
Stanley Theatre, NY (Spirits attached to this building were really happy to see their beloved place in this world being restored).
Elsinore Theatre, OR (After several expensive restoration and renovation projects, the spirits of folks who loved working here, including an old owner, have enthusiastically embraced the activities of the living).
Old Regent Theatre, MI (After its 1990 restoration brought to life its old 1930s Art Deco glory, spirits made themselves known again; they were extremely happy to see the beauty of this place one more time).
Elks Theatre, AZ (Past spectral patrons enjoy the shows along with living patrons).
Apparently, it seems that the old saying still applies: Once a performer, always a performer, even as a spirit!
Old Regent Theatre, MI (Spectral actors don’t want to get off the stage just yet).
Pittsburgh Theatre, PA (The spirit of a popular actor, John Johns, loved to be involved in productions, up until this theatre was torn down in 2018. He may have connected to a favorite item being moved to another theatre).
Mantorville Opera House, MN (Prevalent, consistent paranormal activity points to spectral thespians who love the world of performing – even trying to encourage living thespians in their dressing rooms).
Elks Theatre, AZ (Spirits can’t seem to let go of the opportunity to perform here. Other paranormal activity suggests their presence as well).
Rash acts like suicide can result in a spirit being remorseful for doing it and motivate them to try to resume their life as if it never happened. Such spirits find ways in this world to make themselves feel better.
Woodstock Opera House, IL (A distraught young ballet dancer, Elvira, killed herself here and now stays on as a spectral arts enthusiast, coach and critic. In order to feel better about herself, she is not above possessing other young women, even though the living are there to stop her plans).
Avalon Hollywood, CA (A technician killed himself by jumping from the catwalk to the stage; landing right in front of his girlfriend, who hadjust broken up with him).
Victoria Theatre, OH (A male performer, perhaps an actor, committed suicide by impaling himself on a knife fastened to the back of a seat. His blood ran down into the orchestra pit.).
Elks Theatre, AZ (There have been two suicides connected to the Elks Theatre. A Russian immigrant, Professor Stanislaus, was hired to play his violin before shows. He wound up shooting himself after a bout of depression and a fight with his wife).
(An actor supposedly hung himself on the stage, according to urban legend. It hasn’t been documented though.)
Accidents can cause restless spirits. Through the eras, children have historically been prone to fatal accidents.
Elsinore Theatre, AZ (Possibly a young daughter of one of the theatre owners, or more likely a theatre manager, fell from the balcony where she was playing).
Orpheum Theatre, TN (A mischievous 12 year old spirit still enjoys theatre life and gets her chuckles in annoying ways).
Landers Theater, MO (A tragic accident occurred when a baby fell from the balcony to its death, much to the horror of the mother).
Elks Theatre, AZ (A little fell from the balcony according to urban legend. No documentation has been found to verify this).
When buried remains are disturbed, the spirit who is attached to them may become active in this world. Sometimes if the remains are hidden, it is to coverup a death or murder. The spirit may be seeking justice or trying to solve the old crime.
The Easton Library, PA (Before building this Carnegie-funded library, the graves in this long-filled German Cemetery had to be moved by family relatives to another cemetery. Two important people who were buried here had their graves moved to the front yard of the library. Unclaimed bodies were moved and dumped into a mass grave that was paved over with no markings, and the site became part of the entrance to a parking lot – Uh oh!).
Shaker’s Cigar Bar, WI (The spirit of a murdered prostitute was discovered in the wall and removed, to be buried in a cemetery).
King’s Tavern, MS (Three mummified bodies were discovered in the 1930s during repairs of the chimney and fireplace, all victims of the murderous Mrs. King; a bit of a serial psychopath).
Elks Theatre, AZ (Human bones were found in a wall during restoration. This could be the remains of a negative spirit, still angry about his death, which could’ve been a murder, and was definitely an old coverup).
The owners and the people who work and volunteer here are well aware that this theatre is popular with both visiting and resident spirits. A ghost light is turned up bright in the back of the theatre to lessen activity and it seems to work. When the light is turned down, the spirits make themselves known in many ways.
Spirits of Former Patrons
During a show, an Opera Guild Usher saw a life-like man, dressed in early 20th century theater attire, happily sitting in one of the restored opera box seats, enjoying the show.
When the Usher looked again moments later, imagine her surprise when the gentleman had vanished.
A man dressed in black also likes to sit in the auditorium and watch what is on stage or movie screen.
The spirit of the little girl who supposedly fell to her death apparently likes to swing on the chandeliers.
The Spirit of a Cowboy
This spirit may be the film star, Tom Mace, whose films used to be shown here.
He is dressed in a cowboy costume, complete with traditional hat.
This life-like apparition walks through the lobby, disappearing as he moves through a pillar.
Other Personal Appearances
Shadows are seen crossing the stage when the lighting being used can’t create them.
A woman claimed that there was an apparition up in the hyloft watching her.
The Spirit of Filmore
He is an active spirit that the staff have named Filmore.
The sprit does things to draw attention to himself, all in good-natured fun!
He likes to tap people on the shoulder as if to say, “I’m here and you can’t see me!”
He has appeared and talked to a cleaning lady. She said the spirit told her that he thought the name was “cute,” but his name was Robert; a name he used while alive.
Signs of an Unhappy Spirit
This unhappy spirit expresses his negative feelings through olfactory and tactile ways, perhaps venting them at the expense of the living, making them uncomfortable but aware of his plight. He has never harmed anyone.
Foul odors that don’t have an earthly source sometimes suddenly appear for a moment in the auditorium.
The smell of sulfur or death can materialize for just a single person or a few persons but not for everyone standing nearby.
The living have had their hair pulled.
A volunteer was pushed into the wall of the theatre from this frustrated spirit.
The Elks Theatre manager, as well as other theatre workers, have heard faint, operatic voices practicing their roles somewhere in the building; probably in the stage area.
The sounds of heavy boots have been heard clomping around. The spirit of an actor who perhaps is wearing a costume from an Opera?
Disembodied voices are heard in the theatre auditorium and the stage area.
These occurrences may point to spectral performers not ready to leave just yet.
The Spirit of Professor Stanislaus
Cleaning staff have heard the beautiful sounds of a violin being played on stage.
This spirit tries to find some peace from his regretful action by doing something he enjoyed: playing his violin in the auditorium.
Fun And Games
Anything electrical is fun to play with for the spirits here, especially on the stage.
When a young woman blew down the neck of her younger brother in the lobby, an unseen presence (perhaps Tom Mace or Filmore) blew down her neck for chuckles, thinking it is a fun prank.
It is fun to move important props and items from where the living have put them, to a new and odd spot; great chuckles for some spirit or spirits here while drawing attention to themselves.
It is fun to follow the living around, and let them hear your foot steps and feel your unseen presence.
Calling the names of staff and volunteers is equally enjoyable, especially in the office area.
Hard to Share
A female spirit loves the vanity mirror in the Ladies Room, and is a little possessive of the middle bathroom stall.
Some women who have used this toilet have had the locked door unlock itself and swing open, as if to say “You are done, now leave!”
Others experience an unseen presence trying to jiggle open the door when it is locked.
A disembodied female voice has been heard by the living here.
This spirit told the sensitive from The Southern California Research and Investigation team that her name was Anna.
Theatre staff and patrons have had many personal experiences letting them know that there are spectral residents and perhaps spectral visitors there to keep them company, get their chuckles, express their feelings and enjoy their memories as well as enjoy what is being performed on stage.
Geoff Lloyd, a paranormal investigator, and his team, made up of his wife and young adult children, form the Southern California Research and Investigation team. In January of 2018, they came to check out the Elks Theatre for a broadcast on their YouTube channel. The links are listed below.
Having equipment as well as a sensitive, they have theorized that the first private owner, Anna Carson Dater loves the vanity area and the middle stall of the Ladies bathroom.
Some interesting EVPs were caught as well. When a member of the team, a dancer herself, had asked any spirit on stage to dance specific ballet moves, an EVP caught in the old dressing room for this member can be realistically interpreted as saying “Dance for me.”
Most Probably so! Spirits who loved to perform on this stage as well as those who loved to watch performances and the films still can’t get enough of these activities that they so enjoyed doing while alive. A spirit or two who are not so happy are trying to get their stories told as well, which can be frustrating indeed, leading to the hair-pulling and pushing.
Perhaps a medium can come and visit the unhappy spirits and give them some counseling, or get their story told so they can let go of old injustices done and leave for the spirit world. Finding bones in a wall usually means that the person could’ve died from an episode of foul play or an effort to hide the death from the authorities for some purpose.
117 East Gurley Street # 115
Prescott, AZ 86301
The Elks Theatre is located in the back of the Elks Performing Arts Building that sits on E. Gurley Street, about a block east of South Charles Street and the County Courthouse, and a block west of South Martina Street.
- The Elks Theatre – Prescott, AZ
On January 19th and 20th of 2018, the SCPRI Team traveled to Prescott, AZ to investigate the Elks Theatre. Is it possible that some of these performers, athletes, celebrities, or politicians may have stayed around? The SCPRI Team has the answers to those questions.
- ELKS THEATRE AND PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
June 26, 2017, Enriching the community for more than 100 years
by Trevor Odom, Assistant Marketing and Program Manager
- Prescott Living, The Voice of the Community: Haunted Prescott
October 7, 2019 Issue, by Darlene Wilson, owner of A Haunting Experience Tours, who co-wrote along with Parker Anderson Haunted Prescott, Published by Haunted America in 2018
- A Journey through Time, Elks Opera House in Prescott, Arizona
Jun 16, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzLIMHOzLQE