Annie Russell Theatre

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A Spirit is still an enthusiastic audience member;

During a paranormal investigation, spirits stepped forward to answer questions!



Annie Russell Theatre is a 375 seat theatre that is truly beautiful. On July 15th, 1998, folks from the U.S. National Register of Historic Places agreed, and put Annie Russell Theatre on their prestigious register.

The U.S. National Register of Historic Places has a great site on line where the application forms of most of the structures listed are public knowledge, and researchers can read about a Structure’s physical characteristic; inside and outside.

The Annie Russell Theatre is a LATE 19TH & 20TH CENTURY Romanesque and Mediterranean Style REVIVALS structure that has a reinforced concrete foundation, stucco and stone walls , a clay and a Spanish barrel tile on the roof. Some of the original walls were made of terracotta blocks.

Two-tone stucco was the choice for the surfaces of exterior walls. Florida Travertine stone made the decorative details and trim stunning! The auditorium’s side walls are broken up by lower flanking sections which provide for side aisles and by somewhat higher stairwell roofs.

Inside, there are three openings leading into the auditorium that has green and caramel as their decor colors. Patrons use the side miles to arrive at their seats. The center aisle of the auditorium was eliminated during a 1977 renovation of this theatre.

The side aisles are lined by arches “separated by piers and stone columns with composite capitals and applied wooden impost blocks.The piers have wood trim following the column architrave with a seashell ornament on the auditorium side and a single candela bra wrought iron lamp on the other. The same seashell motif is continued in the niches of the two Patrons’ boxes located near the stage which are trimmed in stone”

Annie Russell Theatre is described as being “something special about a theatre dedicated to nurturing and crafting the next generation of theatre makers. The Annie Russell provides us all a unique opportunity to foster, shape and celebrate the theatrical talent of tomorrow.”

The Annie Russell Theatre is the longest continuously operating theater in Florida ; staging an exciting season of musicals and plays that feature student performers.”



In 1864, Annie Russell was born in Liverpool, England to parents; Joseph Russell and actress Jane Mount. Looking for a brighter future, the Russell family immigrated to Canada. Her mother’s acting talent was passed down to Annie and her brother Tommy. Early in her life her thespian talent became apparent to those around her. As a young child, Annie was enrolled at the Montreal Academy Music in Montreal, Canada. She excelled in this school, and at 8 years old, she experienced her first stage appearance; acting alongside Rose Eytinge. When Annie was 12, Tommy got a role in a touring production that went to West Indies. Annie came along to manage him.

In Annie’s big break came when she won an audition in New York City for the part, Esmerelda. It ran for 200 showings at The Madison Square Theatre. In 1883, Annie joined the New York Fifth Avenue theatre Company joining her mother and brother Tommy. She continues to win praise in various productions, perhaps burning the candle at both ends.

After a year, she married her first husband, playwright and stage manager Eugene Wiley Presbrey and promptly became ill. After she stabilized, Annie continued to win praise in various productions, perhaps burning the candle at both ends. The marriage didn’t take and they divorced in 1887. She became seriously ill again in 1890, and ran up some huge bills. The whole New York theatre community came out and raised money for her bills, earning for her 3,000 dollars from their testimonial performances at the Madison Square Theatre Everyone loved her.

She continued to win praise in various productions, again burning the candle at both ends. She went to London and acted in some of her popular plays. In 1899, she once again became ill, and returned to America for a rest. She couldn’t stay away from the stage, but slowed down. She went back to a more challenging schedule once again in 1902. In 1903, she met her second husband, British actor, Oswald Yorke; a keeper. This dynamic couple had a blast appearing in many plays.

In 1912, she formed a new theatre company in NYC; the Old English Comedy Company. They performed in The Princess Theatre. Her new theatre company planned special matinees for schoolchildren on the weekends.

Renowned stage actress Annie Russell had to retire in 1918 from a long stage career, settling in Winter Park, Fl. Her health could no longer allow her to continue in the strenuous life as a popular stage actress. Annie, who was disappointed about having to quit professional stage acting. Her friend in Winter Park had an idea to cheer Annie up. Annie was encouraged by her friend to join the faculty of Rollins College, to help develop and pass on what she learned from her years on the stage to young, talented student thespians and improve the fledgling drama department. The other professors and college administration were thrilled to have her on board. Annie jumped right in, teaching and directing. She had found her joy once again!

Enthusiasm was so high that it was decided to build a Rollins College stage theatre. It was designed by the German-born architect Richard Kiehnel of Kiehnel and Elliott. In 1931, Rollins College broke ground on the site of their new dramatic arts theatre, and they named their new theatre after Annie Russell, which really pleased her as well.

Annie even found herself on stage once again! In 1932, 67 year old Annie Russell was invited to star in the Rollins Drama Department’s first theatre production in their new Annie Russell Theatre; Robert Browning’s’ In A Balcony Inspired. Annie Russell then formed two theatre groups on the Rollins Campus. Annie made good use of her time; spending the next four years acting in and directing several stage productions.

In 1912, she formed a new theatre company in NYC; the Old English Comedy Company. They performed in The Princess Theatre. Her new theatre company planned special matinees for schoolchildren on the weekends.

Four years later, Annie’s health issues caught up with her once again and she died in 1936. Her death apparently didn’t stop her from still enjoying her interests in this world, despite being in spirit form.



People who love what they do in life sometimes don’t want to quit and move on to the other side, but do what they can do in their spirit form.

Annie Russell still is involved in the theatre activities despite being in spirit form.

Spirits of Three Males apparently love the action in this theatre as well.



Paranormal investigators have all been convinced that the Annie Russell Theatre is a very active theatre with the spirit of Annie and some male spirits who keep her company. Review the sources listed below to discover what hard evidence they caught.

Spirit of Annie Russell

As she was alive, she is still the same sweet soul. This spirit still tries to give encouragement and even mother young thespians.

One night in 1978, an exhausted young actress curled up on the theater’s green room sofa and crashed, being the only living person in the theatre. When she awoke, she found that blanket had been tucked around her, and a chair that had been across the room, had been moved to the sofa and placed in such a way to prevent the actress from falling off.

After doing their performance in a play, actors and actresses have felt an encouraging pat on their backs. Over the eras since 1936, many have seen and heard her in or around the outside of the theatre.

She likes to wear a floor-length vintage lavender gown and has been seen in a solid life-like form.

She walked by a female thespian in an outside corridor of the theatre. This female thespian thought she was lost, and asked her if she could help? This spirit just looked at her kindly before disappearing.

On the same evening, a theater student was painting scenery when she looked up in the balcony and saw this same kind lady wearing her long floor-length lavender gown watching her.

Another actress was practicing her part on stage, and after she was finished she heard some disembodied clapping coming from the balcony.

She also looks after the people who work here.

One stagehand was up on a ladder trying to adjust a light. He felt two distinct tugs on his pants from an unseen hand. He ignored it thinking that it wasn’t real. When he went up another rung, a hot wire touched him and he fell. When a fellow stagehand saw him fall, he immediately called 911, but was told that they had already gotten a call, and soon arrived right after that. Annie was given the credit for saving his life.

She enjoys sitting in her favorite balcony seat, which is in the third row. The seat is often seen down, like someone was sitting on it.

She is still an enthusiastic audience member and loves to watch rehearsals from this favorite seat in the balcony.

It is believed that if she appears early in the morning between 12 and 1am on the Wednesday before a show opens, it will be a success. If she doesn’t appear, it means that the show will flop, and something unfortunate will happen to the thespians involved.

Three Male Spirits –

Not much is known about these three.

During a paranormal investigation, they stepped forward and answered some questions.

While many people give the spirit of Annie the credit of saving the stagehand, they could’ve been the ones who saved him.



A huge Yes Indeed!

The Spirit of Annie is having a blast in her afterlife, enjoying the efforts of the living on stage. She interacts with them as she did while alive, just in unspoken ways.

Three male spirits who stay here also love the theatre productions. No one knows yet who they are.

There have been boatloads of interactions between the living and the spirit of Annie ever since she passed over.

Paranormal investigators have all been convinced that the Annie Russell Theatre is a very active theatre with the spirit of Annie and some male spirits who keep her company. Review the sources listed below to discover what hard evidence they caught.



Russell College- Annie Russell Theatre
1000 Holt Ave,
Winter Park, FL 32789

The Annie Russell Theatre is located at Rollins College; “on the northern one-third of the same city block where the Knowles Memorial Chapel (N.R. 1998) and the Chapel Garden cloister—which separates the two buildings—are found. The site is found in the northeastern sector of the campus about two block west of Lake Virginia.”


    October 31st, 1998
    October 31, 2012 – by Luke Woodling ’17MBA
    Annie Russell Theater at Rollins College Winter Park, Florida, 8/11/06
    Monday, November 25, 2013

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

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