Folly Theatre

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One spirit finds peace and fulfillment, while the other repeats her mistake.


folly-theatre-paranormal“The Pink Lady”

WOW! Tom and I were amazed at how beautiful the Folly Theatre is on the outside when we visited this place at the corner of Central and 12th Streets. It truly is a handsome theatre; inside and outside, using the Neo-classic style in a grand manner. Besides the delightful ornamental trim and gorgeous windows, the primary facade features a handsome, Neo-classic Palladian motif. On the street, there are three arched entrances, each flanked by rusticated pilasters. The Palladian Arch window, which “dominates the street facade is supported by the four central pilasters.”

The size of this theatre is impressive as it sits on the corner. The building is 125 feet long, 70 feet wide and 65 feet high. The rear, west wing is 26 feet long. All the walls have a limestone footings, with “a base course of Carthage limestone all supported by foundations made of rubble masonry.”

The interior has a transitional steel and timber framing system painted with fire proofing material around the stage. To guard against fire, the balcony is supported by a poured concrete floor and supports to prevent destruction by fire. They learned this lesson the hard way in the 1920s’.

The auditorium is beautifully decorated with Neo-classic Palladian designs and other decor. The visitor can see why a whole community loves this grand old Dame of a theater.

The audience sits closer to the stage than in most theatres and performers love the energy from the audience they feel. The acoustics in the 1,078-seat auditorium are described as being fantastic.



This grand, much-loved theatre was designed by the well-known Kansas City architect, Louis S. Curtiss, and opened its doors as The Standard Theatre on September 23rd, in 1900! It is valued as a historic treasure being a turn-of the century theatre with most of its theater architecture intact. On its stage in 1900, the entertainment offered was comedic burlesque and vaudeville. The next year, 1901, they added legitimate theatre repertory; opera and comic opera shows after the Coates Opera House burned down. The theatre changed names, and became The Century Theater.

Joe Donegan was the manager from 1900 through 1922 and loved his job, bringing in the top talent of the day. He brought in top names such as Sarah Bernhardt, Maude Adams, and Richard Mansfield to appear on stage. Some of the vaudeville and burlesque popular, well-known performers include The Marx Brothers, Fanny Brice and Gypsy Rose Lee, as well as prizefighters like Jack Dempsey and Jack Johnson.

In 1921, disaster happened when the wooden balcony burned, closing the Century Theatre and putting it on the real estate market. In 1923, new owners, The Schubert brothers, constructed a concrete supported balcony (“cantilevered”) and reopened the theatre with another new name:The Missouri Schubert Theatre. The entertainment was the same: serious and playful repertory, vaudeville, wrestling, and burlesque. The Missouri Shubert managed to stay in business through the Depression but closed in 1939.

This closure didn’t last long. The Theatre reopened in 1942, as The Folly Theatre, offering Burlesque shows that were very popular with servicemen! In 1958, the theatre was upgraded for the showing of movies as well. They managed to eek out a living through the 1950s and 1960’s, perhaps not making enough to due needed maintenance. By 1972, The Folly Theatre was a huge fixer upper opportunity; becoming an unsafe and unstable structure that needed a boatload of money for stabilization/restoration/renovation in order to be allowed to open once again as a viable business. The owners couldn’t afford to spend that much money, so The Folly Theatre closed.

The beloved Folly Theatre was given a date with the wrecking ball, as the property was destined to be a parking lot. NOT! The Folly Theatre got a reprieve from the Kansas City Council by stopping its demolition, thanks to a public outcry, led by Joan Ken Dillon and William Deramus III of The Performing Arts Foundation. The Folly Theatre got further protection by being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in June of 1974. The Folly Theatre was purchased in December of 1974 by the non-profit Performing Arts Foundation after just 6 months of fundraising and collecting donations from concerned citizens, other foundations, corporations, Community Development funds from the City of Kansas City and 60,000 dollars from The Department of The Interior. Whew!

They were able to stabilize the theatre building, putting in new wiring, fixing the roof, and making it safe. Next came the fundraising to renovate this treasure, which took a boatload of funds but it was accomplished due to the determination of all involved that got them a million dollar grant to do the massive job of renovating and restoring The Folly Theatre. In 1981, The Folly Theatre once again opened to the public as a community performing arts theatre, offering a variety of touring plays, musical groups, children’s shows and of course Burlesque!

The improvements haven’t stopped. A 2.5 million dollar upgrade in the theatre will start in July of 2018 and the theatre will be closed, reopening on Sept. 8th, 2018.

There will be “a new lobby space, a ‘more streamlined box office,’ and a reconfigured bar, according to a news release. ‘We want to provide an engaging, new ‘Folly Experience’ that creates comfort and excitement for our patrons while maintaining the historic integrity of the 118-year-old Louis Curtiss design,’ Gale Tallis, the theater’s executive director, said in the release.”



kansas-cityFormer Theater Managers/owners in Spirit form have been known to come back to help, supervise and enjoy the current shows and their memories. The spirit of theatre manager from 1900-1922, Joe Donegan seems to be active, though no longer on the payroll.

When old buildings are restored and renovated back into their former glory, it can act like a paranormal trigger and activate spirits who were dedicated in their work there.

Two spirits became active after the 1970 renovations.

When a person suffers a life-changing event, they sometimes as spirits try to change the outcome by reliving their devastating moment, trying to make it different. Perhaps the female entity seen was late for her cue and was fired; stopping her vaudeville or dramatic career.



The Spirit of Joe Donegan

Dresses in turn of the century clothing, including a bowler hat. He has been seen floating around the theatre which probably includes the back stage area. He appears to be in a good mood, perhaps pleased that his theatre is still standing, in great shape and happy with the shows being booked.

A Female Spirit

Wears a long gown, acting distressed. She has been seen rushing in a panic to the stage before disappearing.



Probably so. The volume of reports strongly suggest that these two spirits are her but for different reasons. Staff, construction workers from the 1970s’ renovation and perhaps some guests have experienced the activity listed above. I couldn’t find any hard evidence caught by paranormal investigators posted on the internet. A private investigation may have happened but nothing was shared publicly.



300 West 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 664105

The Folly Theatre is located in the heart of the Kansas City Downtown Loop where locals and visitors come for entertainment. It faces south at the corner of Central and 12th Streets in downtown Kansas City.




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