Portsmouth Music Hall

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Spirits found here are connected to the long history of this place.



music-paranormalThe Portsmouth Music Hall is a restored 1778 Victorian, 900 seat, non-profit music theatre, that offers a variety of music & arts programs, and other events, much to the enrichment of this seaside community.

From the outside, this two story building has a granite base, colorful tangerine bricks with white columns of brick. The icing on the cake is the fancy white brickwork and dentils along its roof-line.

The inside of the theatre is a step back in time to the majestic Victorian era, complete with a balcony, a traditional lobby, stage and an auditorium, complete with a dome that all showcase the ornate decor of this elegant time, thanks to the restoration work done by Evergreene Painting Studios of New York and TMS architects, stated in 2006.

According to an article in the magazine, Traditional Building, that during the first phase of interior restoration, the work focused on the proscenium. “EverGreene found romantic murals under the whitewash; cherubs wrap flowery vines around a moon and an arrow-pierced heart. EverGreene artists replicated the artwork on canvas at its New York workshop and had the plaster planes and reliefs patched — some gouged sections were held together by little more than masking tape.”

Thrilled at their findings, EverGreene did further research, did all the excavation throughout the building, and “replicated ornament, paintings and murals, sometimes on canvas, that was applied to create the original art.

It was decided during the restoration years, that the basement would be made into another space, to be used for private events. EverGreene did the honors in the decor department once again.

Restored and renovated, it is not surprising then that the Portsmouth Music Hall building has been put to work, bringing in another source of income as well, from private rentals of various sections of the theatre.

The folks who run the Portsmouth Music Hall have wisely prepared for this opportunity to raise funds to support their non-profit shows and events. The Portsmouth Music Hall has up-to-date state-of-the-art production capability, including Dolby Digital Surround Sound, and 35mm projector and DVD projector. From parties to seminars, this majestic building offers a flexible venue for all the community’s and business’ event needs.

The basement of the theater has been renovated into a new lobby and bar, made into an attractive event area, used for a variety activities and occasions. Their web page states: “Pre-show, post-show, and for special events, this exciting new space offers a perfect suite of amenities, services, and theatrical high style to give your special event a memorable flair.”



The land upon which this theatre stands has been used for a variety of purposes. In the 17th century, it was a pasture, used to support the ministry of the Puritan Church. In 1716, an alms house for the poor was built here to offer a place for the indigent of their society to live. In 1755, the building was turned into a jail. In 1781, the building burned down in a fire that consumed a few buildings in the area. A Temple that held spiritual events and concerts was built here in 1806. As the years passed, the programs became more and more secular, turning from a Temple into a secular music hall. This building lasted until the fire of 1876.

The present-day Portsmouth Music Hall was built in 1878, on the site of the music hall that burned down. It became very profitable, being most admired for its glorious inside decor. When it opened its doors on opening night, it got rave reviews in the papers. Many celebrities including Mark Twain, Harry Houdini, John Philip Sousa, Buffalo Bill Cody and Maude Adams, performed on its stage. Many productions, from Shakespeare to American plays about such people as Thomas Edison entertained many people. In 1910, minstrel and vaudeville shows, followed by films became the newest forms of entertainment. The theater was profitable up until 1920, when grander cinema theaters sprang up.

Former owners of the property did their best to spruce up the theatre. To modernize the theatre, the beautiful wall murals were covered with white paint, and the popular box seats were added, but it was to no avail. The theatre began the slow march to disrepair and fixer-upper status, two steps ahead of the wrecking ball or condo conversion, which nearly happened in 1986. Luckily, preservationists prevailed, and the building was saved.



Though no one has figured out yet who is haunting the theatre building or land upon which it sits, here are some possible reasons for the entity, or entities that call the Portsmouth Music Hall their home. A lot of theatres listed on this site are haunted by super dedicated stage managers, owners, other employees, performers and theater patrons.

Spirits have been known to haunt the land where they died, or to continue to haunt the new buildings that are constructed on the spot where their structures once stood. Homes for the poor/orphans/charity hospitals inevitably saw the deaths of the residents who lived there. It is never a good idea to build homes/buildings on top of graves, or places where many died, like Battlefields; disturbing the burial sites of the deceased brings hauntings.

People who die in jails sometimes are afraid to go to the other side, and stay in the original building, or the building that was built on top of the original jail. Jailers who worked in the jails also want to continue their work, not letting death stop their dedication to their job.

Fires, suicides or accidents that happen within a theatre or building, can cause hauntings by the deceased.



The entity or entities who call this place home

An unknown entity likes to walk on the stage when the curtains are closed, causing the curtains to ripple considerably. When the stage is checked, no one alive is found. Around lobby area the box office, people have heard shuffling of feet and unexplained noises in the lobby area.

One woman saw a full, solid apparition of a pleasant-looking man dressed in 19th century clothing standing on the staircase seen on the way to the refreshments in the lobby, perhaps leading up to the balcony. She thought he was an actor, hired to add to the Victorian decor or ambiance, of this majestic building. Imagine her surprise, when this man faded into the air. During a performance or event, a shadowy mist will suddenly get in the way of a patron’s view of the stage, and then dissipates quickly.


Probably so! It seems that the entities love this theater, especially when there is activity on stage. These entities love the arts and music, and make there presences known, according to many eye-witness reports. I couldn’t find any hard evidence gathered, that was made public, but it seems to be an active paranormal site.



28 Chestnut Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801
(603) 436-2400

The Portsmouth Music Hall is located on Chestnut Street, right behind the Rockingham Hotel, in the historical downtown.

Chestnut Street’s direct cross streets are Congress, which is a one-way street running west, and Porter Street, a tiny alley-size street that is also a one way street going east, and is located a block north of State Street and the Rockingham Hotel building. Chestnut Street connects Congress St. and Porter Street. State Street is a one way street, running east. Middle Street(1) runs north/south right past Porter Street, but it may be easier to park on State Street, or use the parking lots across the street off of Bridge Street and Maplewood, (MAP) and walk to the Portsmouth Music Hall.

Be sure you are armed with a GPS or maps.


  • “HAUNTED NEW HAMPSHIRE” By Thomas D’Agostine
    Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2006
  • themusichall.org
  • traditional-building.com

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

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