New Hope Art Center

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The Arts Center is home to chuckle-seeking spirits who seek attention.



S. J. Gerenser Theater for the Performing Arts, also once the home of a fencing academy, was bought by The New Hope Arts Inc., who now has its own agenda, focused around the promotion of art.

The foundation of this theatre was built before the Revolutionary War. In its early history, the building was owned by the Doan family, who much to their shame spawned the infamous Doan Brothers, Levi and Abraham. Despite being raised as Quakers, these brothers turned into British Loyalists/as an excuse for their thievery. Levi and Abraham would steal horses from their neighbors, and turn the animals over to the British. They also enjoyed robbing the Whig tax collectors as well. When they met their sorry end, they were buried outside The Friends Meeting House’s Cemetery in Plumsteadville, with just the word, “OUTLAW”, chiseled into their individual headstones.

This two story, rectangular building was built in 1902, and has been an asset to New Hope, fitting the need for a variety of uses, throughout its long history. It was built to be the town hall, called Gerenser Hall, a sign that still hangs from the building’s porch. It was probably versatile enough to also be a community center, probably the place of events, dances, dinners and receptions.

Later, it was used as a gym for a nearby high school. When the high school built its own gym, this building was bought and the second floor was transformed into a theatre by the Gerenser family; S. J. Gerenser Theater for the Performing Arts. A fencing academy rented this second floor area as well. A smaller theater was established on the first floor too.

Various groups put on shows for the public, including a Colonial Reenactment Group, in which R Gerenser was a member. The Colonial Reenactment Group’s annual Colonial Christmas Ball was held here, on the second floor, and the building was decorated in the Colonial theme, including lots of candles that are lighted on tables, wall sconces, and chandeliers. Special precautions were taken to be sure all the candles were out before leaving the building after this annual event.

In the late 2000s, New Hope Arts Inc., took over the Old SJ Gerenser Theatre Building, putting their corporate offices on the second floor, while offering culture events, art and sculpture exhibits, enrichment opportunities, on both floors. Some space is still provided for a few small theatrical performances in the first floor theatre. As they get the funds to do so, they are gradually renovating the old theatre, saving the building, its decor and its architecture for future generations.

They state their purpose on their website:

“New Hope Arts Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness and support for the arts and artists of the region and to enriching the lives of residents and visitors through the presentation of events such as Showcase the Arts Celebration, The Annual Indoor Sculpture Exhibition and the Year-round Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition”.

Many of their events showcase the work of local artists, which must be a huge encouragement to the artisans in the New Hope community.

As there is a solid community of artisans in New Hope, that draws visitors to the city of New Hope to shop for art, using this lovely building for art events, will draw more people to New Hope, supporting the art community and the commercial interests in New Hope as well. Hopefully the spirit residents who reside in this building, are art lovers as well.



Signs of having spirits in a building have included strange events with anything electrical, unexplained footsteps, and the ability of doors to open and close by another energy, besides human efforts and drafts.

People who weren’t nice, getting their chuckles in mean ways, at the expense of someone else while alive, don’t change their personalities when they pass over.

Sometimes an entity will try to warn the living when they think danger is near, to prevent harm from happening to the living person.

Sometimes spirits like to move people’s items to different places than where they were left by their human owners.

Sometime spirits will light candles that have been blown out, because they like having lit candles, and aren’t quite ready to have them blown out, or perhaps they feeling playful, wanting to be noticed!



When Gerenser owned the building, and ran his theatres there, he stated to one source that he thinks that there are 3 spirit entities in the building. Interviewed in Robert Child’s documentary, AMERICA’S MOST HAUNTED TOWN, Robert Gerenser called them: “The Light-eating Ghost”, “The Tripping Ghost”, and “The Electronic Ghost”.

Annoying and Inconvenient Activity

Objects are taken, and after a long time, are often found in different and new places that are odd indeed, not where the living had left them.

Playful, yes, but really inconvenient and annoying if something vital is taken, that is needed for a production, or event.

Lights and doors have a will of their own. Lights turn on and off at will, and doors open and close by themselves, often during inopportune/inconvenient moments.

Candle-lighting Enthusiasts

During the annual Colonial festive event that traditionally was held every year during the Christmas season in the SJ Gerenser Theatre, candle chandeliers, used during 18th century colonial parties were used as lighting for the event. After the event was over, the candle watch routine was followed to the letter. One person was assigned to each candle chandelier to be sure that the candles were truly extinguished, to avoid a fire hazard.

However, When Robert Gerenser and the clean up crew arrived the next morning, a few candle chandeliers were blazing away. If they had relighted during the night, the candles would’ve melted completely. It seems that they were lit just moments before the clean-up detail had arrived, when the building was locked and empty, pointing to one of the spirits as the culprit.

Auditory Activity

Hearing unexplained foot steps:

When Gerenser and a family member were puttering around the basement, they heard footsteps of someone walking across the first floor.

The doors and windows were locked, and no one living was on the first or second floor.

Obnoxious Activity for Spectral Chuckles

“The Tripping Ghost”: Perhaps an anxious person, worried about people falling?; Or more likely, an entity out to get chuckles, causing someone to become unbalanced, and falling; asserting dominance, having a little control in this world for a moment.

When anyone started to climb a ladder or climb up to set the stages for a production:

The owner and his staff have been pushed/pulled or had something hold onto their ankles, while in the process of climbing, as if something was trying to stop them from doing so, sometimes causing them to fall.

Fencers who compete on the second floor in the academy, often say that they were pushed, blaming one of the entities.


Probably so! The general signs of paranormal activity are present, as well as having entities who try hard to get attention, such as taking important items, and putting them is odd places; using the lights, the doors and actual physical contact to announce their presences, playfully, yet in a somewhat aggressive fashion. While not enough to seriously hurt someone, they let the living know that they can still control moments of time in this world, for chuckles and attention!

Perhaps The New Hope Arts Center may allow paranormal groups in to investigate, when activity continues, or increases, due to the changes and renovation projects in the building. More experiences may be reported, and hopefully some hard evidence can be caught sometime in the future.

The reported personal experiences come from very believable witnesses.

While people have experienced paranormal activity in this building for years, I couldn’t find any hard evidence gathered by SCIENTIFIC paranormal groups that has been published on line to back up some of the personal experiences.

While Robert Child produced a documentary, AMERICA’S MOST HAUNTED TOWN, using spiritual investigators and cameras to explore some of the known haunted places in the town of New Hope, PA. Psychic/medium, Cathy Curtis, along with a crew found some spirits, but didn’t investigate the S J Gerenser Theatre building. Child did interview R. Gerenser, when he owned the building, reporting Gerenser’s experiences and experiences of others who use the building.



2 Stockton Avenue
New Hope, Pennsylvania
(215) 862-3771

The old S J Gerenser Theatre building, now the home of The New Hope Arts Center, can be found on the corner of Bridge St., and Stockton Avenue, in New Hope, PA.



  • The Big Book of Pennsylvania Ghost Stories
    by Mark Nesbitt, and Patty A. Wilson
    Stackpole Books – 2008
  • New Hope Arts Center
  • America’s Most Haunted Town
    by Robert Child
    Allumination – 2001

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