The Point Park University Pittsburgh Playhouse

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“The paranormal activity is intense.” -PPS founder Shawn Kelly


Adultery and betrayal caused deaths at a wedding reception.

One spirit carried a grudge.

A tragedy victim was still in mourning.

A thespian who died suddenly, wasn’t quite ready to leave the stage life.

Other spectral thespians make good use of the Rauh Theatre’s stage.

A resentful spirit gets his chuckles at the expense of the living!

A well-known spectral clown was stuck here because of personal issues.

 

DESCRIPTION

The Point Park University Pittsburgh Playhouse was an interesting, large brick structure, with a variety of architectural styles, Greek to modern, representing the various renovations to the building over the years. It is made up of three theatres: The Rauh Theatre, The Rockwell Theater and The Studio Theatre in one of the building’s basements.

Tom and I visited The Point Park University Pittsburgh Playhouse on one of our road trips. We found it quite a beautiful structure from the outside, and really fascinating on the inside. A very nice receptionist gave us a private tour of the stages and other areas of the playhouse. It really was quite an impressive space for students to learn their crafts in the performing arts, as well as for the theatrical performances offered by the professional theatre company, The REP, who shared the space with the Point Park University students.

At the time of our visit, The Rauh Theatre and The Rockwell Theater had both been recently renovated to be state of the art performance venues, giving theater students the experience of acting and producing professional stage performances.

Unfortunately, no one else will be able to tour this historic playhouse now. As of 2018, the whole structure was torn down. When it was put on the real estate market, in 2017, no one stepped forward to buy it. It would’ve taken a lot of money to renovate the building to house something other than a performance-oriented group. By 2018, there still were no takers, not even The REP, the professional theatre company that shared the structure with them.

Lack of interested parties was no doubt due to the asking price, which was probably too high for the neighborhood. The university did need a certain amount of money from this sale to cover the cost go their ambitious plans for a new drama building and theatre. Their “90,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility opened in October 2018 on the university’s Downtown campus.” (Pittsburg Post Gazette, August 16th, 2021).

The people in charge of the sale thought that if this building was torn down, it would be easier just to sell the land.

Because the nature of colleges is typically to provide what their students need in the most direct way on a budget, its ok for them, they think, to tear down historic buildings for their own purposes. The land by itself is seen as a valuable commodity where something newer can be built, or in this case used to gain the funds to repay building costs. There are some exceptions. The University of Vermont and Castleton University have saved their historic structures, renovating them to suit their needs.

 

HISTORY

The original playhouse was built around 1908, to serve as a live theatre/musical venue for the people of Pittsburgh. Over the years, the building was added onto and renovated, to keep up with the needs of the community, and to keep revenue flowing in, much to the credit of the creative people who owned and ran the playhouse. They bought nearby property that originally had row houses on it, as they expanded the building. The row houses had accidentally burned down, and the land had been put on the real estate market.

The Pittsburgh Playhouse managed to finagle ways to keep its doors open for the arts, throughout the years.

Besides being a theatre, with a restaurant in the basement at one point in time, parts of the building were rented out to a variety of tenants. Early on, a bar with a brothel helped pay the mortgage. As Pittsburgh became more civilized, more upstanding citizens found a home here. The Tree of Life Synagogue held services and events in The Rockwell Theater, and a wedding reception hall opened here to host the happy occasion.

Around 2004, The Point Park University bought the Pittsburgh Playhouse, making it the cornerstone of its performing arts program, offering its students a hands-on working experience; not only as actors and performers, but also in areas connected to the performing arts, behind the scenes. It was home to The REP, the professional theatre company, and three student companies: Conservatory Theatre Company, Conservatory Dance Company and Playhouse Junior. There were plenty of productions; eighteen major productions and 235 performances, between the four companies in one year alone.

The Pittsburgh Playhouse was renovated and brought up to date with new seats, new equipment and new lighting and sound, making it a state of the art group of theatres.

A sensitive person like myself could also feel that the building had an other worldly aura of a place inhabited by spirits. Nothing evil or sinister, but instead just the presence of spectral theatre enthusiasts, who found the performances a wonderful diversion from what is causing their restlessness, woes or afflictions that are keeping them in this world.

Unfortunately, there was no large outcry from anyone in the city of Pittsburgh about the plans to tear down the Pittsburg Playhouse. No preservation group stepped up to the plate to save it from destruction. It became just one more historic treasure destroyed in the name of progress, which is a shame.

 

HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS

Negative human emotions as well a refusal to let go of a life they adored are the main two causes of hauntings, either to this structure or the land where the building once stood.

Unfaithfulness strikes a severe emotional blow to newlyweds. Young marriages are a very dangerous time for those who can’t hold onto their vows, so soon after the ceremony. In stories about adultery found on HauntedHouses.com, the reader sees how it leads again and again to murder of the offender, and ruin or suicide of the hurt and devastated, formerly clueless partner.

Plains Hotel, WY (A newly married couple’s honeymoon at The Plains Hotel turns into a disaster when the bride finds out what a jerk she had married. She shoots her husband and the prostitute that he was in bed with, and then kills herself).

Broadview Hotel, KS (A crime of passion and rage causes a stuck spirit).

Old Faithful Inn, WY (A cruelly murdered bride and her dastardly beloved who killed her are both stuck here).

Point Park University Pittsburgh Playhouse, PA (In the 1930s, The Rauh Theatre was known as The Hamlet Street Theater, and what was then The Rockwell Theatre was a house of worship. A young actress, performing in a play in the Hamlet Street Theater, married to her beloved, perhaps a fellow actor, in the house of worship, just down the hall).

(During the reception, held in the restaurant that once was in the basement where The Studio Theatre now, she was made aware of her beloved’s unfaithfulness. She wound up shooting both her new husband and his mistress, and then killed herself by jumping from the balcony of The Hamlet Street Theater. She is now is described as the Lady in White).

 

A sudden, unexpected death can cause: A sadness of regret/disappointment/concern.

Deerfield Burial Mound, MA (The spirit of a pregnant, black servant, brutally murdered by invaders, mourns once a year on the anniversary of the slaughter for her unborn baby, her little charges, and her loss of her life that might have been).

Chapel of The Cross, MS (Helen Johnson was set to marry her beloved, Henry Vick. She was devastated when Henry was killed in a duel. Though she recovered enough to marry another, she never fully healed from this devastating loss).

Edgewood Bed and Breakfast, VA (The spirit of a young woman still grieves for her beloved who was killed in the Civil War, and still waits for him to return to her).

Pittsburgh Playhouse, PA (In the row house fire, everyone escaped except a woman named Eleanor and her daughter. She mourns the loss of her daughter, and perhaps her own life).

 

Some spirits have an angry, annoyed attitude; they don’t understand why they died. Some develop an envy/jealousy of the living, that expresses itself by getting their chuckles at the living’s expense.

Stranahan House, FL (The spirit of the black sheep Stranahan brother, who caught TB from a prostitute as a consequence of his wild life style, is still mad that he died and isn’t nice to docents or visitors).

Saint James Hotel, NM (A gambler who won a large pot of money was immediately shot by a sorry loser and has taken up residence in his old room, still angry at his death, and surly toward the living).

Captain Bailey House Museum, NE (A spirit of a retired boat captain who was poisoned by his neighbor, is upset with himself for not figuring out that the neighbor also poisoned his wife before poisoning him. He doesn’t like the docents sharing his house with him).

Pittsburgh Playhouse, PA (A male entity, Gorgeous George, falls into this category).

 

Some thespians in spirit form are determined not to go just yet; still wanting more time in the profession that they loved.

Mantorville Opera House, MN (Spirits of actors are more than ready to go back on stage).

Rialto Theatre, Il ( Three spirits of thespians wait patiently to go on stage in the balcony, upset that they died in a theatre accident before they could be in their play).

Landers Theatre, MO (The spirit of at least one actor, the spirit of a past theatre support worker, as well as the janitor, still enjoy their favorite theatre).

Pittsburgh Playhouse, PA (A male spirit, John Johns, isn’t ready to leave the theatre that he loved. In the 1950s, he was a popular actor with a large and loyal following. John was attending a banquet in the restaurant in the basement when he suddenly had a heart attack. John was carried into his dressing room, #7, where he died, waiting for an ambulance).

(Other entities of actors and actresses still relive their joyous moments on stage of the Rauh Theatre. Spirits summoned into our world through Seances or Ouija boards sometimes stick around and stay in this world.)

 

Worry and concern can keep a spirit in this world.

Kenmore Mansion Museum, VA (The spirit of the patriarch of the house is still worrying about how to pay his bills).

Infirmary for Women, KY (Spirits of women who died in childbirth couldn’t move on until they found out if their babies were ok).

Fort Leavenworth, KS (The spirit of Catherine, dressed in a calico dress and black shawl, still looks for her lost children, who disappeared when they were sent out to find firewood one day in the year 1880).

Pittsburgh Playhouse, PA (The male entity of the Bouncing Red Meanie is stuck here by his worrying).

 

MANIFESTATIONS

Known spirits who called the Point Park University Pittsburgh Playhouse their home are listed below. Many others were never identified while the building was still standing. Some are stuck here because of their feelings; some don’t want to give up on their existence here, while some are mourning their losses and/or dealing with their anger, showing envy of the living through annoying interactions.

All of the paranormal activity listed below was reported when this structure was still standing.

Lady in White

Her apparition had been seen in what was once an upper room theatre, but is now a storage area.

Dressed in a white gown, people have seen her gliding across the balcony of the Rauh Theatre, with the gun still in her hand.

She comes onto The Rauh stage occasionally, when provoked or enticed.

A male on the staff was working on a light for a production on The Rauh Theatre stage. Something about him must have reminded the Lady in White of her unfaithful husband.

The worker watched in amazement when she appeared on stage and approached him, with probably an angry glint in her eye.

She pulled a gun from her dress, pointed it at him, and pulled the trigger, and vanished.

He took the hint, and quit his position at the playhouse.

Male Spirit of John Johns

People heard him walking up the steps to his old dressing room. A security guard has heard footsteps when he knows that he is alone in the playhouse.

Students and staff have seen him in The Rauh Theatre and The Rockwell Theatre, dressed in a tux, inspecting the sets and props of the stage productions, perhaps trying to be useful and involved, excited about upcoming productions.

His apparition has been seen all over the playhouse as he still loved this place, where he performed his craft, much to the enjoyment of his audience.

Male and Female Spirits

Have been seen dancing on the stage of The Rauh Theatre.

Weeping Eleanor

In the dressing rooms, where her row house once stood, the living hear her mournful cries.

Gorgeous George

Appears to the living with a green face that is decomposing.

He has a wonderful time, getting his chuckles by:

Peeking and tapping on the window of the costume shop,

Or poking people on the shoulder, and scaring them when they turn around.

He also likes to scare people around the prop room and in the back of the theatre.

Spirit Who Worries

The male spirit of the Bouncing Red Meanie has been seen pacing, deep in thought and worry.

A group of students on Halloween, 1974, held a seance on the stage of The Rockwell Theatre. Uh oh!

They saw at the back of the theatre, a man dressed in red, pacing back and forth with a worried look on his face.

He was later identified as a popular clown, called by his stage name, The Bouncing Red Meanie, who performed in this theatre many years ago.

PARANORMAL FINDINGS

Not much hard evidence was published online, though plenty of personal experiences had been reported.

The initial investigation by Pittsburgh Paranormal Society was very promising, and I’m sure the spirits were forthcoming in their further investigations.

The Pittsburgh Paranormal Society (PPS) had done investigations here, and stated in an October 28, 2010 article, “The paranormal activity here is intense,” PPS founder Shawn Kelly said. “I felt a little overwhelmed, at times, with the energy that surrounded me.”

They heard a disembodied voice in The Lillian Russell Room, and caught a really bright orb on film, when the investigators trained their cameras and snapped away in the area they heard the voice.

 

STILL HAUNTED?

While the building has been destroyed, some may assume that the spirits will move on to the spirit world. However, tearing down a structure that they resided in, may not end the restlessness, or send them packing.

Some spirits may move on to the spirit world, like the dancing spirits, and others if they have worked through their restlessness that kept them here. Others may simply move on to another structure that they loved while alive.

Some spirits may have hitched a ride on items being moved to the new University Point Theatre, or to the new home for The REP, and may start to haunt there, where the chosen is kept. The spirit of actor John Johns may have done so. Gorgeous George may have attached to something in the costume shop, and moved to either theatre or as well. I hope that the Lady In White will simply move on and not attach to a prop or item going to either theater.

Other spirits may have bonded to the land where the theatre once stood. The spirit of Weeping Eleanor may some day simply move into the structure that will eventually be built here, to continue to lament to the living who stay on the land where her home once stood.

Some of the other spirits mentioned above may still be too restless to cross over, and may join Eleanor in moving into the new building that eventually will be built here. A good candidate might be the Bouncing Red Meanie, who is so deep in worry, he may see a hallway in the new building as the customary hallway in the theatre where once he liked to pace.

Sources Include

  • Pittsburg Post Gazette, posted August 16th, 2021, FORMER PITTSBURG PLAYHOUSE FALLS TO WRECKING BALL, by SHARON EBERSON 􏰀 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, written on August 2nd, 2021
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