Someone’s child had a fatal accident during the theater’s construction.
Apparently, the theatre entertainment isn’t only for living patrons!
Peery’s Egyptian Theater is a fully restored 800 seat palace movie house, that is also a community theatre and performing arts house. It is a cultural arts center for Ogden, Utah. This theater is the host of the Sundance film Festival. Besides showing movies, they also host dance festivals, and musical presentations and events.
The outside of Peery’s Egyptian Theater has its traditional ornate terra cotta facade, with all the original colors and Egyptian details and decor that stands out on Washington Blvd.
Peery’s Egyptian Theater auditorium was designed to look like an Egyptian courtyard, which means there are columns around the stage area. Seating in the auditorium sits on a single, steeply raked floor, that provides every seat with an excellent, unobstructed view. Peery’s Egyptian Theater has two private boxes with 15 seats in each box. The boxes are located on the mezzanine level. The ceiling sky can be still be changed from a daytime to a night sky. This feature was restored to work during the 1990s’ restoration.
The decor is Egyptian-inspired; the full sports package, with intricate motifs, statues outside and inside. There is no mistaking it and is easy to spot. The artisans who created all the Egyptian art designs studied real hieroglyphics, and ancient Egypt statues. They added a few new ones of their own. One depicts one of the Peery brothers leaning on a post, drunk. This brother thought it was hilarious, and it stayed.
Peery’s Egyptian Theater was one of the positive result that happened because of the rebuilding of downtown Ogden, after a devastating 1923 fire that consumed the businesses, like The Arlington Hotel along Washington Blvd. Harman W. Peery & Louis H. Peery, sons of the deceased pioneer businessman David H. Peery, decided to build something that the downtown section of Ogden could enjoy and take pride in; a grand movie palace! Wanting this movie palace to be “The Showplace of the World,” the brothers sought out the best local architects, Leslie S. Hodgson & Myrl A. McClenahan.
Hodgson and McClenahan visited west coast theaters, and were especially impressed with the Grauman’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. The Egyptian style decor was a popular theme during this time, due to the 1920’s discovery of King Tut’s tomb in Egypt.
The lot where the theater was built was the old spot where the Peery’s first Ogden home once stood. It took only 10 months to build.
This new, 1,200 seat, Egyptian-revival atmospheric style movie palace was entirely built of fire-proof, reinforced concrete, poured carefully. All the doors inside and out were made of metal. It was built to be completely fireproof. Besides the danger of street fires getting out of control, movie film in those days was very flammable.
Inside, the auditorium was modeled after an Egyptian Temple courtyard, which included a view of the projected desert sky on its ceiling. The projectionist could turn a daytime sky ceiling into a dark, midnight sky, complete with twinkling stars.
The opening day was on July 3rd, 1924, showing Zane Grey’s film, “Wanderers of the Wasteland.” The Egyptian Theatre’s ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’ theatre pipe organ provided music for the silent films. When talkies took over the movie houses, the Wurlitzer was used to play music during intermission, and for special events. Though it was removed in 1960, it didn’t go far, as it was put into storage in two different places. It was reinstated during 2004.
In 1935, Fox Intermountain Theatres Corp. leased both of Ogden’s movie theaters, The Ogden and The Egyptian Theatre, becoming the operators. As operators, Fox Intermountain brought in new investment money. In order to put in a new, huge marquee, that was 4 times bigger than the 1924 original, the original box office was replaced with a much smaller one, and they dropped the ceiling in the outer lobby.
Other corporate theater operators that ran this theater were National Theaters, National-General Corporation, and finally Mann Theaters.
By 1951, The Egyptian Theater was in need of some TLC, looking a bit dowdy, so Fox Mountain financed a “major refurbishing, ” keeping intact the Egyptian theme. Changes included updating the seats and some colors as well. The theater was more elegant to 1951 standards.
The Egyptian showed the newest films with the modern gimmicks. 3D movies, such as “IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE” were shown.
By 1953, The Egyptian Theater had a new challenge; how to make room for CinemaScope films, like THE ROBE, so they could be viewed by the theater’s many patrons.
Unfortunately, the inner proscenium columns had to be removed to make room for the width of these films. On the up side, a “revolutionary four-channel stereophonic sound system” was also installed. The patrons continued to be wowed!
In 1961, another renovation was done by a new corporate operator, that painted over many of the Egyptian designs and colors. A huge new screen was placed in front of the stage and proscenium opening. The screen curtains were a pink shade, and the walls of the auditorium were painted pink to match. Oh my!
However, this renovation did rebuild the 1951 chairs, to make them more comfortable, and the cement auditorium floor was changed to provide more leg room between the rows of seats. People were larger than the 1924 patron, and/or expected more comfort. This reduced the number of seats to 850. The public was happy with the improvements except for the obliteration of the Egyptian decor inside.
In 1978, the owners through the University of Utah were able to get their building on the National Register of Historic Sites.
For twenty years, The Egyptian Theater had the status of being a “major, first-run venue.” In the early 1980s’, Mann Theater Corp. probably wanted to sell this fixer-upper opportunity theater to raise revenue to invest in a multi-screen project that would bring in more money.
This aging building was sold to a small, local company. The Egyptian Theater wasn’t able to afford to be a first-run movie theatre, lost prestige and became a second run, dollar movie theater. Uh oh, this wasn’t a good turn of events.
In 1982, the owners also got their building on the Ogden City Register of Historic Sites.
People who expected their first-run movies went to other cinemas. Peery’s Egyptian Theater, being only a shell of its former splendor, had lost its artistic edge, and didn’t bring in the income. The owners let things deteriorate because they were not making enough to fix the issues associated with an aging building, let alone new safety standards that cost a lot to implement.
In 1984, The Egyptian Theater was closed for health code violations, and perhaps the building’s structure needed some tweaking with items like sprinklers. The owners couldn’t make the necessary, expensive changes, abandoned the building. The theater was boarded up, to become a depressing, community eyesore. Uh oh! this increased its chances of being knocked down in a community redevelopment project.
Despite being on the National Register of Historic Sites since 1978, and Ogden City Register of Historic Sites since 1982 as well, Peery’s Egyptian Theater had a date with the wrecking ball, but was saved in the 11th hour, just in time, by the Weber County Heritage Foundation who bought this woe-be-gone property from the absentee owner, at the same price it cost to build it in 1924: $250,000. This saved community treasure was put in the custody of the Egyptian Theater Foundation, who gave the theater back to Ogden City though it eventually was given to Weber County.
A complicated, intricate partnership of all these organizations: (Web County, Ogden City, Weber State University, Egyptian Theater Foundation and Ogden/Weber Chamber of Commerce) was the driving force to not only get Peery’s Egyptian Theater stabilized, structure-wise, back on its feet and back to its earlier elegant self, but the construction of an adjoining building: The David Eccles Conference Center and the rebuilding of a former department store, that is now the home of Weber County government offices.
The citizenry was excited, and donated large and small amounts of money. Major contributions and grants were given by people such as the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation, Dr. Louis S. and Jan Peery, and the Utah State Legislature.
They wanted the best firm to restore Peery’s Egyptian Theater to its glory. The best one for this job was Conrad Schmitt Studios who had built its reputation on restoring theaters to their original splendor. To make the theater more versatile arts center, they enlarged the stage area, loosing fifty seats.
After a lot of investigation and analysis, the original interior colors were reapplied, as well as the Egyptian motifs and figures. Even the gold leaf to add the highlights was redone. Two fifteen seat boxes were built in the mezzanine area for groups and special performances for events.
Their painstaking restoration of Peery’s Egyptian Theater won “Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and two Merit Awards from the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology. ”
Peery’s Egyptian Theater opened once more on January 17th, 1997, with 800 seats, and two theater boxes for parties of 15 people. The Wurlitzer organ was the last item to be restored and reinstalled in the theater in 2004.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Restoration of old buildings can act like an environmental trigger, attracting spirits who loved the original structure.
Spirit people who died unexpectedly in or near their favorite commercial business like a theatre or pub sometimes like to visit or stay there, reliving great memories and still enjoying what they loved about the place. Perhaps, this is the way they comfort themselves, not wanting to give up this world, or accept their sudden demise.
A daughter of one of the original construction workers who built the theater, Alison, had come one day to bring her father his lunch. Unfortunately, Alison died in an accident in the construction zone either by falling off the scaffolding she was climbing and playing around on, or she fell out of a window, landing on the stage below.
The prominent spirit in the Perry.s Egyptian Theatre appear s to be the pre-teen accident victim, Alison.
Sightings of Alison
Alison is described as having shoulder-length hair.
Since the 1997 renovation, Alison has become active and has clearly been seen:
Standing near the stairs that lead up to the private seating boxes. She enjoys the view from there.
Alison Amuses Herself
She likes to play the theater piano.
Like many spirit people likes to turn the lights on and off; apparently fascinated with electricity.
She still likes to climb, despite the fact that while still alive, she was climbing and lost her footing and/or balance, and died. She continues to practice her climbing skills on the boxes in the rear of the theater.
On Occasion, she sits in an empty seat next to a theater patron. The patron thinks at first that she is a real person, until she vanishes before their eyes.
Very Possibly so.
I couldn’t find any hard evidence that has been published on-line, though I bet they had a private investigation, either a psychic and or scientific investigation to find out for certain who this spectral arts enthusiast was while alive. I believe the eye-witness accounts of the above manifestations that have taken place since the reopening of Peery’s Egyptian Theater.
Both staff and theater guests have seen her and witnessed her doing all the manifestations listed above.
2415 Washington Blvd.
The Peery’s Egyptian Theater is located 1/2 a block North of The Ben Lomond Suites, and sits on Washington Blvd, half-way between 25th Street and 24th street in Ogden, Utah.
- The Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide
by Rich Newman
- It was added to the National Register of Historic Sites in 1978.
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr