Grand Opera House

More From Wisconsin

A dedicated spectral stage manager steps in to help in meaningful ways.

The spirit of man’s best friend is still keeping an eye on folks!

Other spirits are still enjoying productions.


The 1883 Grand Opera House in Oshkosh, built by the very creative and talented local architect, William Waters, has the honor of being the oldest operating theater building in Wisconsin. The Grand Opera House offers something for everyone, truly a community treasure!

Taking a look on their web site, one sees great stage productions for adults, theater series for children, and some interesting community events, including a showing of Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST, a Dragon Boat Festival and a night of Halloween horror films, which includes a flashlight tour of the place, learning about the ghosts who stay here!

Besides theater, film and community events, a fine arts season of national and international touring artists visit the Grand Opera House, giving concerts for the public. People in the community also can hold social events here, like weddings, receptions and meetings.

Looking at this building, one sees why this building is so popular a venue for the arts and private events.

It is a restored 1883, Victorian theater, made of handsome stone, and showcases a beautiful inside environment with many Victorian touches and decor, including a “ladies’ warming room” and “marble fireplaces.” The “pinnacle of beauty” is considered to be the hallway, done in true Victorian fashion, including a cherub ceiling and a 42 square foot historical needlepoint tapestry.

It originally had seating for 921 seats in its decorative auditorium and balcony. Over the years seating was reduced to 668, but the same perfect acoustics exist, offering every red velvet seat a perfect listening experience! The auditorium is described as having the “intimacy of a European-style theater.”



The good citizens and business leaders of Oshkosh decided in 1882, that since Oshkosh was the second largest city in Wisconsin, that their city needed a grand theater, in the style of other big city theaters. They hired William Waters to create a gorgeous Victorian style theater, which opened in August of 1883, proudly presenting the stage production of THE BOHEMIAN GIRL, presented by the C.D. Hess Opera Company.

In 1885, The Grand Opera House was illuminated with electric lights, getting rid of the gas lights. Oshkosh as a city was booming through the 1890s – the early 1900s. By 1920, the building was shut down temporarily to update the basic necessities; mainly the heating system, electrical updates, plumbing needs, and install modern ventilation.

By the 1930s and 1940s talking pictures were popular. So the The Grand Opera House changed with the times, becoming a movie house, The Civic Theater, which showed second run films, perhaps because it was looking a bit shabby, in need of a major renovation project. It was only a matter of time before this building was closed! Having a strong interest, the people vowed to find ways to save their theater!

In 1950, the theater was changed back to The Grand, and did get some remodeling done. By 1970, the good news was that the building itself was put on the Register of Historic Places. The bad news was that this once proud, regal, high class theater was reduced to showing x rated films. HORRORS!!!!!!!

Luckily, the city of Oshkosh, after hearing from the people at the polls, stepped up to the plate and rescued the Grand and bought the property in 1980. This theater was remodeled and restored and opened once again in 1986 as The Grand Opera House! By 1990, The Oshkosh Opera House Foundation were given a lease to the building and have been managing the theater wonderfully ever since.


Remodeling and restoring old buildings usually stirs up entities who are hanging around.

Rialto Theatre, Il (As this once creaky fixer-upper opportunity was being transformed back into its former glory with a boatload of money raised by the public, it became apparent that spirit people were attached to this structure who were thrilled at the work being done).

Stanley Theatre, NY (This gloriously restored theatre has drawn back spectral thespians and others who were connected behind the stag).

Grand Opera, Wi (Spirits became active after this opera house became restored).

Something about the arts inspires dedication and effort from managers that sometimes doesn’t stop when these dedicated souls pass over into the spirit world.

State Theater of the Arts, PA (Long time theater manager now in spirit form still apparently is a force to be reckoned with if the maintenance of this theater is ignored).

Boulder Theatre, CO (A spectral spirit manager still is on the job so often that the owners gave him the responsibility to help with the new cafe attached to the theatre).

Grand Opera, WI (A dedicated man, Percy Keene, with a passion for the arts in a big way, had been a stage manager and involved with this theater from 1895 through 1967; the year he died).

Animals who pass can continue to do what they did while alive.

Morgan House, MA ( The dog of the youngest boy who died in an accident still is the boy’s best friend as a spirt animal).

Fort Bridger, WY (A spirit of a dog who died a hero saving a child is still running around this fort like he used to do while alive).

Grand Opera House, WI (A dog in some time period, was used to patrol the theater). Apparently, he or she still does).

Spirits of people who loved to see shows and productions in theatre still come as spirits, getting the perk of getting inside for free.

Stanley Theatre, NY (This theatre has both spirit people and live people seeing the performances offered here).

Cincinnati Music Hall, OH (Spirits dressed in their finery often attend the performances here for free).

Grand Opera House, WI (Enthusiastic spirits love to watch thespians rehearse on stage. Being Wisconsin spirits they have the good manners not to take a paying customer’s seat during a real performance).



Life-saver: Spirit of Percy Keene

He has been described as being a man with a nicely trimmed  haircut and wearing round spectacles.

A pleased, supportive presence of Percy Keene has been seen on several occasions standing in the balcony, and looking out a window onto the street.

During a film shoot about a haunted theater, a student assistant with a camera was hoisted up above the stage to film a scene for more than an hour.

When this assistant was lowered down to the stage, the rope suddenly fell apart having torn while the student was filming.  Probably the spirit of Percy Keene had held the rope together until the danger was past.

As a Supportive Presence

During the sneak preview of a student film, the entity of a pleased, supportive presence of Percy Keene was seen standing in the balcony.

Auditory Activity

Footsteps are heard coming up the staircase to the balcony, but no one living is ever seen.

A thespian group called Drama Lab heard slamming doors and footsteps during their performances.

Weird, unexplained sounds are heard inside the Grand Opera that can’t be explained.

Theatre Enthusiasts

Performers on stage during rehearsals, have seen entities of people sitting in the audience, enjoying their efforts.

The seats where these ghostly theater lovers were sitting were pushed down.

Apparently, one such spirit patron had to meet one of the actors, and was waiting for him in the actor’s dressing room.

This gentleman spirit person was wearing old fashioned theatre clothes and holding a playbill from a play that was performed on stage at the turn of the century.

Sightings in the Orchestra Pit

A life-like man was standing in the orchestra pit. He was seen by several theater set workers.

This apparition went through the door of the orchestra pit where musicians enter and leave the orchestra pit.

When the set design workers went to investigate this room behind the door, no one living was there. If it was a real person, it was too soon for this person to leave the room.

Visual & Tactile Anomalies

A glowing image that moved across the stage AMAZED some paranormal investigators.

When an Executive Director of a production was sitting by himself in the theater just relaxing, he saw a vaporous orange mist float across the stage; perhaps a spectral thespian wanting to be noticed for a part?

Lights have turned on and off by themselves as some spirits are fascinated by electricity.

Weird temperature drops have been experienced by people in the theatre.

Spirit of a Playful Puppy Child

A theatre assistant said that one of her ankles was playfully grabbed.

A lighting director was taken aback to see a real looking dog cavorting on the stage.

He asked the thespians to remove the dog, but there was no animal; living at least.

Thespians have had experiences with this friendly dog.



WPRS did three investigations in the Grand Opera Theatre. They caught some EVPs, rimpod activity and had some personal experiences.

Other paranormal investigation groups have also  been at the right place at the right time and have captured activity on film; like the glowing image mentioned up above.

They have also caught EVP’s on their recording devices.



Yes Indeed!

Spirits who performed, spirits who worked here behind the scenes and theatre enthusiasts along with a dog to keep them company all love the Grand Opera House, with not a bad apple among them.

People involved in the Grand Opera House have had boatloads of experiences with their fellow spectral  theatre enthusiasts; those who created, and those who watched.



100 High Avenue
Oshkosh, WI 54901

The Grand Opera House is located in downtown Oshkosh one block north of city center. It is on a one way street, High Avenue which runs from west to east. It is on the corner of High Avenue and Market, a location which runs parallel with Pearl Avenue to the south and Algoma Boulevard to the north, and is west of Jackson Street, and east of N. Main Street.


  • The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations
    By Chad Lewis & Terry Fisk
    Unexplained Research Publishing Co. (2004)

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Our Photos are copyrighted by Tom Carr

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