Elks Theatre

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DESCRIPTION

This large performing arts building and Elks Theatre is described as being “a classically designed, turn of the 20th century” structure. It is approximately 95 feet (29 m) wide and 125 feet (38 m) deep.

The the Elks Theatre and The Performing Arts Center can be found in this grand, much loved, three story, historical building, dating back to 1905. It is run by a non-profit organization; The Elks Theater and Performing Arts Center (ETPAC). According to their mission statement, “the mission of the ETPAC is to enhance the community of Prescott by providing space for practice, rehearsal and training of the performing arts.”

An endowment was set up when ETPAC bought the building, the purpose of which was to fund “the perpetual operation and maintenance of the theater and performing arts center.”

As a result of this, children, youth and adults of any economic level could participate in the arts for a low fee that covers costs and salaries.

This large building is divided into two equal sections. Small businesses, dance studios, dance halls and event rooms are located in the front section of all three floors. The second back section is the theatre and its support space.

The first floor is mostly made up of small businesses that help support the rest of the activities that take place here in the Elks Performing Arts Center.

The dance studios/activity halls are on the second floor. The most popular classes are in dance, with opportunities for everyone to enjoy this art form. One dance studio has a “floating Hickory dance floor, while the other studio has a “sprung Marley surface.”

Each studio “has its own adjustable lighting, heat and air conditioning and high quality sound systems.” They are quite nice places for a dance class, or a rehearsal space for an upcoming performance.

The second floor is also home to five Wenger music and voice isolation chambers, and a digital recording board; both are promoted on the Elks Theatre website.

The event rooms are on the third floor, and can hold a total of two hundred people. An extra perk is the whole floor sound system, along with adjustable lighting, heat and air conditioning. A variety of social events and meetings can be held in this space.

A completely new chef’s kitchen is located between these two large event rooms. It comes with warming overs, grills, griddles and more kitchen equipment to help prepare meals for sit down events. The folks in Prescott can rent these rooms for social events or meetings.

The entrance to the Elks Theatre is located on E. Gurley Street, in the center front section of the building. As the visitor enters the front doors of the Elks Theatre, they walk into a rectangular foyer, with chairs and sofas along the walls.

In the back of this space is the small Lobby and the staircase that leads to the balcony seating. A door located on the back wall of the Lobby is the door that leads into the right side of the first floor of the restored theatre auditorium and stage.

Stepping into the auditorium is like stepping back to 1905! The simple grandeur of its early beginnings has been restored; a stunning success. The theatre takes up three floors of space. The inside of the auditorium was well-designed as there is not a bad seat in the house.

The balcony provides not only seats for patrons but also for theatre business offices. The design of the balcony seating area is a stunning and grand curved shape, giving everyone a great view of the stage area.

First floor seating has just the right slope to give all patrons a great seat to enjoy the production or film offered for entertainment.

There are staircases on either side of the stage that lead up to the theatre boxes which were rebuilt from rare historic pictures during the effort to restore the theatre to what it looked like at the original opening.

Off the back stage area wall on the left side, a staircase leads down to the basement Green Room, where modern dressing rooms branch off hallways that are decorated with pictures from the many performances that have graced this stage since its beginning. It is indeed a bright, welcoming, modern space for performers to ready themselves.

The original dressing room, active during the early years of the Opera House is used for storage now, as the new basement rooms are quite modern and quite an upgrade. My, how times have changed!

While the Elks Theatre doesn’t produce its own plays, other theater groups and school drama productions, high school music bands etc. rent the space to showcase their own plays and concerts.

Other folks in need of a large auditorium also rent the theatre, which is still a very popular venue for such groups as community music organizations, tribute bands, magic shows, etc. It is perfect for high school graduations as well; much more upscale for this kind of special occasion than a mere gym or football field.

The Elks Theatre still shows films as well. On Wednesday and Sunday nights, classic films are shown here as of July of 2021. The list of films shown here during the summer of 2021 include such chestnuts as Junior Bonner, Rebeca, Animal House, and the Grown Up films; One and Two.

 

HISTORY

In 1904, the population of Prescott was booming, and the need for a fine arts center was pressing. The Elks Lodge of 330 gave this daunting challenge to a committee, the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks. They came up with plans for a three story building that could not only house Elks Lodge 330, but also a lovely, large Opera House. The plan would cost a whopping $15,000 dollars which was raised with fundraisers and donations.

The Elks Opera House was opened with great fanfare in January of 1905. This accomplishment was due to the hard work of the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks, with the support of the community at large, local businesses and the members of Elk Lodge 330.

The auditorium had over nine hundred seats spaced over the auditorium. Though an extravagant cost, it was well worth the effort and expense, bringing drama, music and other entertainment to the stage, and providing wholesome entertainment to Prescott.

The Elks Lodge 330 was also located in the same building, right next door to the entrance of the theatre on E. Gurley Street. Other businesses filled the remaining first floor spaces on the right-hand side of the theatre entrance, probably aimed at the folks attending the event.

The Elks Opera House was enthusiastically received and supported throughout the years by the people of Prescott, serving a variety of performance groups besides Opera, such as Vaudeville, Music acts, boxing matches, movies, plays, church services and even political rallies, high school graduations to name a few.

After a screen was added, silent films made their debut in 1915, aiding the growing popularity of films here. In 1929, a sound system was added as the “talkie” films were here to stay and were received with enthusiasm. Movies were a staple here until the 1980s. Films are still shown here on Wednesday and Sunday nights.

When the Elks built a new lodge, they sold the Elks Opera-turned-Movie House to a private owner. A series of private owners have since tried to take good care of this community treasure.

Different owners have taken the reins and over the years remodeled the stage area to keep up with the evolving movie industry. When wide screen films came into style, the historic box seats were nuked.

Through the eras, styles changed. The beautiful, elaborate stenciling decor of the auditorium was removed or painted over several times to give the theatre a more upscale, modern, fresh look.

The Elks Theatre was eventually turned over to the non-profit Elks Foundation, who began the long process of restoring the auditorium. With the help of a local construction company and restoration specialists, the renovation process started much like an archeology dig.

Boatloads of paint and paper were removed from the walls, uncovering the old elaborate stenciling decor and the old ceramic squares. They established a workshop in the basement to restore what they found, reattaching these original squares and replicas to the walls; creating the 1905 decor, complete with stenciled ceramic squares.

Rare, historic photos were loaned to the project so that the stage area and box seats could be rebuilt to be accurate representations of what was once here..The remodeling changes made for wide screen films was undone, returning the stage area to its 1905 beauty.

When the renovation was finished, more room was allotted for the seating of each patron on both floors. To give the patron even more comfort, the seating capicity in the Elks Theatre was reduced to 400..

In 2001, the Elks Theatre was purchased by the city of Prescott. Because of the Prescott’s partnership with Arizona Elks Foundation, the restoration of the Lobby, Green Room, Dressing Rooms in the basement area and other parts of the building was accomplished.

The most amazing find was a hidden stairway that was reestablished.

The entire 1.75 million, well done Elk Theatre restoration was completed in 2010. It shines in all of its 1905 splendor.

It cost 1.75 million to renovate but it was a job well done.

Also returned to its rightful place was Bill, the Elk on the top of the building. He was removed when the building was repurposed after the Elk Lodge moved to newer quarters.

In 2012, Prescott sold the large building to the non-profit, The Elks Theater and Performing Arts Center (ETPAC). They came up with plans to renovate the front section of the building. These improvements were finished in four years; in 2016.

Today, The Elks Theatre and Performing Arts Center remains a well-loved and appreciated treasure, meeting the artistic needs of the Prescott Community.

 

HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS

It is not surprising that there are spirits attached to the theatre, given its long history of entertaining the citizens of Prescott who have long valued its contribution to the arts in Prescott. A lot of history has happened here, including tragedy and even a bit of mayhem.

Listed below are some possibilities to explain why spirts can be found here; either as residents, or as visitors.

 

Restoration of a building can bring back spirits who are attached to a structure because of the happy memories associated with it

Stanley Theatre, NY (Spirits attached to this building were really happy to see their beloved place in this world being restored to its former glorious state of being).

Elsinore Theatre, OR (After several expensive restoration and renovation projects, the spirits of folks who loved working here, including an old owner, have enthusiastically embraced the activities of the living).

Old Regent Theatre, MI (After its 1990 restoration brought to life its Art Deco 1930s glory, spirits made themselves known again; extremely happy to see the beauty of this place one more time).

Elks Theatre, AZ (Past spectral patrons enjoy the shows too. along with the living patrons).

 

Apparently, it seems that the old saying still applies: Once a performer, always a performer, even as a spirit!

Old Regent Theatre, MI (Actors don’t want to get off the stage just yet).

Pittsburgh Theatre, PA (The spirit of a popular actor John Johns loved to be involved, up until this theatre was torn down in 2018. He may have connected to a favorite item being move to another theatre).

Mantorville Opera House, MN (Prevalent, consistent paranormal activity point to spectral thespians who love the world of performing; even trying to encourage living thespians in their dressing rooms).

Elks Theatre, AZ (Spirits can’t seem to let go of the opportunity to perform here. Other paranormal activity suggests their presence as well).

 

 

Rash acts like suicide can result in a spirit being remorseful for doing it and motivate them to try to resume their life as if it never happened. Such spirits find ways in this world to make themselves feel better.

Woodstock Opera House, IL (A distraught young ballet dancer, Elvira, killed herself here and now stays on as a spectral arts enthusiast, coach and critic. In order to feel better about herself. She is not above possessing other young women even though the living are there to stop her plans).

Avalon Hollywood, CA ( A technician killed himself by jumping from the catwalk to the stage; landing right in front of his girlfriend who just broken up with him).

Victoria Theatre, OH (A male performer, perhaps an actor, committed suicide by impaling himself on a knife fastened to the back of a seat. His blood ran down into the orchestra pit, making a huge, sticky mess; Ewww!).

Elks Theatre, AZ (There were two suicides connected to the Elks Theatre. A Russian immigrant, Professor Stanislaus, was hired to play his violin before shows. He wound up shooting himself after a bout of depression and a fight with his wife).

(An actor hung himself on the stage, according to urban legend. It hasn’t been documented though as actually happening).

 

Accidents can cause restless spirits. Through the eras, children have historically been prone to serious accidents that kill them.

Elsinore Theatre, AZ (A young daughter of one of the theatre owners or more likely a theatre manager fell from the balcony where she was playing).

Orpheum Theatre, TN (A mischievous 12 year old spirit still enjoys theatre life and gets her chuckles in annoying ways).

Landers Theater, MO (A tragic accident occurred when a baby fell from the balcony to its death, much to the horror of the mother).

Elks Theatre, AZ (A young female child fell from the balcony according to urban legend. No documentation has been found to verify this).

 

When buried remains are disturbed, the spirit who is attached to those remains may become active in this world. Sometimes if the remains are hidden, it is to coverup a death or murder.

The Easton Library, PA (Before building this Carnegie-funded library, the graves in this long-filled German Cemetery had to be moved by family relatives to another cemetery. Two important people who were buried here had their graves moved to the front yard of the library. Unclaimed bodies that were not claimed were moved and dumped into a mass grave that was paved over with no markings; and the site became part of the entrance to the parking lot – Uh oh!).

Shaker’s Cigar Bar, WI (The spirit of a murdered prostitute was/ discovered in the wall and removed, to be buried in a cemetery).

King’s Tavern, MS (Three mummified bodies were discovered in the 1930s during repairs of the chimney and fireplace; all victims of the murderous Mrs. King; a bit of a serial psychopath).

Elks Theatre, AZ (Human bones were found in a wall during restoration of the Elks Theatre. This could be the remains of the negative spirit; still angry about his death; which could’ve been a murder, but definitely a coverup, that happened so long ago).

 

MANIFESTATIONS

The owners and the people who work and volunteer here are well aware that this theatre is popular with both visiting and resident spirits. A ghost light is turned up bright in the back of the theatre to lessen activity and it seems to work. When the light is turned down, the spirits make themselves known in many ways.

Spirits of Former Patrons

During a show, an Opera Guild Usher saw a life-like man, dressed in early 20th century theater attire, happily sitting in one of the restored opera box seats, enjoying the show.

When the Usher looked again moments later, imagine her surprise when the gentleman had vanished.

A man dressed in black also likes to sit in the auditorium and watch what is on stage or movie screen.

The spirit of the little girl who supposedly fell to her death, apparently likes to swing on the chandeliers.

The Spirit of a Cowboy

This spirit may be the film star, Tom Mace, whose films used to be shown here a lot.

He is dressed in a cowboy costume, complete with traditional hat.

This life-like apparition walks through the lobby, disappearing as he moves through a pillar.

Other Personal Appearances

Shadows are seen crossing the stage when the lighting being used can’t create them.

A woman claimed that there was an apparition up in the hyloft watching her.

Spirit of Filmore

He is an active spirit that the staff have named Filmore.

He does things to draw attention to himself, all in good-natured fun!

He likes to tap people on the shoulder as if to say, “I’m here and you can’t see me!”

This spirit appeared and talked to a cleaning lady. She said the spirit told her that he thought the name was “cute,” but his name was Robert; a name he used while alive.

Signs of an Unhappy Spirit

This unhappy spirit expresses his negative feelings through olfactory and tactile ways, perhaps venting them at the expense of the living; making them uncomfortable but aware of his plight. He has never harmed anyone.

Foul Odors that don’t have an earthly source sometimes suddenly appear for a moment in the auditorium.

The smell of sulfur or death can materialize for just a single person or a few persons but not everyone standing with the lucky witnesses.

The living have had their hair pulled.

A volunteer was pushed into the wall of the theatre from this frustrated spirit.

Auditory Clues

These occurrences may point to spectral performers not ready to leave just yet.

The Elks Theatre manager, as well as other theatre workers, have heard faint, operatic voices practicing their roles somewhere in the building; probably in the stage area.

The sounds of heavy boots have been heard clomping around. The spirit of an actor who perhaps is wearing a costume from an Opera?

Disembodied voices are heard in the theatre auditorium and the stage area.

Spirit of Professor Stanislaus

Cleaning staff have heard the beautiful sounds of a violin being played on stage.

This spirit tries to find some peace from his regretful action by doing something he enjoyed; playing his violin in the auditorium.

Fun And Games

Anything electrical is fun to play with for the spirits here, especially on the stage.

When a young woman blew down the neck of her younger brother in the lobby, an unseen presence; (perhaps Tom Mace or Filmore) blew down her neck for chuckles, thinking that this is a fun prank.

It is fun to move important props and items from where the living have put them, to a new and odd spot; great chuckles for some spirit or spirits here while drawing attention to themselves.

It is fun to follow the living around, and let them hear your foot steps and feel your unseen presence.

Calling the names of staff and volunteers is equally enjoyable, especially in the office area.

Hard to Share

A female spirit loves the vanity in the Ladies Room, and is a little possessive of the middle bathroom stall.

Some women who have used this toilet have had the locked door unlock itself and swing open, as if to say “You are done, now leave!”

Others experience an unseen presence trying to jiggle open the door when it is locked.

A disembodied female voice has been heard by the living here.

This spirit told the sensitive from The Southern California Research and Investigation team that her name was Anna.

PARANORMAL FINDINGS

Theatre staff and patrons have had many personal experiences letting them know that there are spectral residents and perhaps spectral visitors there to keep them company, get their chuckles, express their feelings and enjoy their memories as well as enjoy what is being performed on stage.

Geoff Lloyd, a paranormal investigator and his team, made up of his wife and young adult children, form the Southern California Research and Investigation team. In January of 2018, they came to check out the Elks Theatre for a broadcast on their YouTube channel. The links are listed below.

Having equipment as well as a sensitive, they have theorized that the first private owner, Anna Carson Dater loves the vanity area and the middle stall of the Ladies bathroom.

Some interesting EVPs were caught as well. When a member of the team, a dancer herself, had asked any spirit on stage to dance specific ballet moves, an EVP caught in the old dressing room for this member can be realistically interpreted to say “Dance for me.”

 

STILL HAUNTED?

Most Probably so! Spirits who loved to perform on this stage as well as those who loved to watch performances and the films still can’t get enough of these activities that they so enjoyed doing while alive. A spirit or two who are not so happy are trying to get their story told as well, which can be frustrating indeed, leading to the hair-pulling and pushing.

Perhaps a medium can come and visit the unhappy spirits and give them some counseling, or get their story told they can let go of the injustice done and leave for the spirit world. Finding bones in a wall usually means that the person could’ve died from an episode of foul play or an effort to hide the death from the authorities for some purpose.

 

LOCATION

117 E Gurley St # 115
Prescott, AZ 86301

The Elks Theatre is located in the back of the Elks Performing Arts Building that sits on E. Gurley St., about a block east of S. Charles St. and the County Courthouse, and a block west of S. Martina St.

 

SOURCES INCLUDE

  • The Elks Theatre – Prescott, AZ
    On January 19th and 20th of 2018, the SCPRI Team traveled to Prescott, AZ to investigate the Elks Theatre. Is it possible that some of these performers, athletes, celebrities, or politicians may have stayed around? The SCPRI Team has the answers to those questions.

  • ELKS THEATRE AND PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
    June 26, 2017, Enriching the community for more than 100 years
    by Trevor Odom, Assistant Marketing and Program Manager
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elks_Building_and_Theater
  • https://socalpara.wixsite.com/scpri/investigations
  • https://www.prescottelkstheatre.org
  • Prescott Living, The Voice of the Community: Haunted Prescott

    HAUNTED PRESCOTT


    October 7, 2019 Issue, by Darlene Wilson, owner of A Haunting Experience Tours, who co-wrote along with Parker Anderson Haunted Prescott, Published by Haunted America in 2018

  • A Journey through Time, Elks Opera House in Prescott, Arizona
    Jun 16, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzLIMHOzLQE
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