Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Ghost Story

The Emerson Majestic Theatre
When I was an acting major at Emerson College in Boston, I used to work as a stagehand at Emerson's glorious downtown theatre, The Majestic.  Built in 1901, it was a true example of that golden age of theatre, with its string-of-pearls lighting and Nouveau murals.

It was also notoriously haunted.

Theatres are gathering spots for spirits, and the Majestic was no exception.  There were several deaths in the theatre throughout its history, including a man who fell from the 2nd balcony, and a Massachusetts governor who had a heart attack watching South Pacific.  (Not sure whether that was brought on by bad health, or bad lyrics.)  Many people who worked there reported strange sights, sounds, and occurences.

The Alley Theatre, Houston
One summer, I was assistant stage-managing a world premiere play alongside a lovely stage manager named Melinda.  Melinda was from Texas and had worked for years at the Alley Theatre in Houston.  One day she and were sitting backstage, talking about haunted theatres, and I lamented the fact that although I believe strongly in the spirit world, I'm dead to it.  I don't get those "feelings" that other people get in the presence of something otherworldly.

"I'm dead to the spirit world too," Melinda said, "but I did have this one experience at the Alley."

And she proceeded to tell me this story.

The Alley Theatre was founded by a woman in the late '40's, and has a strong history of employing women and promoting female artists.  In the early 80's, one such woman named Iris worked as a managing director at the theatre.  At one point during her career there, she hired a security guard...a standard hire, nothing unusual.  A few months later, she ran routine background checks on every employee at the theatre, and discovered that this security guard was wanted in another state.  She promptly fired him.

Iris was a night owl, and liked to work late at the theatre, often after everyone else had gone home.  One late night, she was there, and the disgruntled security guard, aware of her work habits, snuck into the theatre.

He strangled her to death with a telephone cord.

He was convicted of murder and put on death row.

Ten years later, I was stage managing a show at the Alley, and one of my crew members called in sick.  So I called my friend Stacy to fill in.  I ran down the list of what she needed to do, and Stacy went to the theatre early in the day before the show to set everything up for herself.

The theatre of the Alley is set up so directly behind the stage is a central vaum.  Meaning, there's a hallway that runs along the back side of the stage, with a door that leads straight from the stage to the hallway.  Stacy was in the vaum when she heard a strange sound coming from the stage.

The sound of someone violently choking.

She rushed onto the stage...but it was empty.  

She ran through the wings, the pit, the dressing rooms...all empty.  The Alley is an entire complex, with the offices in a separate building, and at that time of day, no one but her was in the theatre.

Chalking it up to her imagination, Stacy left.  I arrived at the theatre that evening, and the show ran without a hitch.  My roommate at the time was also working crew, and the two of us went through our post-show routine - locking doors, turning off lights, putting props and set pieces back to where they belonged.  Everyone else had left, and I was about to do my final check of the stage.  I put my hand on the door in the central vaum to the stage.

While I am dead to the spirit world, my roommate was not.  She put her hand on my arm.  "Don't open that door," she said.

"What?  Why?"

"Just - don't open that door." 

I ignored her, and opened the door.

It was like looking at the pit of hell.  The stage was gone.  The theatre was gone.  It was a black vortex of nothingness, an empty hole filled with misery and pain.  If I had stepped out onto where the stage should be, I would have fallen into a bottomless pit.

I screamed and ran from the theatre, my roommate close on my heels.  We left the doors unlocked, our purses still in the dressing room, and dove into my car.  We didn't stop screaming until we pulled into parking lot of the nearest bar.

We ran into the bar and dropped into two stools, panting.  The bar was the regular theatre hangout, so it wasn't a surprise to see Stacy there, having a drink.  "What happened to you two?" she asked.

We told her.  She then told us about her experience earlier in the day.  And then no sooner were the words out of her mouth that all three of us became aware of the news story on the television above the bar.

The man who had murdered Iris was supposed to have been executed that day, and had had a stay of execution.

At that point in the story, Melinda turned to me.  "Iris was pissed," she said.  "And she let all of us know it.  The next night I was in the theatre until one in the morning without a single incident."

The man who murdered Iris was eventually executed.  But people still report seeing her ghost on the fourth floor, just outside her old office.

Nicole Maggi lives in Los Angeles, CA with her amazingly supportive husband and beautiful daughter Emilia.  She graduated from Emerson College with a BFA, and worked as an actress for many years in New York before the lure of sunshine and avocados enticed her to the West Coast.  Though she still acts, her focus now is on her writing.  In her very limited spare time, Nicole enjoys yoga, hiking, baking...and eating what she bakes!  Her novel SHIFT will be out in early 2013 from HarperTeen.  Follow her on Twitter so she can reach her goal of 1000 followers by her book's release!


  1. Goosebumps! You're giving me goosebumps!!

  2. Haven't seen her. Did you ever see the Indian Woman on the caliper?