The setting is straight out of a horror film—on a dark chilly evening just before Halloween, an eager group of adventurers makes their way to an old building with rich history. Famous actresses, philanthropists, and shrewd business owners graced this theater’s halls in its heyday, and legend suggests that a few of the spirits never left. Recorders in hand, the visitors make their way inside, curious to know if the rumors are true…
You can be a part of this story, courtesy of the Historic Elitch Theatre Foundation. On October 30, a group of curious individuals will join a team of paranormal investigators from Frontrange Paranormal Investigations (ParaFPI), the Colorado affiliate for the Syfy show Ghost Hunters, as they search for voices (and visions) from the past in the 125-year-old Denver theater.
So far, the ghost hunters have been fairly successful at the site. ParaFPI contacted the foundation around the same time renovations of the theater’s interior began in 2013 (lingering spirits tend to get active during construction, so it was prime time for an investigation). Since spring 2013, ParaFPI has returned to the theater two nights a year for overnight investigations. This October will mark their sixth visit to this site, and their third visit with guests.
“They’re very scientific,” says David Nehls, vice president of the Historic Elitch Theatre Foundation. “They go in with all this equipment in tow, and they’ll spend the night until 3 or 4 a.m. They’ve been to a lot of locations, but they’re stuck on ours because they’ve had some great success here.”
During the event, visitors will be broken into five groups. With a ParaFPI investigator as their guide, they’ll be allowed to explore two theater dressing rooms, the main stage, the audience seating area, and the balcony—the site where actress Shelley Winters supposedly saw the figure of a woman during rehearsal in 1983.
According to Nehls, the ghosts of Mary Elitch Long, one of the original owners of the theater, and Helen Bonfils, a philanthropist who helped keep the building open, are said to haunt the building. Guests have also been able to catch unexplainable sounds and voices on their recording devices.
“There’s a YouTube video from a guest last year who was very skeptical, but he got responses,” says Nehls.
Before you dig out a flashlight and old tape deck, there are a few important details worth noting. The theater has no central heating, some of the areas you’ll be investigating aren’t easily accessible, and children younger than 14 aren’t allowed to participate in the event. The theater also has no bathrooms, just a portable toilet on site. But if a little chill in your bones doesn’t deter you, this event promises a uniquely spooky experience to jumpstart your Halloween.
“It’s not a horribly gory haunted house with costumes—you’re possibly actually seeing real ghosts,” says Nehls. “There’s this great historical tie-in as well. This is one of the oldest buildings in our area. It’s a richer experience, not just a quick scare.”