Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Child Murders and a Haunted House, Dublin, Ireland

The following comes from the 1914 book True Irish Ghost Stories, which is now available online here.

The following strange and pathetic incident occurred in a well-known Square in the north side of the city. In or about a hundred years ago a young officer was ordered to Dublin, and took a house there for himself and his family. He sent on his wife and two children, intending to join them in the course of a few days. When the latter and the nurse arrived, they found only the old charwoman in the house, and she left shortly after their arrival. Finding that something was needed, the nurse went out to purchase it. On her return she asked the mother were the children all right, as she had seen two ghostly forms flit past her on the door-step! The mother answered that she believed they were, but on going up to the nursery they found both the children with their throats cut. The murderer was never brought to justice, and no motive was ever discovered for the crime. The unfortunate mother went mad, and it is said that an eerie feeling still clings to the house, while two little heads are sometimes seen at the window of the room where the deed was committed.

Commentary: Not a whole lot to add to this one. It's a fairly classic ghost story: evil deed done in the house, house now is haunted. I like it because of it's simplicity, and the fact that it contains a double horror (murder followed by haunting) makes it all the more effective.

I suggest checking out the book from which it came (follow the link up above), as it is worth the time. The language is a bit archaic, having been written as it was during the early 20th century, but even that lends a good deal of charm to the stories contained therein. One thing that I have noticed is that identifiable information is frequently left blank - the names of roads are crossed out, or people's names are not mentioned. I wonder whether this is due to the authors or publishers trying to protect the privacy of people mentioned within the book, or if it is due to the authors trying to provide unfalsifiable stories.

Sources: Published book

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Capitola Theatre, Capitola, CA

The Capitola Theatre in my current home of Capitola, California, is, unfortunately, no longer standing. Built in 1947 is a beachside movie theatre in the tourist area known as Capitola Village, the theatre was small, looked rather out-of-place, but was a local fixture for several decades. It became the second-run "cheap seats" theatre for the county, showing movies that had been out for several months as double-features at a discount price. This often resulted in very odd pairings, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark playing with the Neil Diamond vehicle The Jazz Singer or Modern Problems with Tron. The theatre closed as a movie venue in the mid-90s, but was saved from obsolescence by a group of local opera performers and enthusiasts who renovated it and used it for opera, live theatre, and the occasional cult movie (I remember seeing Raising Arizona at the theatre 'roundabouts 1999). After serving as a local performing arts establishment, the theatre again fell into disuse and was finally demolished in the first half of 2010.

Bit of a shame, really. For all of it's oddness, it was kind of a cool building.

And, of course, the theatre was said to be haunted.

The haunting manifestations are mostly of the audible, rather than the visible, variety. They are usually said to consist of the sounds of a crowd of people in the lobby or in the theatre after-hours. When investigated, naturally, there is nobody there. These stories are usually said to be reported by crews working on sets at night or in the mornings, and it is said that at least one of the construction workers who was performing renovations in the mid-90s walked off the job after hearing a crowd in the theatre, but seeing nobody present when he walked into the room. On another occasion, a woman working in the theatre took a phone call, which was intended for the theatre's seamstress. when she called up to the booth where the seamstress usually was, a woman's voice called back that she would accept the telephone call, but the woman who had initially taken the call was unsuccessful in transferring it. When she looked in the booth to see what the problem was, she found that the seamstress was not present.

Commentary: The Capitola theatre was a sort of non-landmark in Capitola. It was in the main tourist area which, by the 90s, had become very difficult to navigate during the summers, and parking was always a problem; it was located next to other buildings at the bottom of a cliff and less than 300 feet from the beach, meaning that it's architecture was not well-served by being near many things that might attract (or distract) one's eye; and it was one of many theatres within Santa Cruz county providing live theatre and oddball films. It was unique, it must be said, but it was a place that unfortunately faded into the background of a very active, busy community filled with unique buildings and eccentric artists.

I have commented before about the fact that it seems that every live theatre venue is said to be haunted. The same is not true of movie theatres - to be certain, there are movie theatres with ghostly reputations, but they seem to be less common than live theatre venues with resident spirits. Friends of mine who work in live theatre tell me that this has to do with a sense of tradition, a sense of fun among actors, and a tendency for many actors to be (for lack of a better word) over-dramatic and want to see wherever they are as special*.

In light of the disparity between haunted movie theatres and haunted live theatres, it is interesting to note that all of the ghost stories that I have been able to track down date to the mid-90s, and specifically cite set builders, renovation workers, seamstresses, and other people who would be present due to the conversion or use as an opera house/live theatre. It would appear that, in addition to being converted for use, the moviehouse also was initiated into the actor's tradition of ghost stories.

And, really, I wouldn't want it any other way.

*Though, one would think, that with the proliferation of "haunted" theatres, having the one that was ectoplasm-free would make your place special.

Sources: Santa Cruz Paranormal Research, Shadowlands (AKA the Illustrious Internet), Carpe Noctem, Cinema Treasures, KFRC