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Opera House -
Haunted Place: The Grand Opera House
100 High Avenue
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901
The Grand Opera House web site
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
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
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
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
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS:
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
A dog in some time period, was used to patrol the theater.
Many people loved to come and watch the shows and productions over
Remodeling and restoring old buildings usually stirs up entities
who are hanging around.
In 1967, a film class from the University
of Wisconsin, at Oshkosh, was making a movie inside the
Grand. Some of the student crew spied the full, detailed apparition
of a man with small round glasses, standing in the balcony, smiling
at them. They were able to describe to a tee the likeness of
An entity held a broken rope together, so that the student
assistant who was hanging above the stage during a student play was
kept from falling. The entity is thought to be the ever helpful,
During the sneak preview of a student film, the entity of a
pleased, supportive presence of Percy Keene was seen standing in
Footsteps are heard coming up the staircase to the balcony, but no
one living is ever seen.
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
There is a doggy entity still guarding the theater, sometimes
scaring the people in the theater.
Oh yes, indeed!
There seems to be a dedicated,
volunteer stage manager, the entity of Percy
Keene, and a four footed guard dog are still doing their
jobs. Theater-loving entities treat themselves to the
rehearsals on stage.
A tour of the haunted building is planned for adults on Halloween,
after the horror flicks, complete with stories of the entities who
The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations
By Chad Lewis & Terry Fisk
Unexplained Research Publishing Co.