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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 Street.


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 here!

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 Company.

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 since.


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 died.

A dog in some time period, was used to patrol the theater.

Many people loved to come and watch the shows and productions over the years.

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 Percy Keene.

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, Percy Keene.

During the sneak preview of a student film, the entity of a pleased, supportive presence of Percy Keene was seen standing in the balcony.

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 down.

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 stay here.






The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations
By Chad Lewis & Terry Fisk
pages 112-115
Unexplained Research Publishing Co.