Tuesday, March 8, 2011

South Dakota's Orpheum Theater

The Orpheum Theater, located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was opened in 1913 as a vaudeville theater.  By 1954, the theater was acquired by a local community playhouse.  In 2002, the city of Sioux Falls took ownership of the aging theater, turned management over to SMG, and began the process of renovation.  Today, the site hosts several plays, concerts, and cultural events each year.

And, like many theaters from this era, hosts its own resident ghost.  The ghost of Larry made his first recorded appearance in 1959, when an actor named Ray was in the theater late rehearsing for an upcoming play.  As he gazed towards the balcony, an act indicated in his script, he noticed a glowing blue pulsating light.  In the middle of that light stood the apparition of a man, waving or pointing in Ray's direction.  The sighting occurred simultaneously with the feeling of a cold blast of air enveloping Ray...causing him to leave the location immediately!

A string of bad luck followed Ray immediately preceding the sighting.  The next day as Ray arrived, he noticed all the fuses, which were newly wired, had been blown.  Even worse, on two separate occasions, during a dress rehearsal and again on opening night for the play he had been rehearsing for the night he saw Larry, Ray was struck with a falling sandbag, being knocked unconscious both times.

The second major run-in with Larry occurred in 1972 when a technical director by the name of Jack was alone late one night in the building, sweeping the stage in preparation for upcoming rehearsals.  When Jack heard a noise behind him, he turned to find a tin-type photograph of a bearded man in his thirties...right in the path that he had just swept.  Jack put the photo on the light board.  No one could identify who the man was or where the photo came from, but many assumed it was the image of Larry.  The photo was kept on the light board until its mysterious disappearance.

There are several theories as to who Larry was in life.  Some say he was a construction worker who was killed during construction of the theater.  Others say he was a stage hand who killed during an early vaudeville show.  Still others say he was a gentleman who, having an affair with a married woman, was killed by her jealous husband in the theater's balcony.  Many agree with this theory as the apparition WAS sighted in the balcony in 1959.  However, there is a newer theory discussed in the book, Haunted Places of South Dakota. It seems as if there is reason to believe that Larry was an actor, who, distraught over not getting a lead part in the production of Romeo and Juliet, shot himself to death.  It is said his body was never found....
Allegedly, newspaper records for the time period were destroyed by fire, making it nearly impossible to find the true identity of Larry.

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