The photo above was taken by Chuck Perry, stage manager of the opulent theater. It features seat J-47 being occupied by something not of this world. Or does it?
The story that is being passed around the web, and in Jeff Belanger's The World's Most Haunted Places, is that this phantom is none other than the school's first stage manager, Bill Ratican. Supposedly, Bill came to Minnesota from New York in order to take over the position of stage manager for the auditorium that also hosted many forms of entertainment for the community as well. The legends vary greatly, but the general story goes that the auditorium is haunted...and that its main ghost is that of Bill Ratican. It all started shortly after Chuck Perry started the job in 1979...a visiting psychic, there to see the school where Bob Dylan made is first public performance, stated energy around seat J-47.
Indeed, there had been other legends around this seat, as many claim that this seat is often in the down position, as if someone is sitting there, despite the surrounding seats being in the "up" position. So, Chuck Perry, now a professional photographer, snagged a prop camera from the prop room (a Polaroid), set it up on a tri-pod, and began snapping. Allegedly, six photos out of the roll contained anomalies, including the most famous, featured aboved.
It was Chuck Perry who researched the history of the auditorium and concluded that the ghost in question was none other than Ratican, although it is confirmed that a physically disabled student did actually pass away in the auditorium. Some legends state that Ratican was killed by a falling chandelier while sitting in the infamous seat, but the general consensus seems to be that he died of an ordinary heart attack. The date given for this event generally tends to be in the early 1940s, with at least one source, an interview with Mike Finco, principal, narrows it down to 1942.
Unfortunately, while this is a great story, it doesn't add up with the known facts. After going through tons and tons death certificates, I found no indication of a Bill Ratican dying in 1942, or anything close to that data. I did, however, find on Ancestry.com a listing for a William Ratican who died in April of 1967, which does coincide with ONE online account I found on this subject. Luckily, this information was further reinforced by an article I found from a 1961 paper talking about a play at the auditorium, and giving credit to William Ratican, stage manager. If this is the same Mr. Ratican, which I expect it is, he was actually a lawyer by day, and originally from Minnesota, NOT NYC.
It has been theorized by many, and even explicity stated in that same interview with Mike Finco, that the mystery of this photo, and the others in the series, has been solved. It seems that the photos were staged as a way to scare the students and play up the "true" paranormal events that plagued the auditorium. The model for the ghost was long-time head custodian, Bob Kearney, who raided the theater's costume department for old-timey clothes. Bob Kearney has a long history with the auditorium as well, giving both Bob Dylan and "ghost tours." The video below features some of the other shots from this roll of film that shown anomalies, and also interviews both Perry and Kearney. I invite you to watch it and see if it helps you decide...FACT OR FAKED?
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