Thursday, October 11, 2012

Seat J-47 (Hibbing High Phantom)

Hibbing High School in Minnesota is a HUGE fortess of a school, currently serving grades 7-12.  It was originally built between 1920 and 1922 by the Oliver Mining Company, shortly after the mine moved the town to a new location in order to expand the steel mine. It was built at a cost of $3.9 million and was designed by Jacobson  Brothers Construction.   As part of this monolithic giant of education, a vast auditorium, seating 1800, was built...modeled after New York City's former Capitol Theater.

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 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?

Want MORE ghost photos?
Check out the Paranormal Photos Page!


  1. I do not know if the photos are faked or not, but I do know that there is paranormal activity going on inside that school. I attended Hobbing HS myself from 1990-1994 and had experiences in the auditorium before then also. Theres something going on there. The place is very old& had imported art from arnd the world& a few different ppl have passed at the school. I was involved with acting & theater there, spent many days& nights in there. There is someone there. If he faked the photos its only to try& prove what was truth already.

    1. I don't doubt that there were strange happenings associated with the school, and one theory that I've stated is in fact that the photo was staged in order to play up or bring attention to the actual paranormal activity. Unfortunately, trickery (if that IS the cause of the photo, and I believe there's enough info to strongly consider it) has the effect of ruining credibility of actual events.

  2. Hibbing high school sorry typo. This was my school and I grew up here

  3. Fake! Took an old photo of a old theater and manipulated the 'ghost' in the photo. Look at the right arm, it appears the back of the seat is transparent. Or for spooky effect his arm going through the seat. Further more the subject isn't sitting down, more like squatting down or crouching down. Last but not least the subject/image looks like it was plucked from a real photo position, meaning the subject was actually sitting down else where.