Thursday, March 6, 2014

Indiana's Haunted Bristol Opera House

The Bristol Opera House was built in 1896 by Cyrus and Horace Mosier, brothers from Elkhart, Indiana.  It opened in 1897 with a production of U.S.S. Pinafore by the Arion Company, and quickly became a showplace for Bristol's arts and entertainment.  Over the years, the Bristol Opera House tried to keep up with the growing needs of the community, as well as advancements in technology.  It served as a music hall, a cinema, and even a skating rink, all before 1940.  However, that year, the aging structure was deemed unsafe for anything other than storage...a position it held onto for 20 years.

In the early 1960s, the former Opera House was still declining, and slated for demolition when the Elkhart Civic Theatre company swooped in and saved the building, eventually bringing it back to its former glory and turning it again into a showplace for Bristol's arts and entertainment community. It's reopening was in July of 1961. Today, the old Opera House is still home to the Elkhart Civil Theater, but its also home to a few resident ghosts.

One such ghost that calls the theater home is a little girl the staff have named "Beth."  Beth's apparition has been spotted at stage left, peeking out from behind the curtain and peering out into the audience.  Another presence is that of "Helen," a middle aged woman who seemingly watches over and protects the directors and producers of the various shows.

And finally...there is Percival.  According to the stories, Percival was a former handyman who worked at the original Bristol Opera House in exchange for room and board, after he and his family lost their home in a fire.  Percival is seen as a trickster, and anything that goes wrong, from electrical disturbances to missing tools and/or props is blamed on Percival.  Percival really doesn't like musicals, so much of the annoying behavior seems to occur when such a production is going on.  But Percival's antics don't end there; he is often felt brushing up against actors and guests, and has even been known to grab and jerk an actor back as he's making his entrance onto the stage.  Ladies have an especially difficult time with Percival as he is often seen hanging around the women's dressing rooms.  He's also seen in the right aisle of the theater.

Photo and more info from Dread Central
Elkhart Civic Theater Homepage
A 20th Century History and Biographical Record of Elkhart Co. Indiana

1 comment:

  1. I am the great granddaughter of Percival Hilbers .My Grandma Mary his daughter told me about living there during the depression era..Some of the facts above very much true but as for there house catching fire my grandma said that is not so..Beth is Elizabeth (Tait) Hilbers as for Helen my grandma did not know of a Helen...There was Percy,Elizabeth,Mary.and Roberta Hilbers.


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