If you have ever doubted for one moment that ghosts exist, the evidence of afterlife can totally change everything that you thought you believed into something unbelievable. The spirit world is misunderstood simply because we are clueless as to why they remain among us. It is thought by many that paranormal activity happens within a structure due to circumstances that were so horrific that the spirit is actively seeking an answer as to why they are no longer alive. Sudden death from an accident or murder can be behind this type of haunting, or it can be that the ghost was happy in life, and chooses to remain so in death, so staying put in one location is the only option.
This is apparently the case when it comes to the Orpheum Theater, located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The vaudeville theater was built in the late 1800’s, but opened its doors in 1913. The elegant interior came complete with a main stage for performing, and a large balcony that overlooks the auditorium. Many performers, actors, employees, construction crews, and visitors frequented the theater during its heyday, and it is believed that one of these actors haunts the theater still today.
Nestled in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the Orpheum Theater quickly became the object of desire by the local community playhouse in late 1954, largely due to the grand acoustics found within the theater. By 1959, actors were not the only thing found wandering the bustling theater; in fact an active male spirit started showing his face to anyone that dared to walk through the fancy doors of the performance hall. One such incident involved a late night encounter with the apparition when he was spotted in the balcony by an actor who was rehearsing his lines. He caught sight of a flashing blue light, and then a ghostly man became visibly apparent.
The actor was at first startled, but then became deeply alarmed when the ghostly figure actually pointed right at him in a menacing way that felt like he was saying “GO”! Of course the cold blast of air that that accompanied the apparition didn’t do much in the way of making the practicing actor feel very welcome. Other reports of ghostly visions soon began to flood the walls of the Orpheum Theater, and the popular establishment soon gained the reputation as being actively haunted by an angry spirit named Larry.
Bad luck became integrated into the theaters daily regimen. Despite new wiring, blown fuses became a normal event, and actors began to see Larry on regular bases which typically lead to some catastrophic occurrence shortly there after. Employees became frightened by his presence, and actors became edgy when left to practice alone late at night. Ray, a regular performing actor at the theater was knocked out twice by a falling sandbag right after a sighting of Larry was reported on both occasions.
Another incident involving a ghostly encounter happened on stage in 1972 when a technical director was left alone late one night in the Orpheum Theater. His last minute alterations to the stage in preparation for upcoming rehearsals were met with a loud noise coming from directly behind him. The director quickly became alarmed when he turned and witnessed a tin photograph of a bearded man in his thirties right there on the floor where he had just stepped. The director claims that he placed 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 a spirit known as Larry. It has since disappeared.
Larry’s identity remains a mystery, but his ghost is very real to the people who have seen him throughout the years. Many stories have been tossed about when it comes to this active spirit, including one theory that claims Larry was an actor in one of the earlier vaudeville acts. Historians and some ghost hunters feel that he was an employee from the early 1900’s. Recently, a newer version of Larry’s demise has given us reason to sit up and listen to the possibility that he was in fact a disgruntled actor that took his own life after he failed to secure the lead part in the production of Romeo & Juliet. This very real possibility is discussed in the book “Haunted Places of South Dakota”.
Regular use of the theater caused it to deteriorate over the years as it served many uses, including a movie theater for a short period of time, and in 2002 the city of Sioux Falls took ownership of the historical theater. A construction crew was called in to give an estimate for repairs to the Orpheum Theater, and the process of renovating it began soon after.
A news article featuring the Orpheum Theater was found in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, giving historians a glimpse into the past when the theater originally opened its doors in October of 1913. The occasion was worthy of a full dress affair, with box and dress circle patrons paying the exorbitant amount of $5.00 per seat. Guests lucky enough to afford such a luxury were entertained with a high quality concert of the time by none other than the Orpheum Orchestra. Vaudeville acts and screen projections featuring subjects covering the Orthoscope, an instrument for examining the internal structures of the eye, gave viewers a peek at the latest in silent film equipment.
Today the Orpheum is as popular as it once was, and receives well over 100,000 guests annually with performing acts that include concerts from celebrity acts, plays and community events.
Orpheum Theater Location: 315 N Phillips Avenue, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57104. Phone: 605.367.4616 Web Site: http://orpheum.sfarena.com/orpheum/home
*NOTE* In 1983: The Orpheum Theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places.