Now, now...Have a cup of coffee and a cookie...I can see you're a skeptic but you can't convince me there's no such thing as ghosts and haunts. I'll tell you straight out, I'm a believer and I have my reasons. I've seen things...heard things...felt things that just can't be explained. Even my father- a very scientific and logical man, had a story he liked to tell, of his encounter with a shadow figure that led him to a hiding place in the attic of an old farm house where we lived at the time. I guess it was when I was maybe three...but in that hiding place, my dad found a civil war belt buckle and a few trinkets. But I digress...I wasn't going to tell you about my family ghost stories, just talk about haunted theaters and how they led me to writing Encounter.
A few years ago we came out east from California on a road trip and passed through a few small towns that you could tell had passed their heyday. The old buildings were in disrepair, but you could tell from the ornate stonework that they'd once been part of an elegant and bustling downtown. Among the derelict buildings were a variety of store fronts, but most intriguing were the fanciful old theaters. It seemed they vibrated at times with the joy they'd brought to the people, though some reeked of sadness and despair.
I don't say these particular theaters were haunted, but they've certainly haunted my imagination since.
Have you ever looked at a derelict building and seen a face in the window that disappeared as quickly as you noticed it? Stepped into a room from warmth into a chill cold spot? Is everything you've ever put down always found in the exact spot you left it?
These are only a few signs of haunting, and haunting isn't limited to personal residences. In the state of Illinois there are dozens of haunted buildings, including a handful or more of theaters such as The Egyptian Theater in Dekalb and the The Ritz in Belleville. At the Ritz employees heard strange noises including a woman calling for help when they were alone in the building. Lights flashed on and off. Curtains shook and shadowy figures lurked. At The Egyptian, doors open of their own accord, footsteps are heard, and a mysterious being nicknamed Bob taps employees on the shoulder.
The hauntings are seldom harmful, and mostly related to such things as dedicated theater supporters and owners lingering after they've passed. Voices are frequently heard, objects moved, strange music plays, and even cigar smoke or perfume is smelled.
When I sat down to write my ghost story, the theater seemed to offer so many options...Who would pass from this plane of existence to the next and yet linger to haunt a theater? An actor? A technician? An owner? An enthusiastic fan?
Some places naturally speak to us of ghosts...cemeteries, abandoned buildings, hospitals, deserted roads...but a theater? What traumatic experience could tie a being to a place where people gather for entertainment?
And so Caspar was born, a sound technician...haunting a community theater. Why? He's yet to tell me...but he will.
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