Grand Opera House Dubuque Iowa September 5, 2009

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In July, the team was informed by Steve of a possible investigation of a well known haunted location that he had read about in a book of haunted places in Iowa.  The location was the Grand Opera House in Dubuque, IA.  Becky had set up the investigation for September 5th, 2009 Labor Day weekend.  A team of Becky, Sarah, Steve, Stephanie, Sally, and Diana met at the Opera House at 4:00 pm.  Shortly after meeting we went to have a bite to eat and then reconvened at the opera house where an employee was waiting to unlock the doors and give us a tour.

Walk Through

We were given a short tour of the theatre by an employee whom was also an actor.  While on the tour he explained to us that the opera house was built in 1889 and was open for business in 1890.  It had a seating capacity of 1100 and a huge stage that measured 47 feet from front to back.  The stage was so large that during a production of Ben Hur there were live horses, chariots, and elephants used.  The theatre was graced by legendary stars such as George M. Cohan, Sarah Bernhardt, Lillian Russell, Ethel Barrymore, and Henry Fonda.  In 1928 live theatre was phased out by moving pictures.  The second balcony was removed reducing the seating capacity to 644, and was converted into a movie house known as “The Grand.”  In 1986 The Barn Community Theatre purchased the building, renovated it, and returned live theatre to the historic site.   We were informed by our guide that he, himself had felt like someone was watching him from the balcony when he was in the main theatre by himself.  He also told us of another paranormal group that had done an overnight investigation only to come up with a few Evp’s of bumps and bangs along with one of a piano note being played over and over.  It was thought that the theatre’s paranormal activity had ceased as nobody had reported anything strange recently.  Many of the claims of activity had been tampering with electronic equipment, lights, sound, etc…  He said at one point an electrical box on the stage had blown and shortly after that a glowing orb was seen crossing the stage.  Objects and props would disappear and reappear in strange places.  The spirit of a woman had been seen by actors who were on stage, passing by the windows of the former projection booth which now holds the spotlights.  There is talk of the ghost of a woman on the fifth floor, which is now the costume shop, whom is said to dislike women.  Our guide had told us that an Ouija board session had been conducted by a couple of ladies who are unknown to us on the 5th floor in which they claimed that a name for the ghost was spelled out, “Sarah”.  Could it be Sarah Bernhardt?  The basement consisted of several dressing rooms, bathrooms, and showers, prop room, and paint room; which was the oldest section of the theatre. There was also a set storage room and an elevator that led up through a trap door in the center of the stage.  The theatre consists of 5 floors to investigate, no elevators, all stairs.  We had our work cut out for us.


Our investigation started in the main theatre with all members present.  We decided to use a technique called “the Singapore theory.”  This is a technique using music of the era in which the ghosts are believed to have been from in hopes to stir up activity.  We chose to play “Carmen”, the first opera that was performed at the theatre.  Becky, Sarah, Stephanie, Sally, and Dianna chose to stay near the Stage, while Steve went up into the seats to record and listen from there.  We started the music and it wasn’t long before we started hearing knocks and thumping.  Becky reported hearing a cough come from the right side of the theatre and was confirmed by Sally who also heard it.  Stephanie reported hearing what sounded like a metallic pinging noise.  The noises started at the right portion of the theatre and moved towards the stage.  Noises were heard coming from different sections of the stage.  An EVP of what sounded like someone whistling along with the music was caught.  Everyone confirmed that none of us were whistling at the time.  After completing the Singapore theory we chose to split into smaller teams.  Steve and Stephanie went to the basement, Diana and Sally went to the upper floors, and Sarah stayed with Becky in the main theatre.
Upon descending the stairs to the basement via the stage right stairwell, Stephanie had felt the presence of something following us.  The first rooms that were checked were the dressing room area nothing out of the ordinary occurred but Stephanie still felt like there was something with her.   Steve and Stephanie entered what is now the prop room and Stephanie was shutting the door and asking at the same time to whomever was following them to not lock them in.  An EVP was caught in response to Stephanie’s request.  They then moved on to the paint room which was unbelievably dark.  Steve started to move towards the back of the room; kicking aside bricks that were in the way; when Stephanie got very uneasy of the situation.  She mentioned that the pipes were making noise, right after that a scraping sound was heard.  Stephanie wanted to exit the room immediately feeling that she would be trapped between whatever was with them and the doorway.  Steve noticed that there was a high level of EMF being emitted from the pipes.  It is possible that the eerie feelings Stephanie was getting could have been caused by the high level of EMF but she is normally not EMF sensitive.  They then moved on to the set storage area where there were many set pieces from past shows and a couple of tympani drums.  A short EVP session was conducted in the room with no results.  The last room to investigate in the basement was the utility room.  Steve scanned the area for EMF and found that the only thing giving off higher levels was the water heater.
Diana and Sally investigated the upper levels which consisted of the projection room on the third floor, a rehearsal and reception room on the fourth floor, and the costume shop on the fifth floor.  While in the costume shop, Sally and Diana held an EVP session which consisted of some mild provoking.  The spirit known only as “Sarah” is known to not like women.  There was one report of a woman being pushed down the stairs.  Knowing this they provoked telling whatever was there if it did not want them there to tell them to get out.  A very loud and clear EVP was caught in response.  The other rooms investigated yielded no results.

Meanwhile Becky and Sarah were in the main theater and had said the bangs and bumps continued to be heard.  They also heard voices and the banging of a drum.  The voices and drum were immediately debunked as they were coming from Steve and Stephanie in the basement.  Steve noticed that there were a couple of ventilation grates on the side of the stage and sounds from the basement could be heard easily from them.  The drum was Stephanie banging on it trying to get a response from anything there.  We reconvened in the main theatre and then split again.  This time Steve and Stephanie went to the upper levels, Sarah and Sally went to the basement, and Diana stayed with Becky in the main theatre.
Steve and Stephanie went up to the third floor to investigate the projection room, and noticed that anyone could walk by the windows looking out to the theatre, and be seen as a shadow because of bright stage lights that when on stage would hinder one’s sight.  Nothing out of the ordinary happened there.  They then went to the fourth floor rehearsal room, where there was a claim that one of the actors were sitting there playing the piano, and the door behind him began to shake and the doorknob was turning back and forth.  Steve decided to recreate the scenario by playing a few songs on the piano.  While playing, a small knock was heard, which sounded like someone sitting in one of the chairs, but never repeated.  They did notice though that the room echoes and sounds from outside could be heard.  Steve left his recorder in the room while he and Stephanie went to investigate the fifth floor.  Upon entering the costume shop, Stephanie again was overwhelmed by a feeling of dread.  She was hesitant to enter the room, but soon joined Steve in investigating it.  The room was very dark, hot, and spooky, filled with racks of costumes and a few cobwebs.  An EVP session was held with a little provoking by Steve yielded no results.  Stephanie was still feeling uneasy however.  They concluded their investigation and headed back down to the main theatre.
Sarah and Sally investigated the basement, entering the prop room they caught an EVP of what sounded likes a woman greeting them.  No other results were obtained but they also felt uneasy in the Paint room.
Becky and Diana continued to hear bumps and bangs in the Theatre.  They also confirmed hearing the piano playing from Steve.  At this time Steve and Sarah chose to investigate the Balcony.  Doing a short EVP session nothing unusual happened at that time.  We then took a short break and reconvened in the main theatre where we attempted the Singapore theory once more.
Again we started up the music, but this time we all remained by the stage.  Again the bumps and bangs started from the same area they did before and seemed to follow the same pattern, only this time were a little more pronounced.  We chose to do EVP at the same time.  While we traded off asking questions a sharp bang was heard from the back of the stage where there were some wooden scenery sections.  It sounded as if something knocked on the wood.  Shortly after that our motion sensor was tripped.  We had figured out that none of us set it off because it was facing in a direction that you would have to be in the center of the stage to set it off.  Steve then reported seeing something move across the table that was on the stage right side.  He recalls the event as this… “I was looking at the Center of the Stage, when I saw some shadow movement out of the corner of my eye.  I focused my attention on the table, as this is where I thought the shadow to be coming from.  I saw something orange shift slightly, then slide about a foot across the table.
I immediately pointed my flashlight at the table when Diana also confirmed that she saw the same thing.  I went up to investigate what it was that moved and discovered it was an orange extension cord adapter.  I was slack jawed at the experience, questioning myself as to whether I saw what I saw.  All I can say is Wow!”  At that moment Diana noticed that the motion sensor had been moved from its original position and we could not explain this as she was the one who set it there and knew the way it was facing originally.  We then set up the night vision DVR on the table where the adapter had moved; this time positioning a string around it.  It never moved again.  Stephanie was asking questions as to the name of the spirit moving about the stage.  She just started blurting out random names when an EVP was caught of a male voice responding to her.  We concluded our investigation at this point and began shutting down.  Stephanie noticed her flashlight was missing.  One of the claims of activity was things came up missing and found in strange spots.  We scoured the theatre looking for it; she found it in the bathroom.  She remembered being in there and concluded that she left it in there and that it was not moved by unseen forces.  Shortly before leaving Sally heard a loud bang coming from the door that led to the basement.  She recreated it by opening the door and letting it close.  No one recalled opening that door at that time.


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Upon review of our evidence and personal experiences; several Evp’s were caught.  The moving of the adapter and the motion sensor could not be explained.  The knocks and bangs could be explained as normal building or settling noises, but is still being questioned as they seemed to increase in frequency and intensity when Singapore theory was being conducted.  We believe that there is paranormal activity still going on in the theatre. We believe there to be the presence of possibly two intelligent spirits, one on or near the stage that seems to wander from the back of the theatre and through the basement and another intelligent presence on the fifth floor.  The claim of the woman being pushed down the stairs can be debunked, as the wall on the stairwell leans out creating a funhouse effect.  We are unsure as to whether the spirit on the fifth floor dislikes women, but seems to not want to be bothered.  One other EVP was caught on Stephanie’s recorder that was left there to sit alone.  It sounds as if something was sliding across the wood floor; perhaps the bench.  We were all pleased with the results and the experience of investigating this historic theatre and hope to return soon as we feel it is needed.


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