Grand Opera House Dubuque, Iowa Investigation #2

The Grand Opera House
April 16th, 2010 Investigation
• Theater Manager: Paul Hemmer
• Address: 135 W 8th Street, Dubuque, Iowa 52001
• Telephone:       Business Office (563) 588-4356      Fax (563) 588-3497      Box Office (563) 588-1305

History (Copied from
Written and researched by Paul Hemmer (2006)
Dubuque’s historic Grand Opera House is the oldest and most “grand” of more than 16 legitimate theaters which served the community prior to 1900. Theater historians say between 1839 and 1890 Dubuque saw more “big” shows than any other city of comparable size in the United States. Dubuque was on “the biggest circuit” that brought the most famous names in 19th century show business, including the greatest American and European stars.
On August 14, 1890 the opening night audience thrilled to a professional touring company production of Bizet’s “Carmen” with a cast of 65 plus full orchestra. For more than 3 decades tri-state audiences thrilled to shows starring many of the most famous in theater including Al Jolson, George M. Cohan, Ethel Barrymore, Lillian Russell, Sarah Bernhardt and a young Henry Fonda.
National touring companies brought the best of the era to the Grand including a legendary production of “Ben Hur” that featured live horses and chariots on a treadmill. A sandstorm was staged for “The Garden of Allah”. The Boston Opera Company came for a week and produced a different opera every night. Legendary pianist Ignace Paderewski thrilled audiences and John Phillip Sousa’s US Marine Band was a major hit.
Touring minstrel shows were always popular, but newspaper reviews and playbills of the day reveal a wide variety of attractions including the legendary “Cherry Sisters” (Effie, Addie and Essie) a notorious trio billed as “The World’s Worst Act”. Their appearance in Mid-May of 1893 filled the theater with mostly male patrons who came to boo, hiss and throw things at the performers. Although theater management placed 7 security officers throughout the auditorium things got out of control when a wash boiler was passed into the balcony from the alley and then hurled onto the stage. Present day audiences who don’t like a performance are considerably more polite. In the early 1900’s the building next to the Grand on the east side (toward Iowa St) was home to The Grand Opera House Cafe and Grille.
During this era, the auditorium included a 2nd balcony and four large theater boxes that created a seating capacity of 1,100.
The Grand installed a “fly-in” screen in 1915 and began showing silent films with piano or small orchestral accompaniment. During the next 13 years movie revenue soared and live theater receipts diminished. When “Ladies of the Jury” closed March 14, 1928 the first era of live theater was over. From opening night to 1928 The Grand hosted more than 2,600 live performances.
In 1930 the theater was “stripped to the frame” and rebuilt as a movie house. The 2nd balcony and four glamorous box seats were removed leaving just 681 of the original 1,100 seats. The orchestra pit was covered over and the semi-circular stage front flattened. The “fly space” for sets above the stage was shut off. A massive air ventilation system filled the rehearsal rooms below the stage. Two large fireproof projection rooms replaced the 2nd floor dressing rooms and hall area that had served the upper balcony. A screen and sound equipment were installed, The Grand Opera House became The Grand Theater and a new era had begun. After 1930 theatrics of another kind continued, however, as live wrestling matches were also presented on stage.
For the next 50 years Dubuque enjoyed the best of Hollywood from the same stage where the greats of live theater once performed. Although popcorn is considered a staple of movie theater “food”, it wasn’t sold at The Grand until 1947 when a new concession stand was added to the lobby.
In 2001 The Grand was named to the National Register of Historic Places. Its architectural style is Richardsonian Romanesque which was becoming stylish at the end of the 18th century. The style is named for Henry Hobson Richardson, whose masterpiece is Trinity Church, Copley Square, Boston, Massachusetts. The Grand original architect was Willoughby J. Edbrooke, who supervised design of the U.S. Treasury as well as the old US Post Office in Washington, D.C. and the original Ellis Island Buildings. The facade consists of St. Louis brick facing with Bayfield red sandstone trim. Other Dubuque buildings imitating the style include the nearby Security Building at 8th & Main, Stout House at 11th & Locust, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church at 12th & Main, Mt. Carmel Motherhouse overlooking the Mississippi on South Grandview, and The Dubuque Brewing and Malting Bldg. at 30th & Jackson.
As 21st century audiences relax and enjoy productions in this beautifully renovated theater, the heritage and traditions of past generations of actors, musicians, choreographers, costumers, stage hands, set designers and managers will live on.

Mississippi Valley Paranormal conducted their first investigation of the Grand Opera house originally in 2009 and wished to return for a second investigation due the activity found at the time.
The following Members attended this  investigation :
Becky Conner
Bob Brading
Stephanie Adams
Paul Doyle
Bryce Carlson
Steve Danielsen
Jordan Johnson
Chris Fleshood
We had several guest investigators accompanied by regular members
Marlana Doyle
Terry Enright
Andrea Calkins
Amanda LeVan
Krista Fleshood
All members met at the Grand Opera House at approximately 6:00PM and we were greeted by Keith from the Grand Opera House who showed us the facility and then left the building leaving the team alone in the building.
The team was equipped with a assortment of Digital voice recorders, cameras (Digital, Film, Infrared, video, still) Various cell and EMF meters, a Thermal Imaging Camera without image recording (On loan from Sandry Fire Supply)
The Grand Opera House is currently being fitted with an elevator and each floor had construction debris and dust, the majority of the floors had plastic covering to protect the carpets
The building was laid out as follows:
Basement dressing rooms and prop storage
Main Floor containing the stage and auditorium seating
Balcony area with office space
Projector and rehearsal floor (being used as general contractor area)
Rehearsal floor
Attic Storage area (Storage of wardrobe)
Due to the number of Guest Investigators present a mini workshop was conducted by Steve in the main seating area as others in the team discussed equipment setup and placement.
The investigation started with all members present in the main seating area and balcony as the lights were turned off and music from the opera Carmen was played in hopes that music would trigger responses.
After this first session the team members were separated into 2 teams of 6 people and assigned to different floors in attempt to reduce cross noise contamination and switched out on a rotating basis
The remainder of this document references personal experiences and evidence captured by individual team members
My personal experiences include, hearing a loud bang when questioning in
the basement later found to be what we thought was a toilet stall door.
Hearing a loud bang on the wall and feeling the counter get pushed into my
back when in the sewing room in the basement.  Having my flashlight pulled
from my back pocket when in the basement hallway, losing battery on both my
video camera and illuminator light while asking for sign of presence in the
basement hallway.  The basement seemed very active that night.

In the basement, I heard what sounded like a woman’s voice make a brief
yelling sound with my own ears. I heard what to me sounded like a toilet
flushing on the floor above me followed by a loud slamming noise which
sounded like a door.  No one was upstairs to do this and no one else could
have done it in the basement. After testing the theory out from one of the
bathrooms in the basement, it sounded the same. On the fifth floor, while
standing in the same spot as Jordan had earlier, I felt my legs being
pushed when asked and only when specifically asked. It is a like a weight
forcing your legs forward.

I saw what looked like a reddish light on the wall in one basement room.
Outside we heard a woman’s voice. I heard a woman scream a few times, at
least 3. I thought the air got misty or something when we were on the
balcony and it got cold.
My experiences were similar to Stephanie’s, The door slamming while we were
in the basement, I was also touched at the same time while Steve was
experiencing battery drains on his camera. I was  pushed in the
attic after provoking the supposed female spirit, this only occurring when asked
and felt like my center of gravity was shifted, this happened three times on


In the theatre, I didn’t experience anything. In the basement prop room, we all heard the sound of a toilet flushing
and the slam of a stall door. We were able to recreate it; however the
other teams swear that no one used the restroom. In the dressing room
area, we heard a squeaking noise that couldn’t be explained.

Later on in the basement after team switched, I was walking by the
sewing room door and heard something shuffle behind it, scaring the crap
out of me. Steve, Jordan and myself  then entered the room and were
sitting when something hit the wall with enough force to shake the table
that Steve was leaning on. We were unable to recreate it, as the room on
the other side was the prop room and couldn’t get back far enough to
recreate it.

In the attic, I noticed that Bob’s camera kept going out of focus as it
filmed towards the end of the room. When I went down there with Jordan’s
sister, we both saw a small orb of light go from one end of the ceiling
by the stairs towards us and disappear.
I went upstairs with Bob as the training session was being conducted and as
I took pictures my camera went dead in the attic area …no bleed down or
warning, it just shut off (It had a set of fresh batteries before the night
started) . I have owned this camera for several years and have never had
that happened before and it didn’t happen again when more batteries were
placed in it and lasted the remainder of the night.

When we started off my Daughter and I were on the stage near the right wing
with the Thermal Imaging, I kept getting a cold feeling on and off but I am
not sure if it was a ventilation unit cycling or not.
On several occasions I kept seeing something in my peripheral vision near
the door leading to the basement again Right Wing but was never able to see
it clearly.
Heard creaking above us in the staging area on a couple of occasions but
again easily explained away with ropes holding weight settling in there

One thing I could not explain was in the back of the theatre (West end
near the electrical switch and sponsor board)) entrance doorways  I
definitely saw a human shape silhouette in the thermal imaging framed in
the door way but walked out and I never saw it again in the other doorways
or on the stairs. I called out asking if anyone was in that area but a head
count I did with the thermal showed everyone where they had been both
upstairs in the balcony and spread out through the lower bowl. The shape
moved so quickly I couldn’t get a temperature reading on it but it was
clearly defined by a lower temperature color.

We then went to the office area where we set up a control experiment with a
paperclip on paper with a inked outline. I snapped pictures of the clip
before the session and after the session and did not detect any movement.
As we were in the office many of us did hear a noise outside the doorway
that sounded like a step on the plastic covered carpet but did not see
anyone in that area.

In the upper balcony I saw nothing unusual but my daughter told me that she
saw something in the seating below us that looked like a slight shadow
change but did not repeat.

A trip to the basement next and I did not experience anything unusual at
that time.

As we took a break in the box office lobby I went downstairs to use the
men’s rest room and I was alone when I entered the bathroom I walked in to a
lit room with the furthest most urinal near the stall flushing as I
entered. The water ran for about 30 seconds and shut off normally I
played around with the automatic flushing valve ( Proximity switch
actuated) and could not find anything unusual….I was a bit spooked during
this and didn’t feel that way again for the rest of the evening.

I didn’t have any experiences as we investigated the upper floors

In the attic my daughter was sitting on the floor near the middle of the
room in the main aisle…as Jordan and Stephanie
were provoking and experiencing the loss of balance at the end of the
building I saw my daughter in the thermal reaching behind her and pulling
at her shirt she then told me that she felt like something was poking her
and she thought her shirt was snagged on something but there was nothing
close to her back from my viewpoint.




I’m helping


Basement – Squeak

Basement – Whisper





unexplained squeak in attic This audio was captured by Bob when the camera was left on the 5th floor. Listen for the unexplained squeaking noise.

Private Home Investigation Illinois City, Illinois

Mississippi Valley Paranormal was contacted by Jim, the homeowner of a home in Illinois City, regarding activity in his home.
The following are some of the claims of activity:
This place has been haunted for a long time there were incidents during my grandparents time but the recent events have continued on for the last 25 years.  The serious haunting began with night visits to the bedrooms with heavy breathing and the room turning so cold you would have thought you could see your breath, that progressed to the bed being pushed down and waking you from a sound sleep, then to being shoved or poked.  This went on for some time then it finally slowed to today only an occasional event maybe every 6 months. We have a dog that is occasionally bothered and will jump up and bark at it or sometimes you can see her looking as if she sees something.  Drawers have been pulled open in front of a room full of people, pictures slammed down, lights being turned on or off, toilets flushing, clothes dryer being turned on.
The most current events are as follows you will hear conversations as if you can almost understand them but not quite, keys missing for 2 months then turning up in the middle of the living room floor.  This week a pile of change on the counter was there at 4 AM but missing at 8 AM with no one in the house.  The serious events with in the last few months have happened in the garage with myself and brother in the garage about to close it up after a projec. We heard a loud meow from the attic and thought it was a cat that had gotten in I went up to shoo it out and was calling it.  The noise got really loud came up to me then went past to the other end of the attic. There was no cat up there I told my brother and came down.  After I got down a popcorn tin was thrown from the attic and hit me, I threw it back and told it this is my garage.  This last month my brother went to the garage when he turned his back to leave he heard a noise, turned and the drawers on the big tool box were open he went and closed them before he got to the door they were opened
again.  He caught a glimpse of an old man walking past the door then
disappeared. My sister saw someone standing behind her as she looked at her reflection in the window.  She moved to see if it was a fluke but only her reflection moved when she looked behind her no one was there.

A team consisting of Becky, Bryce, Steve, Jordan, Paul, and Bob started the investigation with Bob and Steve setting up video equipment. A voice recorder was set in the basement next to some Native American artifacts. We then conducted an EVP session in the dining room/ kitchen area. During that time, we all experienced seeing the lazer light beam going out twice, with no explanation for it and no reoccurence of it at any other time.

The members split up with Jordan and Becky staying in the house, Bryce and Steve in the garage, and Bob and Paul in the wooded area. During the night, the members switched teams and did a thorough investigation of the home and grounds. All members experienced unexplained noises.

Becky and Bryce both reported hearing conversations through their headphones, but nothing was caught on any dvr. When Becky was sitting in the recliner, in the living room, it felt like something pushed on the back of the recliner. She also reported smelling the scent of flowers while sitting at the dining room table. Later during the night, Bob reported a floral scent, as well, and was not aware of Beckys earlier report of it.  Bryce reported that in the Garage he heard the sound of something hollow being hit (a storage drum possibly), movement of the attic ladder, and 2 meows from a cat that was unseen and not captured on audio. In the woods he heard the sound of a branch breaking, but this could have been an animal.

The team concluded the investigation after 3 hours.

The following unexplained audio was captured:

deep voice cleaned

help me



thump garage

unknown voice

very faint whisper garage


whisper garage




DVR set next to Native American artifacts

View of the basement with mist
Same view of the basement without the mist.

Lions Club Muscatine Presentation

Team members Becky Conner, Steve Danielsen, and Bob Brading did a fantastic job representing the group at a presentation for the Muscatine Iowa Lions Club on April 15, 2010. Becky was contacted by George, a homeowner in Muscatine that MVP has investigated for 4 times in the past. He is a member of the Lions Club and wanted MVP to do a presentation for his group.

The presentation started with Becky making introductions and giving a brief history of MVP. Next Steve demonstrated some of the equipment that we use in our investigations to try to collect scientific evidence of the paranormal. Bob had created a 3 page handout that consisted of a flyer on the front page that had our website, youtube address, and contact information, and a multiple choice quiz of pararnormal terms on the second and third pages. Bob made a cd of 19 of our best EVPs from various investigations and Steve played that while Becky explained where each was from and what we believed was being said or heard. The presentation ended with a question and answer period and we had good audience participation for that.

We enjoyed ourselves and believe that the audience obtained a better understanding of our group and the paranormal in general.

March 2010 Investigation Private Home Davenport, Iowa

In March 2010, Mississippi Valley conducted two investigations at the home of Kelly in Davenport. Kelly had contacted us for validation for a presence she felt was in the home.  Kelly thought of this woman as Helen and she was believed to be a past owner of the home. Kelly experienced lights, radio, and tv going off and on, and at one time felt she had been grabbed around the ankle, while walking up the stairs. She told of painting at the house and as she went to turn off the light in the entry, the extension pole crashed to the floor in the kitchen.  She also reported experiencing a really heavy  feeling.  Like that feeling that someone is watching you, but really heavy.
MVP conducted the first investigation with members Becky, Stephanie, Steve, Bob, Bryce, Sally, and Paul being present.  Because of possible contamination of evidence, a second investigation was scheduled for the following week. This investigation consisted of Becky, Bob, Steve, and Diana.

Personal Experiences from both investigations

Becky- In the right bedroom, we all heard a very loud noise after I asked for anything there to go closer to the emf to make it go off. I thought I saw a shadow out of the corner of my eye, out in the hallway. Steve, Stephanie, and I all heard an unexplained noise out in the hallway.   Stephanie and I both saw a very bright light flash on the lower part of the bedroom wall, right above the mopboard. I thought I saw a dark shadow pass in front of Steve. It seemed to block him out for a second, to the point where I could not see his light colored hat.

Bob- The only experience I had was seeing what looked like something going past the door frame at the top of the stairs on the second floor, I’m still not sure what it was, like the edge of something medium to light/brown only a few inches of it as it went past the door frame,I stopped at the top of the stairs and called out to see if anyone was upstairs and there wasn’t….?

Stephanie- I did see the small bright orb of light go across the wall once in the main bedroom upstairs collaborating Becky and Steve’s claims.

Steve- I did see the little balls of light in the main bedroom, and had something pulling my hair in the basement.  The hair pulling has yet to be determined being the fact there were several cobwebs hanging from the ceiling.

Steve- 2nd investigation: We were in the middle of a direct K2 conversation with something that was there in the house, when suddenly I lost all control.  I felt a cold sensation ride up my back, then out of nowhere I felt an overwhelming sadness that overtook me.  When asked what was wrong I abruptly answered “I don’t know.”  It was as if something took over my body and my emotions for what seemed to me like minutes, in reality it was like 5 seconds.  I had an experience similar to what a psychic medium would have.  I cannot explain it much more than this.  All I know is I will never forget the experience as long as I live.

Diana-  As for personal experiences the only thing I can say that I witnessed was the direct K2 conversation that we had going on. Which was awesome and I really do believe that Kelly has something there…….. I finally got through audio this weekend and I did have something weird happen, even though I didn’t catch anything tangible on my audio, I noticed when I went to listen to it, the last half or at least the last 1/4 of it didn’t record anything at all…….even though it says it recorded 3 hours of audio I bet there was only about 2 hours total that I listened to and it showed a full battery and my DVR isn’t full by any means it should have had plenty of room on it. But the last hour I left it up in the bathroom by itself while Steve and bob went up to the attic and Becky, me and Kelly went downstairs. Then Steve and Bob came back down to try to recreate the K2 session from earlier and that whole thing should have been on my audio and it wasn’t. Another thing I thought was weird is the fact I remember specifically when I went up there to get it while we were packing it up I remember seeing the red light on it and turning it off… so why didn’t I get anything?



diana light this is the audio of Diana seeing the pinpoints of light that Bob captured on film.




thump and voice


female laughing kelly’s house

voice 2 kelly’s home

voice 3 kelly’s house

female voice calling out


*Photos and video do not claim to be proof of the paranormal

Green and Blue pinpoints of light we were seeing

Green light enhanced

Blue light enhanced

Green and Blue lights circled


white orb

Bellevue Indian Mounds

On a spur of the moment I called Bob up and asked if he wanted to take a small road trip to Bellevue and take a visit to the Indian Mounds at the state park. Needless to say I was picking him up about a half hour later and we were heading north and arrived at the bluff top park just before sunset.

We did a session of EVP and lots of pics as we walked along the path next to the mounds and tried to spark a reaction to our visit there. We stayed for just over a hour and it was good and dark with a bit of fog rolling in when we packed up and left back to Clinton.

I didn’t find anything on my camera or Voice Recorder but I do know that Bob captured what appeared to be a orb picture in a place that wasn’t condusive to reflections i.e..dark woods with nothing reflective to be seen by either of us. Ill let Bob show and discuss what he found when he gets a chance to get it posted.