In a city full of landmarks and historical buildings, the Renaissance Theatre stands out. In its first life, it was The Ohio. In addition to movies on the screen, stars appeared on the stage. During the late ‘20s and into the ‘50’s, stars such as Fanny Brice and Will Rogers performed. The theater fell in to decline after TV became available. But in the 1980’s, the renovation began. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the theater is a striking place, done in the Grand Baroque style. It hosts many events throughout the years, including concerts, musicals and festivals. It also is the home, reportedly, of spirits. OPI investigated and found enough evidence to be convinced.
The old lobby is now below street level. We began there. A very loud electric fan interfered with our investigation. With our spirit box, we began our EVP session. A voice sounding like a woman asked, “You don’t remember me?” Perhaps it was one of the performers. When we asked if there were people here who once worked for the theater, the answer was, “We did!” We introduced ourselves, and received the answer, “Pleased to meet ya!” from what sounded like a woman! A male sounding voice was less friendly and asked, “What’s with the light, bitch?” as we attempted to initiate a flashlight conversation. The Mel meter read 1.0, indicating some source of electrical energy on the table in the center of the room. We did hear what seemed to be voices in the old lobby, but were unable to determine what they were saying. The temperature on the SB 11 dropped several times, from a 72.0 to a 70.0. The K2 meter flickered several times in response to questions. We decided to leave and return after the fan was turned off.
In front of the stage, again using the SB 11, we had several EVPs. “Get ‘em outa here!” was one. A female voice asked, “What are you doing here, Rick?” We don’t know who Rick is. Mr. Edward Rackner was a manager there in the early 1920s. He was shot in a robbery and the killer was never found. We asked if anyone knew Mr. Rackner. “Just a minute now. What’s the man’s name again?” asked a woman’s voice. This was definitely a direct response to us! We played some show tunes on my cell phone as a trigger, hoping to start more activity. “Don’t you want a duo?” asked a voice. The Mel meter again rose to a 1.0.
We returned to the old lobby, now that it was quieter. Since the theater opened in the 1920s, we played some Charleston music. Raggedy Ann and the K2 meter reacted. Raggedy’s head, hand, and even middle lit up repeatedly. The K2 flicked to yellow as well. I invited whoever was there to dance with me. “We’re doin’ it! We’re draining energy!” a voice declared. “It was a beautiful dance!” declared a voice. “Do you want me to dance again?” I asked. “Sure enough!” was the reply. I asked about Big band music, and again the lights in the K2 and Raggedy Ann sparked. I wanted to know if they would like Greg to dance with me. We had the lights respond. Using the K2 and Raggedy Ann, we determined that a little girl was with us. She liked the musical “Oklahoma”, she could see us, and her name was Marie. Again, these were direct answers. This was our most active time!
The main stairway is stunning. It came from Senator John Sherman’s home. Sitting there, we asked how many spirits were in the theater. “More than 10?” A male voice retorted, “I’ll tell ya – no!” EVP’s include the phrase “shot her up” twice. A voice imitating James Cagney told me, “I’ll take you to the warden now.” It may have been someone who really liked the 1930s gangster movies having fun. We heard a noise upstairs. A voice asked, “What’s that?” just before Greg and I asked each other, “Did you hear that?”
There is allegedly lots of activity in the projection room. A spirit they call Pete seems to inhabit the space. A female voice called one of us “son of a bitch.” There were several men in the room at the time. When I asked if anyone knew Mr. Rackner, a voice replied, “He’s dead, how could I know him?” We tried to find out Pete’s real name, but were unsuccessful.
In the balcony, we kept hearing noises above. The night custodian, Jason, told us he hears them all the time! It sounded like furniture was being moved, or someone was roller skating. There is nothing above but a crawl space. As we asked the noises to be repeated, they were! When I asked for a name, I was told, “Ask your medium!” We hadn’t asked our medium anything about the theater, so we don’t know how a spirit even knew we had one. The same voice told us, “Say hello to your medium.” While I panned around the theater with the camera, a voice asked, “Can you see ‘em?”
In the new lobby, there were marquees announcing Clint Black as a coming attraction. When we asked If anyone would be here to see him, a voice told us, “Gonna meet Mr. Black!” This was definitely interactive!
Finally, in the break room, during our session, a voice disclosed, “Boo! I’m standing in front of you!” It sounded like a man. Maybe Pete followed us. We were under the stage. As we ended the session, a voice said, “Say good bye.” It was a direct response to us.
We had a very interesting experience with the theater residents. There seems to be at least one child and several men and women. The theatre is a part of Mansfield’s social history and must have been a focal point for some of those who came through its doors.