Photo by Kaycee Anderson
Dim lights, empty stage when we arrived
Three beeps sounded loudly in the darkness. They were the answer to our question -- "Is there anyone here tonight? If so, please walk through the green light three times to let us know you’re there.”
The beeps sounded when a green laser light beam was interrupted. The light stretched across the front of the stage and in front of the theater seats, said Dennis McConnell, a member of the investigative team.
That was the beginning of an interesting Saturday night downtown inside the old Fox Theater.
Members from the Tri-city Research and Investigation of the Paranormal team – founder Nate Raterman, Scott Carlson, Dennis McConnell and wife Evelyn -- set up equipment to again see if they could see any signs of paranormal activity at the 84-year-old theater.
It was the third investigation of the theater since January 2012.
The night started at 7 p.m. with a tour of the building by Carlson, the manager of the community playhouse. We looked behind the stage, in dressing rooms, the prop room and the basement. The TRIP team has been there before, and as we toured each area, Raterman would tell us if they had detected any activity in that area previously.
After the tour was over, the fun began.
All the lights were shut off except the overhead light inside the light booth up at the top of the balcony. The boiler was turned off to eliminate the noise of the steam radiators.
The team set up the laser light beams on the main floor in front of the seats and also along the walkway on the balcony to detect any movement -- beeping if anyone or anything walked through them.
Team members took out flashlights, along with full-color-spectrum cameras, digital laser lights and shadow detectors. I carried a Melmeter that detected and measured electricity as well as the nearby temperature.
Katie, an intense ghost hunter from Kearney, and her friend Becky of North Platte, both had ghost radar apps on their smart phones that claim to detect activity. If sounds were detected and the software could make out a word, the word would flash on the screen above the radar. Several times through the evening, the detectors would pick up something and words would pop up on their screens.
Once we were set up, we all took seats in front of the stage.
Dennis asked the first question to see if anyone was there, asking ghosts to respond by walking through the laser beam three times. After a moment of silence, we all heard three distinct beeps.
Dennis got more specific. If a male, he asked the spectre to walk through the beam twice and if a female, three times. One of those questions got a response, but not the other. Several questions were asked, some with responses, others with nothing.
Around 9 p.m. things were quiet until someone noticed a strange pattern of lights on the ceiling, shaped sort of like a kidney bean. It grew into a much larger circular shape with straight lines inside of it. And, a diamond pattern also emerged alongside, shaped like a kite with tails of light trailing from it. The circular light pattern also had a "tail" that spread from it across the ceiling.
We suspected it was a reflection of some kind emanating from a normal object in the theater. Raterman and Carlson went up to the theater’s light booth to move things, to see if the light patterns moved accordingly, but the patterns didn't move. Nothing was found to explain the patterns.
Several of us took pictures, but the patterns didn't show up in any of our photos or videos.
We all went up to the balcony to get a new perspective. By the time we got there, the patterns were gone from the ceiling, but a strange new light showed up, this time low on the right wall, to the side of first row of seats. We watched the light grow larger, move up the wall a little, then slowly fade.
Several times from the balcony, different people would sense things – sometimes a word, a touch on an arm, a shadow or a sound on the stage.
We moved downstairs where a laser grid was set up that broadcast green lights over the stage. This was set up to show any movement on the stage.
We sat in the main seats, asking many questions aloud and getting no responses.
We were thinking of calling it a night.
Finally, someone yelled out "We're getting ready to go and are tired of you not responding and are asking one last time for a sign that you're there."
Becky added, "And make it loud."
Suddenly, we heard a door slam off to our right.
We were surprised and excited to have a response right after we asked for one.
Raterman and Carlson went to investigate. The sound came from the right side of the stage as we faced it, through curtains that lead to the prop room. The large, metal doors to the prop room had been locked and shut all night. They pointed their flashlights at the doors. They were closed. So, Carlson opened them and slammed them shut, to see if the sound was the same.
We agreed that it was.
After that, we noticed that the laser lights were slowly dimming. In a few minutes they faded out. This had happened earlier in the evening. Batteries that powered the lights normally stay charged all evening, but in this case ran out of energy prematurely, Raterman said. He blamed it on ghostly activity.
McConnell once knocked out a short rat-ta-tatt and asked if a ghost would finish it with two knocks. Before long, Carlson, Raterman and I heard two quiet knocks. It sound like someone had knocked on the back of a theater seat.
That was the last of any ghostly activity for the evening. We decided that we had bothered the ghosts enough, and left about 2:30 a.m.
The team is talking about returning for another visit in May. Tickets are sold for these tours. The money benefits the efforts of the TRIP team.
This report was first published in the Bulletin's March 20 print edition.