Vogue Theatre - 918 Granville Street
Located towards the south end of Granville Mall, the Art Deco styled Vogue Theatre opened in 1941 as a movie theatre with occasional live performances. In 1988, the theatre was closed due to declining business. However, it reopened in 1991 after being fully renovated to its original splendour, plus the installation of state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. Since then, it has served predominantly as a live performance venue for musical acts.
The Vogue Theatre is home to the spirit of a dark haired and severe looking young man who has been encountered mainly in the working areas of the premises – on the stage, on the catwalks, in the projection booth and in the downstairs (i.e., basement) hallway. He has also been seen in the main audience level, close to the stage.
There are few staff members of the theatre who have not had some sort of experience with the ghost. Many have felt his presence in the narrow corridor downstairs, which they jokingly refer to as the “Haunted Highway” on account of its inherent creepiness and the presence of the ghost. From time-to-time, the spirit also makes banging noises and slams doors.
Bill Allman, who was House Manager and later General Manager of the theatre from 1994 to 1997, and who returned there for six months in 2001, had several personal experiences with the ghost. Recently, on a rainy Sunday afternoon in November, he kindly sat down with me over hot beverages to tell me his fascinating stories.
Bill's first encounter with the Vogue Theatre's resident spook was in the summer of 1994. “I was locking up the carpentry room in the basement,” he began, “and got that distinct feeling that someone was behind me. I turned around and I saw what I describe as a three dimensional shadow go by the door. So I scrambled out into the hall, and there was no one there. I was the only one around. I left the theatre relatively quickly after that. I believe I set a speed record that day!”
A month or two later, a drum kit was set up on the stage for a Beatles tribute band, “Revolver.” As Bill was coming up the stairs to the stage from the lower level, he distinctly heard a basic beat (one kick on the bass drum and one hit on the snare, repeated) being played on the drums. When he got up to the stage and turned the corner, the playing stopped. There was nobody there. He wondered for a long time afterwards whether his mind had been playing tricks on him that day. But, as he thinks about it now, he knows how loud and solid the sound of a drum kit being played is. What he heard was real. “But it wasn't the ghost of Buddy Rich,” Bill told me. “The playing was just not that good.”
Within a day or two of the drum kit incident, Bill walked out on the stage again. From there, he caught a glimpse of the same three dimensional, grey shadow form he had seen in the downstairs a few months earlier. It appeared about 7 or 8 rows back from the stage in the audience section and, as he turned to direct his full gaze on it, the shadow was gone. Unfortunately, Bill never got a good look at the ghost as some people have.
About a year later, in 1995, the Vogue Theatre played host to a show called “Unforgettable”, which was a tribute to the music of Nat King Cole. A week before the show began its run, Bill gave an informal tour of the theatre to a friend and his girlfriend (who considered herself to be psychic). This included a visit to the projection booth. A week or so later, Bill's friend confided to him that his girlfriend had seen a youngish man with dark hair and severe features sitting in one of the old chairs in the projection booth. Apparently, the man had turned his head towards them and she sensed incredible anger from him. Then he simply dissolved. Bill and his friend had not witnessed this, and Bill has not revealed this story until now out of deference to his friends.
Two or three weeks later, “Unforgettable” was well under way when one of the supporting performers, Shane McPherson, had a dramatic, first-hand sighting of the ghost. On the night of November 14, 1995, McPherson was performing on the Vogue Theatre stage, doing a “Route 66” song and dance number. Looking on from the back of the house near the sound board was Bill Allman. “Shane was in mid-song when he dropped his cane. He blew his (dance) steps and blew his lines,” Bill says. “When I went downstairs during the interval, I found Shane in his dressing room. I asked hime what had happened and he said, ‘I don't know if you're going to believe what I'm about to tell you.' ” McPherson went on to explain to Bill that, while doing his routine, he saw a man come out onto the audience floor from the fire exit near the front row at stage left. The man looked directly up a McPherson with a blank face, and then he just dissolved into thin air. Of course, it was the shock of this that caused McPherson to mess up his performance.
McPherson described the man as being young, thirty-ish, with dark hair, severe features and wearing light clothing (not the light coloured dinner jacket that has been documented elsewhere). As Shane told him this, Bill felt his blood run cold because he had just described the ghost that his friend's girlfriend had seen a few weeks earlier. “Okay, we have a presence here,” Bill said to himself.
The next day, a theatre employee named David Raun also saw the ghost. While locking the theatre up for the night, he walked to the area in front of the stage and looked up towards the projection booth, where he saw someone standing in the doorway. Although the body appeared to be in the shadows, the face was clearly of a clean shaven main with chiseled features, short dark hair and dark eyebrows. As Raun looked on the apparition dissolved, just as it had done in front of the other witnesses. Raun also reported that, while up on the catwalks above the audience area, he felt something invisible brush his right shoulder and pass by him. There was an accompanying drop in the ambient temperature and Raun shivered. He was the only person on the catwalks.
Since then, the ghost has been sighted or experienced many times. For example, in the summer of 1996, a box office worker was alone in the lobby one afternoon when she suddenly sensed a presence. When she looked around, she caught a glimpse of a shadow form climbing the stairs to the balcony level. And, in 2000, Arnold Robinson, bass singer with the vocal group, “The Nylons,” reported that, as he walked down to his dressing room, he could feel someone with him. When he went into his dressing room and closed the door, he could still feel the presence. Robinson even had the courage to say out loud to the spirit, “If you want to hang out, that's cool.”
With respects to the ghost's identity and what causes him to haunt the Vogue Theatre , a couple of psychic mediums visited the place in the early 2000s. Both sensed that someone had experienced a bad fall near the "fly gallery" (the ropes and weights that support and carry theatrical scenery) at stage left. They weren't able to say whether the accident victim was severely injured or had died. Bill Allman says that this information has not been verified, however. In fact, he and some colleagues did some research in the 1990s and were unable to find record of anyone having been severely injured or killed in the theatre.
Regardless of how or why the ghost arrived at the Vogue Theatre , Bill's personal theory is that it is of someone who used to work there. This is because he's most often encountered in areas of the theatre in which only staff members tend to frequent.
Special thanks to Bill Allman for sharing his paranormal encounters and extensive knowledge about the Vogue Theatre.