Charlotte’s decrepit Carolina Theatre on North Tryon Street has long been the city’s best known haunted building, but the future of its ghosts is unclear.
The theater, a landmark that’s been dormant for almost 40 years, is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar restoration for use as a civic meeting place.
Will the site’s various ghosts — three are said to haunt the 90-year-old building — endure the transformation?
Experts in the matter are tough to find, but the web site HouseLogic.com quotes ghost hunters as saying renovation can actually worsen a haunting.
“Sometimes, homeowners don’t know their houses are haunted until a remodel disturbs the spirit world,” the site states.
The Carolina Theatre has long been a paradise for ghosts, with decades of neglect enhancing the building’s “creep factor,” according to tour guides. It’s cold, musty and deadly quiet.
And, there’s the lighting mystery.
“It doesn't matter how much light you have, there's always a darkness there, a blackness, like when you turn on your flashlight in the woods at night, and the light scatters,” a tour guide told the Observer during a 2008 visit.
It’s also been said that, if you snap your fingers in the theater, you’ll hear someone snap their fingers back at you.
The 36,000-square-foot historic theater was once a thriving vaudeville theater and silent movie palace that hosted acts such as Bob Hope, Katherine Hepburn and Elvis Presley. Foundation for the Carolina is now working to restore the building to its original grandeur to create a civic engagement space.
Inside the building, it’s like a maze of stairs, backstage passageways and overlooks. The original facade of the building was removed and hidden in the building, adding to the mysteries piled inside.
Former staff members dubbed one of the resident ghost Fred, a website called HauntedRooms.Com states.
“Although he is mostly harmless, Fred is known to cause a spot of trouble around the theater, including turning lights on and off and showing himself as a pale white apparition on the balcony,” according to the site.
It became a tradition for staff and performers to bid Fred good night as they left the theater at night, out of respect, HauntedRooms states.
“A former caretaker of the theater recounted incidents where he once saw a man standing on the stage, even though he was in the building by himself,” according to the website TripSavvy.com. “Another time (when he was again by himself), he heard something up in the balcony, and looked up to see a man standing in the front of balcony staring down at him.”
Some of the site’s ghostly antics were covered in a 2003 book by Stephanie Burt Williams called “Ghost Stories of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County.” Freeman wrote that the theater’s lights would switch on and off inexplicably, and a solid white figure had been seen in the balcony.
The back stories of the theater’s ghosts remain a mystery, including whether they stay in the building.