South Charlotte

Spirits may be theater's permanent cast

Abbeville Opera House

100 Court Square, Abbeville, S.C. 864-366-2157; www.theabbevilleoperahouse.com.

Abbeville is admired for its beautiful downtown, where urban preservationists seem to have made time attractively stand still.

Among the gems of the upstate town is the Abbeville Opera House, which has been restored to its 1908 luster. Live theater is staged there today, just as it was when Sarah Bernhardt and the Ziegfeld Follies graced its stage. Vaudeville, burlesque and minstrel shows were regular attractions.

"Our Town" begins its run Oct. 21.

And throughout the year, many claim, you may happen across ghostly phenomenon.

The upper balcony has a plain wooden chair (an original, perhaps) among the more plush permanent seating in the far back. It is said to be occupied by a spirit. One story holds that it's frequented by the spirit of a murdered patron. Others say it's the ghost of a young performer who became ill and died in the 1920s.

In any event, the dust-covered chair hasn't been moved in more than a decade - for fear of upsetting the ghost.

Some say they've also heard footsteps up on the catwalks or glimpsed a phantom in their peripheral vision. There have been reports of visitors experiencing sudden chills.

A psychic was brought in at one point; approaching the theater, he said he sensed people walking who were dressed as musicians. The psychic also said a couple and their two children were sitting in a box, as if watching a play.

The theater is open to visit, free of charge, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Area information: 864-366-4600; www.visitabbevillesc.com.

Target audience: Theater-goers and those who'd like to perhaps sense ghosts.

Directions: Interstate 85 South to the Spartanburg area; take I-26 South to S.C. 72; take S.C. 72 West to Abbeville.

Travel time from Charlotte: 3 hours.

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