Ghosts! They’re Here….
Yes, in Rockwall!
Have you ever wondered about individuals in Rockwall County who have experienced the supernatural – hauntings and unexplained ghostly encounters? These people are your neighbors. You may stand behind them in line at a local restaurant on Friday night, or walk right past them at the Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning, or even attend church with them on Sunday. They lead otherwise normal, uneventful lives, but have been forever changed by their encounters with those from beyond.
Just off the square in downtown Rockwall there is a ghost. This spirit is reported to inhabit a former church, which now houses the Rockwall Community Playhouse (RCP). According to Darlene Singleton, Founding Member of the Board of Directors for RCP, 15-20 individuals have reported ghostly activities and sightings in the playhouse theater. The ghost is believed to be that of an American stage and screen actor, John Barrymore, who died in 1942. He is reported to be a friendly, albeit alcoholic, spirit.
After the building was purchased by RCP in 1998, one of their first productions was a wacky comedy titled “I Hate Hamlet.” During the play a séance is performed for the purpose of calling forward from beyond the spirit of the greatest performer of the role of Hamlet ever. The story is that, in spite of the fact that it was only intended to be acting and for shear entertainment purposes, the séance worked. Strange occurrences began to happen. People have reported hearing creaks, thumps and bumps. They say they can “feel his presence” and sense that he is following them around and watching them. During one production, a picture would fall from the wall at the exact same moment during each performance. It occurred with such regularity that one cast member made replacing the picture a part of her stage blocking during each performance. Many members of the cast and crew now talk to “John Barrymore,” saying things like, “I’m coming upstairs now, and I’d rather not see you.” “Please, don’t bother me.” And, “Be nice now, John.”
There is a long honored tradition among theater owners that involves leaving a light on near the stage so that the stage remains energized and is never allowed to go completely dark. That light is referred to as “the ghost light.” RCP does not feel the need to practice that tradition, because they have their own ghostly presence “lighting up” the stage.
The ghost is reported to emit light, even though it is not always visible to the naked eye. During a remodel to the theater, which lasted for 2 ½ weeks during September of 2016, the general contractor of a local construction company reported seeing it and feeling its presence. According to Chip, the contractor, one day when everyone else had gone to lunch, he heard “bumping and banging upstairs.”
Then on September 27, Chip took a break from his work to enjoy a soda and bag of M&Ms in the concession area. Reportedly, he was just standing there gazing into the darkness of the theater when he began to sense the ghostly presence. He felt a cold shiver go up his spine, and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He turned his camera on, and although he could not see anything but darkness with his naked eye, his camera caught some interesting footage. The very next day, Chip heard noises coming from the stage area. Again, he turned on the camera of his cell phone and caught what he believes to be a ghostly orb – a light not visible to the naked eye. You may watch the videos for yourself, and determine what you believe them to reveal.
Video from September 26, 2016. Difficult to tell if there is a spirit presence… what do you see?
Video from September 27, 2016. An orb, or a light reflection?
After hearing the story, I was intrigued. I put together a small group of friends, and we became “ghost hunters.” We decided to spend the night inside the theater, to see if “John Barrymore” would show himself. The group consisted of me, Cathryn Harris (an RCP Board member), and Randy Gee, our videographer. Mr. Gee set up 3 cameras. Two were in the area of the stage, positioned so that they could provide a view of both the “up” and the “down” stairways, which are reported to have a lot of activity. He also set up a 360 degree camera downstairs in the dressing area.
We arranged chairs around a small table on the stage, and sat down, leaving an empty chair for “John.” We poured goblets of wine for everyone — including “him,” of course – and invited our theater ghost to join us for a drink. During the evening I decided to recite lines from “Hamlet.” I read until it came to Hamlet’s first line, at which point I paused and waited. After a few minutes of silence, I chastised our ghost for missing his “cue.”
When it was apparent our invited guest was not going to play along we eventually abandoned that approach and cleared the stage. In another attempt, Cathryn Harris went to the sound booth, turned on the sound system and sang “Phantom of the Opera” to “John Barrymore”. Still, nothing. So, after finishing the bottle of wine ourselves, we decided to dance to “Monster Mash.” We laughed and had so much fun, in spite of the fact that the guest of honor to our little party appeared to be a “no show.”
We are intrigued by ghost sightings and experiences, and may be scheduling more “huntings at hauntings” in the near future. Until then, “happy haunting” this Halloween.
By Alice Wise