Night at the Grand Opera
Dubuque, Iowa -- October 19, 2013
at the Grand Opera House
135 W. 8th Street - Dubuque, Iowa
October 19, 2013 -- 8:00 PM to 2:00 AM
The Grand Opera House in Dubuque was built in 1889 and 1890 and
established by William Lester Bradley, Sr. and five other
people, as one of several theaters in the city. It cost nearly
$65,000 to build and at the time of its construction was the
largest theater in the region with a massive stage and seating
for over 1,100 people. It has been expanded a few times over the
years because initially, the opera house had to be connected by
a tunnel to a house next door so that actors could change their
Opening night was originally set for August 15, 1890, until it
was realized that this was a Church Holy Day (Assumption of the
Blessed Virgin Mary) and it was rescheduled to August 14. About
800 people paid $5 each (a grand sum at the time) to see the
Hess Opera Company production of Carmen. Over the next 40 years
there were over 2,600 live productions shown at the Grand. Henry
Fonda, Ethel Barrymore, George Cohan, Sarah Bernhard,
and Lillian Russell were among the more famous people to have
performed at the Grand. One of the most elaborate productions
was that of Ben-Hur, which was complete with horses and
chariots on stage.
1915, movies were shown at the Grand for the first time,
signaling the beginning of the end of the theater's golden era
of live production. In 1928, the Grand had its last live
performance for many years when a production of the Merry
Wives of Windsor was performed at the Grand. The Grand was
then renovated in 1930 into a movie theater. The second balcony
and box seats were removed and the orchestra pit was covered
over. The semi circular stage was straightened. A big screen and
new projector was added to the theater. When the Grand was
converted into a movie theater, most of the movie theaters were
located in downtown Dubuque. By 1972, it was the only surviving
downtown movie theater when it was sold to Richard Davis of Des
Moines. In 1976 Davis sold the theater to the Dubinsky Brothers.
The Grand continued to show movies for several more years before
-- like so many other old theaters -- it closed its doors,
unable to complete with the multiplexes.
Soon, the theater was empty. The audiences were gone and all
that remained was dust, fading memories -- and some say, ghosts.
In 1986, the theater was brought back to life by the Barn
Community Theater company, who purchased and began restoring
vacant building. They have producing live shows here ever since
and a lot of time and energy has gone into updating and
renovating the old building -- which is why some believe the
spirits are so active in this place.
There have been stories of ghosts in the theater since the
1930s, when cleaning women actually called the local police to
investigate strange voices that were heard on the stage. Those
same voices have been repeatedly heard since the theater
re-opened in 1986. Unusual presences have been felt; footsteps
have been reported; lights turn on and off by themselves; spot
lights have moved about the stage without an operator and even
apparitions have been seen. On one occasion, staff members saw
two women seated in the audience during a closed rehearsal --
only to see them vanish before their eyes.
An old adage states that every good theater has a ghost, but the
Grand Opera House seems to have many!
American Hauntings Guide Loren Hamilton for an eerie
at one of Iowa's most haunted spots -- Dubuque's Grand Opera House. Spend the night looking
for the ghosts of this historic -- and very haunted -- theater with a limited number of ghost
hunters during a private ghost hunt. Find out
if the place is really as haunted as so many people claim and
perhaps come face to face with one of the former patrons of the
opera house! The evening will include a historic tour of the
theater, followed by a ghost hunt at a place that has been
called one of the most haunted in the state. Grand Opera
House haunting experience begins at 8:00 p.m. on
continues until 2:00 a.m. -- or until the last guests go
screaming from the theater!
$50 per Person for this PRIVATE American Hauntings Event!