NIGHT AT THE GRAND OPERA HOUSE
NEXT AVAILABLE DATE: OCTOBER 20, 2018
7:00 PM - 1:00 AM
$50 PER PERSON
Join American Hauntings for an eerie ghost hunt 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 Grand Opera House in Dubuque was built in 1889 and 1890 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 costumes.
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.
In 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! Join American Hauntings for this eerie ghost hunt and find out for yourself if the stories are true!