NEW CASTLE —
Not all of the spirited performances at the New Castle Playhouse may come from actors.
Some may actually be spirits.
At least, that’s what the East Hills Paranormal team from Allegheny County hoped to find out this week when they searched the playhouse for signs of ghostly activity.
“We look for orbs, we look for mist in pictures,” team member Fred Borerman explained. “We look for smells, shadows; anything out of the ordinary.”
The crew uses cameras, EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recorders, heat sensor guns to search for sudden changes in temperature and a voltage meter to pick up energy given off by a spirit.
The team chose to investigate the playhouse after hearing a few of the stories surrounding the building’s possibly haunted heritage.
Vaughn Hudspath, a member of the playhouse board of directors, has had his share of strange experiences while serving as wardrobe master. While on the third floor, he has noticed extreme temperature changes and found costumes off the rack, falling with no cause.
The strangest thing he recalls is a sign on a spotlight window, of which no one knows the origins.
“It says, ‘Keep this closed’. (It’s rumored that) if you open it, you’ll see something walk across the stage.”
Other groups have investigated the playhouse before East Hills Paranormal, and come up with what they believe is proof of ghostly inhabitants.
Peggy Hanna, a volunteer at the playhouse, said that a previous group made an interesting discovery on the second floor of the playhouse, which used to be an apartment.
“The one group did get a recording on the second floor ... they picked up this EVP of a woman saying ‘I have a knife.’ ”
Rumors of a haunting have surrounded the New Castle Playhouse for several years. On Tuesday, East Hills Paranormal Team investigated the theater for possible ghost activity. This video shows the team’s exploration of the playhouse and features Peggy Hanna, a playhouse volunteer, sharing stories of previous ghostly encounters.
Another group brought a professional medium who sensed a presence with the name John, the name of the former owner of the playhouse. Peggy says many playhouse volunteers think he is the ghost who haunts the third floor.
Various rumors provide ideas for other possible haunts. It has been said that while building the playhouse, a worker fell to his death. Others say that a former tenant of the apartment met his end on the second floor. However, no proof exists for either of these stories.
Whatever the cause, there is no doubt that something strange happens when the show lights go down.
Hudspath says, “There have been personal instances where the lights will flicker when I’m up there (on the third floor). Sometimes when I drive by the theater, I’ll see lights on, and I know no one is there.”
The most recent encounter Hanna recalls occurred during the run of “Grease” last week.
“The director for that show had come in to refocus the lights, because they tend to shift,” she said. “He had a set out on the one scene that he had to work on, and it had a small, cut-down bed with a bedspread over it that hung down to the floor.
“He went up and did his lights in the tech booth. (After) he turned the light board off, and came down and was walking toward the stage, the overhang of the bedspread was up on the bed.”
East Hills Paranormal was hopeful that these stories may have some basis in the truth. Before beginning the search, team member Josh Shelton said they hoped to find, “the same proof as everybody else.”
Two days after the investigation, the team shared its preliminary results. The ghost hunters say they heard unexplained footsteps from overhead, experienced mysterious shifts in temperature and saw what appeared to be apparitions drifting through the theater.
Photos taken during the night caught orbs, the ghost hunters said, adding that these are the images of a spirit passing through before or after manifestation.
Another test the team performed found strong magnetic readings in only a few seats in the theater, most of which are made from fabric, plastic, and wood. This high magnetic level suggests to the team that they weren’t the only ones wandering the playhouse late at night.
Classic Clip: New Castle News reporter Patrick E. Litowitz investigates tales of the paranormal at the New Castle Playhouse in 2006. Beware of the shocking ending.