|The Little Theatre Off Broadway - Haunted?|
The theatre is home to a ghost, and a friendly one at that.
Longtime theatre volunteer Joy Schmitt said she makes a habit of greeting the resident spirit upon entering the building each day.
“I never have any trouble with Ethel,” Schmitt said.
The story around the theatre is that the theatre’s ghost is the spirit of Ethel King, a young woman who played piano accompaniment to silent pictures when the building was known as The Kingdom Theatre in the 1920s.
King was partially blind, and her mother instructed her to either speed up or slow down her playing according to the plot development. The story goes that the theatre was built for Ethel. After she married, Ethel moved away from Grove City.
“She never came back,” Schmitt said.
Though some stories of Ethel sightings do have merit, Schmitt said, “you also have to sometimes take it with a grain of salt.” Some people let their imaginations get away from them, she said.
Still, certain things have happened around the theatre that can’t be explained.
Schmitt’s husband, Jim, serves as treasurer for the theatre and also assists with maintenance and set-building.
Jim Schmitt was at the theatre for a business meeting once when he and the others heard the back door suddenly slam.
“It wasn’t lightly, it was loud,” he said.
They thought it might have been a vagrant, but the door was locked from the inside, Jim Schmitt said.
Ethel’s story brought the Central Ohio Paranormal Society to the theatre two or three years ago. The group reported noises and energy fields in the building.
Kathy Hyland, a theatre volunteer since 1994, said she frequently hears footsteps going up the stairs. When the volunteers are having a particularly late night at the theatre, they often find the door propped open with a dead bolt.
“She lets us know when it’s time to go home,” Hyland said of Ethel.
Once, frustrated in her search for a costume for a “Little Women” character, Hyland asked Ethel for help.
She got it. Upon returning to look for a costume, Hyland found “this incredibly gorgeous dress” on a hanger.
“There is no way I could’ve missed that,” she said.
But perhaps the most dramatic experience for Hyland was when she got the opportunity to see Ethel for herself.
As a stage manager for “Evita,” Hyland caught a glimpse of someone’s shoe going up the stairs to the stage. The body was blocked by the curtain. Hyland checked behind the curtain, but found no one. Though the shoe she saw matched those that her female actors were wearing, Hyland accounted for all the female cast members.
“I had never seen her,” Hyland said. “I think I was mostly in shock.”
Joy and Jim Schmitt are longtime volunteers at the Little Theatre off Broadway. They said they have seen and heard strange things at the theater. They say they believe one of the causes of the strange occurrences could be the ghost of Ethel, who had played the piano at the theater back in the days of silent movies.
Source: ThisWeek Community Newspapers
Here is a link to a report with photographs by Central Ohio Paranormal Society