The Beginning by Debbie Lowery
Jennifer Bertoni 11/27/2004
The Fischer Theatre was originally called the Danville Opera House.
Property owned by a former residence and prominent physician Dr. W. W. R.
Woodbury was purchased from a R. W. Gillette and in 1884 the Danville Opera
House, a building 65 feet wide and 127 feet long was built.
The theatre was described as being “both spacious and elegant”. Its stage presented itself with heavy draperies of blue and
gold and every seat in the house had a perfect view.
Opera House was sold to George W. Chatterton, Sr. of Springfield, IL in 1907 who
in turn sold his interest to Louis F. Fischer in 1912.
At this time major remodeling and structural renovation was done.
In 1913 the newly remodeled Fischer Theatre opened its doors.
1929 the Fischer Theatre and the Palace Theatre which stood right next door were
sold to the Publix Great State Theatres. More
remodeling was done including building the largest Marquis in town and adding
state – of – the - art motion picture equipment.
Air conditioning was installed in 1938.
During the WWII period auctions were held on stage to raise money to buy
war bonds and many patriotic movies were shown.
The last refurbishing was done by the H. R. Teichert Company of Chicago
in 1968. The interior was painted
with a subtle gold design.
1971 The Kerasotes Theatres of Springfield, IL acquired both the Fischer and
Palace Theatres only to close them in 1982.
The city of Danville then purchased the Fischer Theatre in 1983 and
formed the Vermilion Heritage Foundation to restore the theatre.
Five Danville stars, Donald O’Connor, Bobby Short, Dick Van Dyke, Jerry
Van Dyke, and Gene Hackman came to Danville to do the benefit.
Due to unforeseen circumstances little was done to the theatre and the
money raised was shifted to other charities.
1997 it was announced the theatre was unstable and should be destroyed.
After pleading with the City of Danville the Old Town Preservation
Association was given the building. This
group achieved the worked needed to make the building structurally sound.
1998 The Old Town Preservation Organization sold the building to the Vermilion
Heritage Foundation. In doing this
the funds raised by the stars benefit was used to start the renovation of the
its beginning years the Fischer Theatre was not only a theatre.
The building housed offices and residences on its 2nd, 3rd,
and 4th floors. In 1915
Boston Academy of Masic and Knecht Apts were on the 3rd and 4th
floors. The Vermilion Street shops
were: Opera House Cloak and Suit
Store, Glasgo Tailors, Adolph Afiere – Convectioners, and Miss Myra Wilson
(Wilson Co.) Milliners.
1931 the 3rd and 4th floors were the Portia Club Furnished
Rooms for Women. The 2nd
and 3rd floors were occupied by the blue print company, May Belle
Cook Beauty Shop, Fidelity Insurance, and Publix Theatres.
Doctors, dentists, insurance companies and an U.S.A. Recruiting Service
occupied the upper floors until 1961. The
Vermilion Street shops have been occupied by candy shops, jewelers, barbers
& optometrists, etc. If you
would like further information please refer to www.fischertheater.com.
all this history of this magnificent place there is little wonder that a few
souls have decided to call this place home.
Some of the people who have had the opportunity to spend sometime in this
building have reported strange feelings of being watched and hearing sounds of
unknown origin. The Springfield
Ghost Society had the opportunity to do an investigation of the grand building.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Paul for his help in
arranging this and the Vermilion Historical Foundation for allowing us to do so.
This foundation is welcoming donations to restore this theatre and if you
would like to help please go to www.fischertheater.com
arrived at the Fischer Theatre around 8:45pm and met with Paul Strain, Jim
Beebe, and David Schroeder. After
carrying in our equipment and quick introductions we began our 2 hours tour of
the building. Our tour guide was
Jim Beebe who was so knowledgeable of the history of the building that much was
learned in those 2 hours. In so
many areas it was like traveling back in time.
the tour we all decided where we wanted to set up our equipment and busily began
doing so. A couple of investigators
wanted to spend some time on the cat walk above the stage.
Others set their equipment up on the stage.
Some headed for the upper floors.
11:45pm – I began my investigation. I took pictures with the 35mm camera in the auditorium and in the lobby.
12:15am – I set my video camera up in the auditorium just inside the doors facing the stage. Since all the lights were out I used the super-night shot mode. I also set my tape recorder up in the lobby.
– Kenny and I walked through the upper floors taking digital pictures.
I had my EMF meter with me but it didn’t detect anything.
did feel like someone was watching us in the projection booth and also when I
stood in the upper mezzanine. I also took several pictures in the lobby towards the
counter. Although I didn’t
actually see any reason for this I just felt like I might catch something there.
1:30am – Investigation is over.
After reviewing my data I didn’t get anything remarkable on my video or audio tapes. I did get a few pictures with orbs.
do plan on going back to the Fischer. Now
that we have been there once we will be better prepared to meet the Other
Side next time.
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investigating the upper floor (floor beneath the projection room) I did see a
dark colored shadow standing at the top of the stairs and it moved very quickly
when the flashlight was shined upward at it. Pictures were taken but the shadow
had since left. There was also at the same time a movement to the left (towards
the balcony) but I was unable to see what it was.
After a walk through, I took
35mm pictures in the lobby and then in the theater and backstage upper levels. Around
11:55pm I set up two tape recorders on the stage and I also set up a video
camera. We turned the lights
off for one hour. During this time I went up stairs with Jenny and Cheryl.
While on the stairs going to the third floor Jenny could see a dark
figure at the top of stairs. After
we got up to top she saw a second figure. I took several pictures but after we
looked around Jenny was feeling very uneasy so we went back down to the lobby.
after we ended the investigation.
My findings: nothing on tape
recorders; 35mm pictures, a couple do look like they have orbs; video shows some
orbs or dust and I also got white glow over by the other doors leading in to the
John Koenig SGS Member
Arrived at theatre and met with Board members
Started tour of building- used recorder for reference to rooms and dates.
Placed camcorder in production booth
Found another room off of production room bathroom- Jim went in and I was
holding the door, I felt like someone was behind me watching us.
We were sitting on the floor against the wall on balcony under production
booth and heard something crash nobody else was in the area
We are still on the balcony under booth and heard what sounded like
something heavy being dragged across the production booth floor.
Set up tape recorder on voice activation in production booth
Checked on camcorder and tape recoder in booth
Went to get camcorder and tape recoder and charged batteries
Moved camcorder and tape recorder to second floor sleeping rooms
Wandered around taking pictures and sitting in dark listening
Went and got camcorder and tape recorder
Upon review of my evidence I have 3 possible evps and some pictures with orbs in them.I caught nothing on video.
This is a follow-up investigation to the
one we did in November of 2004.
Arrived at 9:30pm at the Fischer
SGS Members Present:
Debbie and Ken Lowery, Heather and Jim Wilson, Cheryl Berkler, Benni
Hardin, Pam Barnett, Andrea Etter, Shanna Hull, Amanda Ratz, Roberta VanHuss,
Cindy Willoughby, Gayle Hanson, Barb LeVeque, Lou Kutzler, Adrienne Kutzler,
No one associated with the Danville
Fischer Theatre was present for our investigation.
Jim Beebe was kind enough to be present
to allow us entry into the theatre and then left.
10:10pm – Cheryl, Kenny, Jim &
Heather acted as tour guides to the other members since they had been here
before. Everyone met back in the
lobby at 11:15pm.
11:30pm – Everyone went to their
designated areas with plans to meet back in the lobby at 1:00am.
At this time we will be exchanging areas.
1:00am – By this time some of the
members had completed their walk around and were preparing to sleep.
I took some pictures in the lobby and
auditorium area. My EMF meter went
off in the auditorium in the area where the chairs are split on the right side
as you look towards the stage. There
is an electrical source that runs down under the walkway by this area but this
is not where the meter was sounding. Pictures
showed orbs in this area.
12:00am – I set up my first video
camera upstairs on the 3rd floor towards the front of the building.
This is where you have to go through the hole in the wall to get there.
I ran coax down to my TV/VCR and taped for 6 hours.
3:00am - I set up my video recorder on
the stage facing out toward the chairs.
6:00am – Everyone was waking up and
gathering their equipment. Investigation
Upon examination of the video tape taken
on the stage it is noted that it seemed to be taping but didn’t.
A few orbs were noted on my pictures in
the auditorium where my EMF meter was sounding off.
After listening to my audio tape I received 1 EVP. It was captured when some of the group left to set their video upstairs. On my audio tape you can hear a “Hello”. I was standing in the lobby.
History of Fischer
Opera House was originally built in 1884 by 50 organized individuals (names or
connection is unknown) each owning capital stock.
The original lot was bought from R. W. Gillette, but had previously been
owned by Dr. W. W. R. Woodbury, a former resident and prominent Danville
In 1906, the
Lyric Theatre opened next door. In
1907, the Grand Opera House was sold to George W. Chatterton of Springfield, IL.
Mr. Chatterton sold his interest to Louis F. Fischer in 1912 and the
theatre was closed for remodeling, structural renovation and enlarging the
building. The Lyric Theatre next
door was also remodeled and merged with the "new" Fischer Theater and
both re-opened in 1913.
In 1929, the
Fischer Theater was sold to the Publix Great State Theatres and new
state-of-the-art renovations were made and motion picture equipment was added.
In 1938 air conditioning was installed.
last major refurbishing was done in 1968 by a company in Chicago that painted
the interior with a subtle gold design. In
1971, the Kerasotes Theatres of Springfield, Illinois purchased the Fischer and
Palace theatres. In 1982 the
Keresotes Theatres closed the Fischer Theatre, removing the boiler and other
contents they could use or sell.
In 1983 the
City of Danville became the owners and formed the Vermilion Heritage Foundation
to begin restoration of the building. In
1997 and due to lack of funding it was announced that the building was unstable
and should be destroyed. The Old
Town Preservation Association pleaded to have the building saved. The City of
Danville gave the theatre to the Old Town Preservation Association. This group
set about having the necessary structural work done to make the building stable.
In 1998 The
Old Town Preservation Organization sold the building to the Vermilion Heritage
Foundation and a stars’ benefit was held to raise funds that could be used to
start renovation to the lobby area of the theatre.
years the Grand Opera House was not only a theatre, it housed offices and
residences on its 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors. In 1915, the Boston Academy of Music
and Knecht Apartments were on the 3rd and 4th floors.
The Vermilion Street shops were: Opera House Cloak and Suit Store, Glasgo
Tailors, Adolph Alfiere - Convectioners and Miss Myra Wilson (Wilson Co.)
Milliners. In the early 30s, the
3rd and 4th floors were the Portia Club with furnished Rooms for Women. The 2nd
and 3rd floors were occupied by a blue print company, May Belle Cook Beauty
Shop, Fidelity Insurance and Publix Theatres.
Doctors, dentists, insurance companies and even an U.S.A. Recruiting
Service occupied these upper floors until 1961. The Vermilion Street shops have
been occupied by candy shops, jewelers, barbers, and optometrist, etc.
In 1913 the
theater was renamed to the Fischer Theater and in 1994 was designated a local
landmark by the city of Danville. In
2002, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The first motion picture in the country was shown here in 1899.
Today even with the deterioration, the theater retains the 19th
century vaudeville and grand opera house grandeur. In 1988 the Vermilion
Heritage Foundation and a Board of Directors began a campaign began to raise
money to restore the theatre which is currently an ongoing process. For more
history please visit www.fischertheatre.com.
Investigation March 12, 2005
group arrived at the Theater about 9:30pm for the overnight event. We gathered for a quick meeting regarding our investigations.
Due to liability, safety, and to avoid possible injuries, the “cat
walk” area is off limits, along with the two side balcony area on the 2nd
floor, and an area on the 4th floor where the floor is not in the
best of shape.
broke into groups and toured the theater. Our
group began in the auditorium and moved onto the stage, down the back staircase
to the basement under the stage, then we toured the 2nd balcony
floor, the 3rd floor with a “hole” in the wall where some went
through, followed by the 4th floor and the projection room and a
return to the lobby.
we regrouped and members chose where they would like to set up equipment.
Our plan is to have 2-3 sessions lasting about 2 hours each giving all in
attendance a chance to investigate as much as possible.
I partnered with Andrea Etter setting out for the 2nd floor. The 2nd floor has side balcony’s that are off limits due to structural concerns, but the part of the main floor was very safe. Andrea began on the right side of the 2nd floor and was using a small camcorder/camera. I went to the center and the left side and was using a digital camera. Even though this area was not heated, a bit drafty, you could still feel the presence of someone moving around.
The investigation was successful to find energy, movement and there is activity in this building. I have 200+ pictures. I am submitting the best of what I have to show activity and peak periods when energy was felt in the theater. I will archive the photos for future reference if anyone would want to review them
Jim and I ventured down the back basement where the boiler room is located. I felt a presence strong old here, and feel this was an underground railroad area for slaves at one time. I took photos and the photos of this back basement area. On my way home and back in Springfield, I stopped to take a few pictures of the NEW Abe Lincoln Library. Interestingly enough, the back basement pictures got completely out of sequence on my camera disk when I arrived home to view them and were actually after those take of the new library.
When we first arrived and during the tour time, several of us toured a basement in the front of the theater which is under the concession stand. This area also had some bad vibes in the front of it, but also left markings of an underground railroad and a partial dirt floor. This basement actually has an open entry from the concession stand area. There did not appear to be a wall where this basement and the back basement could have connected. I did not go into the basement of the orchestra pit area.
I started to depart off of the stage. I heard a voice say ‘it is not your turn yet”. I felt a rush of energy as if several individuals were walking down the steps of the stage and I backed up to let them pass. When I felt ok to walk down the steps, I heard a voice in the 2nd seat of the 2nd row of red seats say….”now it is your turn”
We arrived at the Fischer Theater and unloaded our
equipment to set up “base camp” in the lobby. This was my first
investigation, and I was very excited to be a part of the team. I just got my
camera as a gift from a friend, so I used this time to get more familiar with it
and took a few pictures of the statue and organ in the lobby.
Debbie briefly recapped the previous investigation to get
us all up to speed.
We split up into smaller groups to get a short tour with
those who had been part of the last investigation. Amanda, Pam, Andrea, and I
went to Ken. We started with the auditorium and the dressing rooms below the
stage before going up to the balcony. Andrea and Pam didn’t want to go through
“the hole” into the front part of the building (Pam for physical reasons,
Andrea because she was very uneasy in and around the area of the hole). They
stayed behind while Ken took Amanda and me through the three floors of
office/apartment-type rooms. On the fourth floor, we found a red straight-backed
chair sitting in one room, and Amanda mentioned that she wanted to set up her
audio cassette recorder on the chair later. At this time, Sheryl also brought a
group up to the fourth floor, and I overheard her make a joke about a stack of
chair at the far left side of the room being “just the sort of thing
poltergeists would do.” After rejoining Andrea and Pam, we went up to the
projection room, where Andrea especially got some very strong uneasy feelings.
When we returned to the lobby, the other groups were still
looking around, so Andrea, Pam, Amanda, and I headed down to the basement under
the lobby and concessions area. The basement was divided into three sections,
and we didn’t find anything too unusual. However, while coming back through
the middle room, Amanda and I both heard what sounded like a cat hissing from
the first room. There was no cat to be found, but it’s possible that we heard
something from the lobby.
We regrouped in the lobby. Debbie explained that she wanted
us to set up our equipment for about an hour and a half and asked to know where
each of us wanted to go (so that we wouldn’t be stepping on each other’s
toes). Amanda and I decided on the fourth floor of the front part of the
building so she could set up her tape recorder on the chair we’d seen earlier.
Amanda set up her recorder on the chair as planned, and we
snooped around to see what we could find. I snapped a few pictures with my
digital camera, most of which turned up nothing unusual. The shower and bathtub
in the back rooms caught my attention more than once, and I took some pictures.
Remembering Sheryl’s joke about the stack of chairs being
the work of poltergeists, I took multiple pictures that may be globals. I also
took a picture over the stairwell leading down to the third floor and caught an
extremely bright global. I took another, identical picture immediately
afterward, but the ball was gone. Amanda and I investigated for objects that
might’ve caused reflections but found none.
I began to feel uneasy, and the temperature seemed to drop
farther still, although we had no thermal monitor to confirm this. I took a few
more pictures (which turned up nothing). We left the audio recorder and went
back to the lobby.
Amanda realized that the tape in her recorder only had 30
minutes to a side, so we went back upstairs to flip it over. We found the
recorder on voice-activated, however, so the tape had not yet run out. We turned
it to regular record. I took pictures on the fourth, third, and second floors
but caught nothing remarkable.
Amanda and I went upstairs to retrieve her recorder. I took
a few more pictures on the fourth floor but got nothing. Standing on the landing
between the fourth and third floor, I asked Amanda (who was at the top of the
stairs above me) if she wanted to look around anymore before we went back down.
She said no, so I said, “Okay, let’s go.” I turned to go, but she sucked
in a sharp breath, and when I turned around, she was leaning against the wall,
eyes wide and very pale. When I asked what was wrong, she said that something
whispered, “Where?” and brushed against her cheek. She was very shaken for a
long time afterward. Unfortunately, she had already turned off her recorder. I
took some more pictures but got nothing—not even dust. She turned the recorder
back on and left it on the landing.
I went with Amanda to retrieve the recorder, and then we
investigated the dressing rooms under the stage and took pictures. We checked
out both balconies and took lots of pictures, all of which turned out to be
nothing. We attempted to climb the stairs to the projection room but stopped
when I got a heavy, sick feeling 2/3 the way up. I told Amanda I didn’t want
to go up any further, so we turned around, and the feeling went away as soon as
I was off the stairs. We returned to the lobby, and I caught up on notes before
lying down for a nap.
Amanda and I left the Fischer Theater and headed back to Springfield.
at the Fischer Theater in Danville IL on March 12th about 9:45pm.
It is a very majestic theater that was
built in 1884. It was originally an opera house then an early 20th century
vaudeville house. Then in 1899 it showed the very first motion picture for
It is in a major state of disrepair
while they are working on restoring this vital piece of history. The lobby,
concession area has been redone and looks wonderful.
I paired up with Roberta, Gayle and Barb
to do our investigating. While on the stage I would get a feeling of being
watched. The main seating area I got orbs over the seats towards the back where
it was dark (I was by the stage) and they stayed there for a couple pics taken
consectively. So I don't believe they were dust since dust would have been in
motion. A couple of them were pretty good size and very dense.
I also got an orb in the seating while
Roberta was sitting in the front row. She said she had felt a cold chill and I
got the orb right after that sitting 3 seats down from her. I got a BIG orb up
in the balcony area by the railing and 4 side by side on the main stage area.
When we were upstairs in the area where we had to go through the hole in the
wall I had an uneasy feeling. Also in the projection room.
I didn't get
any EVP at all. My 35mm photos are still to be developed.
On March 12, 2005 at approximately 9:30 p.m., myself, Adriene Kutzler, & Aaron Smith arrived at the Fischer Theatre in Danville, IL. The night air was cold & crisp, approximately 25 degrees Fahrenheit; The sky was clear with stars visible. The purpose of this visit was to conduct an entity phenomenon investigation with fellow ghost hunters from the Springfield Ghost Society.
This investigation commenced at approximately 10:30 p.m. with a complete group walk through of the theater. An ongoing video tape was made during this walk through for later phenomenon review.
After this walk through was completed, a group meeting was held and surveillance locations were assigned. These assignments were made based upon best video & audio vantage points as well as individual members input concerning their personal sensory precursors for possible entity activity.
At approximately 11:30 p.m. Adriene, Aaron, & myself set at the location under the stage area. This included the actors dressing rooms & adjoining furnace room areas. The equipment consisted of a Sony night shot high-8 camcorder, model TRV-67, an HP 735 digital camera, several 35mm film cameras, a Sony B2 digital voice recorder, & several stream light ultra-stinger rechargeable high intensity, full color bulb flashlights.
An immediate area search was conducted with flashlights & no visual or audible phenomenon was noted. However, several pockets of very cold air were felt during this examination. Unprotected hands very quickly became cold & achy. These pockets were not fixed in place & appeared to change locations. Hands became immediately warm after moving through these pockets into the surrounding air which was heated quite warmly as this area was near the active furnace room. Also noted was the fact that Adriene's digital camera battery indicator went from full charge to low battery indication & became temporarily inoperative. This was near the door opening into the operationing furnace room. When she moved away from this area, the battery indicator went back to full charge & the camera resumed normal operation.
After setting up the camcorder & EVP recorder, Adrienne & Aaron initiated their systematic search. This search consisted of snapping at least 2 film & 2 digital pictures in each room & adjoining areas. Some pictures were taken with flash only, & others were taken with flash & flashlight.
The developed pictures indicated the following results:
Adriene - five digital pictures showing several small bright orbs moving along the hallway & going up the small stairway to the above stage area.
Aaron - one 35 mm film picture showing a single baseball size frosty white orb in the old furnace room in front of the old ACME (red letters) furnace. This orb appeared to have several serrated lines through it. Louis - in process of reviewing all video & audio tapes, will advise.
At approximately 1:00 a.m. all surveillance was ended. We removed all equipment, policed the area & joined the others for the group debriefing meeting. At approximately 3:00 a.m. we departed Danville for Chatham, IL.