Located in the southern half of Granville Mall, the Vogue Theatre opened in 1941. It was mainly a movie theatre, but sometimes hosted live performances. In 1988, the theatre was closed due to declining business. It reopened in 1991, however, after being fully renovated to its original splendour. This included the installation of state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. Today, the Vogue is a venue for live music performances.
The Vogue Theatre is home to the spirit of a dark haired and severe-looking man. He’s encountered in the working areas of the premises – on the stage, on the catwalks, in the projection booth, and in the basement hallway. The ghost has also been seen in the main audience level, close to the stage.
Many staff members have had experiences with the ghost. Some have felt his presence in the narrow corridor downstairs. They jokingly refer to this corridor as the “Haunted Highway”, because of its creepiness. From time-to-time, the phantom makes banging noises and slams doors along the corridor.
Bill Allman was House Manager and later General Manager of the Vogue Theatre from 1994 to 1997. He returned to work there for six months in 2001. Allman had several personal experiences with the theatre’s ghost. The first encounter was in the summer of 1994. “I was locking up the carpentry room in the basement,” Allman says, “and got that distinct feeling that someone was behind me. I turned around and I saw what I describe as a three dimensional shadow go by the door. So I scrambled out into the hall, and there was no one there — I was the only one around. I left the theatre relatively quickly after that. I believe I set a speed record that day!”
A month or two later, a drum kit was set up on the stage for a Beatles tribute band, Revolver. As Allman walked up the stairs to the stage from the lower level, he distinctly heard a basic beat (one kick on the bass drum and one hit on the snare, repeated) being played on the drums. When he got up to the stage and turned the corner, the playing stopped. There was nobody there. Allman wondered for a long time afterwards whether his mind had been playing tricks on him that day. But as he thinks about it now he knows how loud and solid the sound of a drum kit being played is. What he heard was real. “But it wasn’t the ghost of Buddy Rich,” Allman says. “The playing was just not that good.”
Within a day or two of the drumming incident, Allman walked out on the stage again. From there, he caught a glimpse of the same three dimensional, grey shadow form he’d seen downstairs a few months earlier. It appeared about seven or eight rows back from the stage in the audience section. As he turned to direct his full gaze on it, the shadow was gone. Unfortunately, Allman never got a good look at the ghost as some others have.
About a year later, in 1995, the Vogue Theatre played host to a show called “Unforgettable”. This performance paid tribute to the music of Nat King Cole. A week before the show began its run, Allman gave an informal tour of the theatre to a friend and his girlfriend (who considers herself to be psychic). This included a visit to the projection booth. A week or so later, Allman’s friend confided that his girlfriend had seen a youngish man with dark hair and severe features in the projection booth, sitting in one of the old chairs. The man had turned his head towards them, and she sensed incredible anger from him. Then he simply dissolved. Allman and his friend hadn’t seen this.
Two or three weeks later, “Unforgettable” was well under way when one of the supporting performers, Shane McPherson, had a dramatic sighting of the ghost. On the night of November 14, 1995, McPherson performed a “Route 66” song and dance number on the Vogue Theatre stage. Bill Allman looked on from the back of the house near the sound board. “Shane was in mid-song when he dropped his cane. He blew his (dance) steps and blew his lines,” Allman says. “When I went downstairs during the interval, I found Shane in his dressing room. I asked him what had happened and he said, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to believe what I’m about to tell you.’ ”
McPherson explained to Allman that, while doing his routine, he saw a man come out onto the audience floor from the fire exit near the front row at stage left. The man looked directly up a McPherson with a blank face, and then he dissolved into thin air. It was the shock of seeing this that caused McPherson to mess up his performance.
McPherson described the man as young, thirtyish, with dark hair, severe features, wearing light-coloured clothing (not the light-coloured dinner jacket that’s been documented elsewhere). As MacPherson recounted this, Allman felt his blood run cold. This was because MacPherson described the ghost that his friend’s girlfriend had seen a few weeks earlier. “Okay, we have a presence here,” Allman said to himself.
The next day, a theatre employee named David Raun saw the ghost. While locking the theatre up for the night, he walked to the area in front of the stage. He happened to look up towards the projection booth, where he saw someone standing in the doorway. Although the body appeared to be in the shadows, the face was clearly of a cleanly shaved man with chiseled features, short dark hair, and dark eyebrows. As Raun kept looking the apparition dissolved, just as it did for other witnesses. Another time, Raun was on a catwalk above the audience area when he felt something invisible brush his right shoulder and go past him. Raun shivered as the ambient temperature suddenly dropped. He was the only person on the catwalks.
Since then, the ghost has been seen or experienced many other times. In the summer of 1996, for example, a box office worker was alone in the lobby one afternoon when she suddenly sensed a presence. When she looked around, she glimpsed a shadow figure climbing the stairs to the balcony level.
In 2000, Arnold Robinson, bass singer with the vocal group, The Nylons, had a personal experience. As he walked down to his dressing room, he felt someone walking with him. He could still feel the presence with him when he got to his dressing room. Robinson had the courage to say out loud, “If you want to hang out, that’s cool.”
Two psychic mediums visited the Vogue in the early 2000s. Both sensed that someone had experienced a bad fall near the fly gallery (the ropes and weights that support and carry theatrical scenery) at stage left. They weren’t able to say whether the accident victim was severely injured or had died. However, Bill Allman says that this information has not been verified. In fact, he and some colleagues did some research in the 1990s and found no record of anyone having been injured or killed in the theatre.
Regardless of how or why the ghost arrived at the Vogue Theatre, Allman’s theory is that he’s someone who used to work there. This is because he’s mostly encountered where only staff members frequent.