Living with the Dead at the Rialto Square Theater

by Shelly Gatto

Joliet, Illinois: Do the Living and the Dead Perform at the Rialto Square Theatre?

Most people associate theaters with entertainment. Few consider the possibility that a theater could also be the last place of residence for individuals who have taken their final breath. Dramatic as it sounds, evidence of haunting activity has been captured at theaters all over the world, including the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, Illinois.

The Life and Afterlife of the Rialto

The Rialto Square Theatre opened its doors in 1926 as a vaudeville movie palace. Customers were charged 50 cents per ticket to see the silent film Mademoiselle Modiste, the first movie shown in the building. Lights of New York opened on October 9th, 1928 and would become the theater’s first “talking” picture. The location continued to evolve with the times, adding stereophonic sound in 1953.

By the 1970s, significant damage and wear due to weather and age had severely impacted the structure which was being considered for demolition. In 1972, the Rialto Square Theatre would move on to the next chapter in its existence with the help of Dorothy Mavrich who lead the “Save the Rialto” campaign. The efforts paid off as support grew, with high school students, businesses and government officials joining in. The theater became public property in 1978 which lead to the formation of the Joliet Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority who would guide the restoration process. Many local community members were involved and dedicated to completing the project.

In recent years, the Rialto was used to educate children in creative subjects including art, drama and music. The professional theatre company, Our Town Productions, also hosted workshops at the location. The building holds a lot of local history, which continues to be made as each new group utilizes the venue.

Chilling Experiences at the Rialto Square Theatre

There have been numerous reports of unexplained incidents at the Rialto. Many guests and workers have noticed strange cold spots and objects moving on their own. Some have also heard noises when there should have been none. One notable occurrence is the sensation of having clothing tugged on or being touched when no one else is around.

A pair of spirits, one male and one female, have been spotted along the theater’s balcony. According to local legend, both fell from the elevated area which led to their untimely deaths. There have also been tales of a white clad woman, a little boy named Colin and a prohibition period dressed male figure.

Some of the ghosts seem to almost toy with the Rialto’s staff members. Some reported that the lights were turned on after they had been shut off for the evening. There are also stories of the cleaning crew who, after lifting all the theater seats up, returns to find them inexplicably flipped back down.

What Does the Future Have in Store for the Rialto Square Theatre?

To the living, the Rialto Square Theatre is a bustling center for entertainment. The location’s website currently boasts a packed schedule including standup comedians, musicians and film presentations. What many patrons may not realize is that the building tends to be just as lively after hours, when unseen inhabitants have the run of the place. Popular paranormal TV show Ghost Hunters investigated the Rialto Square Theatre in an episode which aired on October 17th, 2012. The building continues to thrive and serves as a historic pillar in the Joliet community.

>>>Take a virtual tour of the Rialto<<<

>>>Watch a video tour of the Rialto<<<

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