The Paranormal at Home: Hauntings in 50 States – Kansas’ Brown Grand Theatre

Please click here if you would like to read the first article in the series.

Theaters are often places of intrigue, drama and death – but all that emotion and action is usually confined to the stage. Behind each production is a significant amount of time and energy on the part of cast, crew and other people tied to the business. This can sometimes lead to a strong attachment to the building they so often work in.

Haunted Kansas: The Brown Grand Theatre

Brown Grand Theatre in Kansas
The Brown Grand Theatre c. 2007

The Brown Grand Theatre in central Kansas serves the local community as a center for culture and entertainment.  The venue was established by Colonel Napoleon Bonaparte Brown. Brown’s son Earl Van Dom oversaw construction. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on April 3rd, 1906. The theater was successful up until it’s founder died approximately four years later.

The business changed hands until 1925 when it opened again, this time offering silent pictures and later “talkies.” the building was remodeled with modern amenities added over the years, including air conditioning  and concessions. The theater survived until 1974. A grassroots effort to restore and preserve the theater began shortly after and by 1980 the building had completely returned to its 1907 elegance.

Paranormal Activity at the Brown Grand Theatre

After many reports of strange happenings at the Brown Grande Theatre, stories began circulating about a ghost that wandered the venue which was given the name “Earl.” Many believed the entity was the spirit of the founder’s son, Earl Van Dom, who died while in his 30s.  He had strong ties to the building, which might make a case for his desire to remain there in the afterlife.

Witnesses described seeing a ghostly figure clad in period clothing along the balcony. Nails seemed to randomly pound themselves into walls while the building was being restored in the 1970s. No one was ever caught doing it and no explanation was ever found.

More recently, the employee of a grocery store located across the street from the Brown Grand Theatre was spending an evening in the parking lot to keep watch over a truck load sale. He had his dog with him. The canine suddenly began barking and refused to stop. The employee looked across the street in time to see a strange couple wearing old-time clothing walk into the theater. The man appeared to be wearing a soldier’s uniform.  The door they used is always locked and the employee stated he never saw anyone leave that night.

Paranormal investigator Sherrie Curry with the Wichita Paranormal Research Society also reported significant activity at the theater. Along with curious EVP evidence, Curry also noted three other unsettling experiences. While walking along the backstage catwalk with another investigator, both Curry and her companion caught sight of a shadowy figure that moved from the stage into another room. She also noted an unexplained shadow moving in the balcony. Another session on the catwalk with a different investigator produced disembodied voices with no apparent source.

The Salina Paranormal Investigative Research Team, or SPIRIT, investigated the Brown Grand Theatre and also recorded audio evidence. While some of their EVPs were difficult to discern, others were very interesting – especially a brief EVP stating “It’s me” which was captured while the team was discussing light sources in the theater. See the video below for highlights from SPIRIT’s Brown Grand Theatre EVP sessions.

SPIRIT’s EVP evidence from the Brown Grand Theatre

The Brown Grand Theatre Today

The Brown Grand Theatre continues to serve as an important local landmark. The official website notes that the venue is closed until the renovation work is done, which is estimated to be completed around February of 2014. Time will tell if additional evidence will be gathered or if any ghosts lingering there will go quiet when the doors open again.

Have you been to the Brown Grand Theatre (or would you like to go)? Share your personal experiences or investigative approach to this location in the comments.

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