Empress Theatre

Empress Theatre which located on Main St. in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada has played its own part in ghost stories throughout the years. Theatre staff, patrons, and even performers have reported cases of what could be considered a haunting. Some of them have claimed that during rehearsals or performances, they see a hairy-armed character sitting in the balcony. At a second glance, the ghostly man whom they call “Ed, the Phantom of the Empress” suddenly disappears.

In 1910, J.S. Lambert began construction on the now-historic Main Street of Fort Macleod. The 450-seat brick-and-sandstone structure was built with an eye to the future, when the population of the community would be far greater. Completed in 1912 as an opera house, it soon became part of the Famous Players theatre franchise, which presented live concerts and vaudeville acts that toured North America. Eventually, silent films became part of the entertainment and, by the early 1930s, movies with sound were the main feature. In 1937, the theatre was sold to Daniel Boyle, who made some significant renovations to the building—adding a balcony and moving the projection booth above the new balcony. He also made decorative enhancements such as updated light fixtures, window covers, and light-up neon tulips on the pressed-tin ceiling in honor of his wife.

The ghostly legends of the theatre begin in the 1950s when a janitor who worked there as his second job died under mysterious circumstances at the local auction market. Locals say they smelled his phantom cigar smoke in the theatre for many years after his death. Stories circulated of seeing the hairy-armed man in the bathroom mirror only to turn around and find him gone.

After Boyle’s 1937 renovations, the
theatre wasn’t touched again until 1982, when the Fort Macleod Provincial Historic Area Society took over the building.

Forty-five years of customers, performances, popcorn and candy fights, and sugary treat spillage wore heavily on the building. The Historic Area Society poured $1 million into renovating the
theatre back to its original splendor. The ghost encounters continued throughout the renovations and after they were completed.

A popular theory behind Ed, the theatre's resident ghost, is that of a former janitor of the Empress. He worked a second job at the local auction market and was known to enjoy a drink and a smoke now and then. This helps lead to the belief that the ghost is in fact this man, as often sightings, or experiences are accompanied by the scent of alcohol, tobacco and manure.

Other unexplained phenomena, such as footsteps or even hearing someone whistling a tune only to find no one there, almost became commonplace.

One incident that stands out occurred when one employee heard footsteps coming up from downstairs, while counting money in the concession. The employee attentively awaited a co-worker to appear, but the footsteps continued and no one appeared. They continued up the stairs, through the foyer and into the concession, stopping right beside her and still no body or person was visible.

Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: "Ghostly Locales From Around The World" compiled and edited by Jeff Belanger;



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