Is the Paramount haunted?

Published 10:12 am Thursday, October 29, 2009

During the Halloween season, haunted houses are a dime a dozen.

People can’t seem to help themselves. The truth and myth of Halloween are so tightly woven together that you need several new shows from the History Channel each year to disseminate them all.

Plus, it’s just plain fun to not only tell a story that takes place on a dark and stormy night, but to hear them. To willingly take that feeling of fright upon yourself.

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Which brings up the subject of this particular haunting: Does the Paramount Theatre have a ghost?

Manager Scott Anderson thinks it does and the historic, aged theatre has even made the pages of the book, “The Nearly Departed: Minnesota Stories and Legends.”

“I believe there is a ghost here,” he said Tuesday.

Before we go much further however, we need to dip into belief vs. skepticism, subjects entwined with one another and seen weekly on shows like the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International.

Largely, the idea of something being haunted comes down to personal beliefs in the paranormal and possibly life after death. If you don’t have the latter, it’s hard to believe in the former.

The line between belief and skepticism becomes blurred when the first and possibly biggest hurdle is approached. Proof.

Much of what paranormal investigators claim to catch in pictures, video, or audio recorders can in some way be questioned. It’s the major problem in paranormal investigation.

There is no tell-tale way, no absolute way, to prove ghosts exist. Generally, you are forced to believe a person who has experience in the field, for whatever that’s worth because again, those who study this area tend these days to not be scientists.

With that in mind, you inevitably have to place a certain amount of trust in those who say a place is haunted. Sometimes, though, conviction in what a person has experienced is enough, and Anderson is no different. He doesn’t hesitate to talk about the Paramount’s ghosts.

In his time as manager of the Paramount Anderson has heard stories and had his own experiences. Nothing so fantastic as you might see in a horror movie, but experiences all the same that make you question what is out there.

Anderson isn’t a recent convert to the paranormal having already had an experience with his wife Janet before the two were married.

It happened when the two were getting ready for bed one night when Anderson rented an old farmhouse with some friends. The friends were in town on the bar scene leaving Scott and Janet in the house alone. It began almost as soon as the lights went out.

“We were alone in the house with two dogs and I remember sitting up and hearing very deliberate footsteps on each step,” he describes, pounding his fists on the desk to replicate the sounds of that night. “I mean, what was that. We knew no one was here.”

“We’re reasonably smart folks, and we do not make this stuff up,” he said.

Now, on to the Paramount. Anderson’s first hand experience in the matter came late at night when he was doing some work in the Paramount. Anderson places himself in the lobby.

“I’m an old rock and roller, so I was playing Steely Dan, and it was cranked way up,” he said. “I wanted to hear it in the lobby.

“Twenty minutes later I noticed that the sound system was barely audible. I went to the controller and noticed the volume was way down. I just turned around and said, ‘where are you. I know your there,’” he finished with a laugh.

It’s important to add, that on a soundboard, the sliders that control various sound components, can’t simply slide on their own. It requires a human hand to move them.

Anderson believes he has narrowed down who the haunting spirits may be. The first is the first manager of the Paramount, Karl Lindstaedt, when the old Park Theatre was rebuilt into the Paramount in the late 1920’s.

The second option is projectionist George Dorin, who worked at the Paramount in the early 30s.

It was with relatives of Dorin that Anderson was part of a second experience. He was with two cousins, great-granddaughters of Dorin, who were visiting the place that Dorin loved.

While talking with Anderson, both ladies took pictures, one with a digital and another with a film camera. When the woman with the digital looked at her picture of the moving clouds on the ceiling, she commented about a moon.

There is no moon that’s part of the projected clouds, so Anderson asked to look at the picture and seeing what many in the paranormal field describe simply as an orb, mentioned it must be the ghost of their great grandfather giving them a sign.

It passed until they were making to leave, and one of the women asked Anderson what he meant by the ghost.

There are other stories surrounding the paramount witnessed by several people over time including a bar manager who witnessed a freely spinning barstool, an apparition in a picture and the marquee that came on after it was turned off.

Does it bother Anderson that the Paramount may be haunted?

In all the stories of apparent paranormal activity there has never been reports of malicious actions. Anderson thinks he understands why they are still here.

“They loved the Paramount, like a lot of people do,” he said. “I think it’s pretty cool that they’re here.”