Herald reporters face the music at The Paramount

Published 4:09 pm Saturday, October 30, 2010

Members of the Austin Daily Herald staff, from left: Matt Peterson, Jason Schoonover, Trey Mewes and Amanda Lillie conduct an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) session using a digital voice recorder, center on chair, on the stage of the Paramount Theatre. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

The wind snaked a path around the downtown buildings and groaned at us as we made our way from the Austin Daily Herald office to the Paramount Theatre in the misty rain Monday night.

Austin Daily Herald photographer Eric Johnson, reporters Jason Schoonover and Trey Mewes and intern Matt Peterson followed on my heels — notebooks, voice recorders and cameras in tow — as we embarked on a ghost hunt that would stretch into the early morning hours.

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Scott Anderson, manager of the Paramount Theatre, believes the theatre is haunted by former projectionist George Dorn and former regional manager Carl Lindstaedt, so when the five of us entered the building around 11 p.m. we were unsure whether we would encounter the supernatural.

This orb, seen in the lower, righthand portion of this photo, was captured after reporter Amanda Lillie and others in the group heard creaking in the backstage area of the Paramount.­ - Amanda Lillie/amanda.lillie@austindailyherald.com

The Paramount was a bar from 1977 until 1987, and Anderson said most of the encounters he has heard of occurred during that time. His theory is that one of the ghosts dislikes loud music and therefore was trying to frighten bar staff and patrons so they would leave.

“There were times when blenders would be turned on automatically by the ghost,” Anderson said. “He doesn’t like loud music and that’s part of the reason he didn’t like it when it was a bar.”

Anderson told of a time when one of the bar managers was working alone and heard deliberate footsteps coming from the stage area. When the manager turned around, a bar stool was spinning.

Since many reported supernatural incidents occurred in the balcony and near the theatre stage, the five of us spent several minutes sitting scattered throughout the balcony listening and watching for anything unusual.

The silence in itself gave the dimly lit theatre an eerie feel and the high wind gusts clanging through the rickety building caused me to jolt more than once, but when I noticed movement near the balcony stairs, I knew I was looking at something worth mentioning.

I was seated facing stage left when a baseball-sized white orb floated from the balcony stairway and onto the landing. The orb loitered against the balcony rail for several seconds before disappearing.

As soon as I noticed the image, I asked my four companions if they saw anything in that direction. Schoonover, who was sitting two rows in front of me and about six seats to my right, said he saw a baseball-shaped white blotch floating on the stairs and the landing.

Reporters Jason Schoonover and Amanda Lillie investigate the basement dressing rooms, beneath the stage area. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

If only one of us had seen the orb, I may have dismissed it as a reflection of light, but since Schoonover and I both saw it from different angles and at the same moment, it seemed viable that we could have seen something supernatural. We did not spot the orb again the rest of the night.

Soon after the orb sighting – just past midnight – Mewes, Peterson and Johnson braved the trip up the narrow, steep stairway to the projection room to attempt communication with George Dorn, the former projectionist. Since Anderson once had a personal experience in which his loud music was turned down on the mixing board while he was working alone one evening, the three men took an iPod with them to play music.

In the meantime, Schoonover and I decided to investigate the basement so that our voices wouldn’t carry to the projection room and skew any audio or video clips. Little did we know as we sat in the former Vaudeville dressing room that our three cohorts were about to experience something unexplainable upstairs.

After sitting in silence for several minutes, Mewes began playing the song “Creeping Death” by Metallica on his iPod to provoke the ghost. About 30 seconds into the song, Mewes said he felt a sudden blast of warmth on his right thigh, as though humid, hot air was being blown on him.

Mewes said the heat tingled and lingered on his leg until halfway through the song, when he turned the music off. He said the tingling sensation lasted for at least an hour after the incident.

Experts in the paranormal field believe that ghosts need energy in order to materialize, so when a ghost is present temperature changes are common. Most of these temperature changes come in the form of cold spots, since ghosts are said to suck the energy — and therefore the heat — from their surroundings. Warmer temperatures have also been felt under paranormal circumstances, however.

Just like temperatures can change because of a presence draining energy from an area, battery and electronic equipment issues can occur in paranormal situations due to energy drainage, as well.

Johnson reported having trouble with his flashlight working, especially in the vicinity of the sound board, where Anderson has experienced ghost-like encounters in the past. Johnson said his flashlight has always worked perfectly and that he put new batteries in it before leaving for the theatre.

We stayed in the Paramount until almost 2 a.m., and in that time we had a few other experiences that could easily be dismissed as flukes but could also be chalked up to supernatural activity.

The high wind gusts surely added an ominous tone to our ghost hunt, but we recognize that many of the creaking and howling noises heard that night were most likely just the wind. After taking a closer look at our photos, we also dismissed many orb-like figures as reflections of light or specks of dust.

There may be no way to prove that George Dorn and Carl Lindstaedt still walk the halls of the Paramount, but Anderson and other individuals from the theatre’s past believe they are there, haunting the staff and patrons and — of course — regulating Anderson’s loud rock ‘n‘ roll intake.