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A brief haunted history of The Paramount Theatre

Spooky stories surround the iconic Austin theater.

AUSTIN, Texas — It could be the "Phantom of The Paramount."

A pianist visiting The Paramount Theatre in Austin on Sunday snapped a photo of an eerie woman floating in the mezzanine.

The photo has led to a lot of conversations about The Paramount's haunted history, so KVUE talked to staff about its past.

The theatre has been around for 104 years, and it's one of only 25 theatres in the country that has reached its 100th birthday without ever being closed.

Performers on stage have included Katherine Hepburn, Orson Welles, Miles Davis and hundreds of other artists.

But there have also been many unexpected guests...


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Executive Director Jim Ritts said one of the ghosts at The Paramount is a woman in a white dress who is always in the mezzanine heading toward the south wall of the theatre.

“What we believe the history is that next to The Paramount Theatre, originally, was the War Department of the Republic of Texas,” Ritts said. “The belief is her husband had been a soldier who was missing. And she's constantly trying to get back over to the war department to find out the fate of her husband.”

That phantom could be the woman that pianist Chad Lawson said he photographed when visiting Austin on Sunday.

Ritts said the second spirit is an elderly gentleman in the left opera box smoking a cigar.

“Though we haven't seen him for a while, many of our folks over the past 10 years have smelled the cigar smoke or residue of cigars in that box,” Ritts said. "Considering this is a no-smoking theatre and because there is no vent or access to the alleys or any other places, we believe it is just the residue of him being in our theatre."


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There is also another, very special spirit – longtime projectionist Walter Norris, who died of a cardiac event in the booth in 2000 playing his favorite movie, "Casablanca." He always had a candy bar and soft drink in the booth.

“We've continued that tradition during our film season,” Ritts said. “And, in fact, most recently, when we brought in our digital cinema package about three and a half years ago, we kept having problems getting it installed, getting it to operate. One of our production people looked up and went, 'Oh my goodness, we don't have a soft drink or a candy bar up here.' They went and they got one and within three minutes, the digital cinema package was working perfectly.”

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