When I was a volunteer stagehand for Actors Company and Kiwanis shows at Fulton Theatre in the 1960s and ’70s, I heard all the stories about spooks in the theater.
There were strange noises, and several ushers got scared by phantom patrons in the audience that just disappeared.
Once I did hear footsteps in “peanut heaven” at 2:30 in the morning when I knew I was the last person in the building.
I also heard music and voices coming from backstage on several occasions.
However, I knew these “spirits” were not supernatural because they didn’t follow the proper poltergeist protocol. The voices didn’t groan, growl or hiss at me to get out.
They told me about the fine jewelry at Appel & Weber, and invited me to see the new fall fashions at Watt & Shand.
The music was odd, too. It was lively rock instead of spooky Bach.
These sounds were created by two long iron rods that ran from the stage all the way up to the windows in the cupola on the roof.
During periods of high barometric pressure, these rods would sometimes pick up the strong radio signal broadcast by WGAL only two blocks away.
They would vibrate in harmony and become audible. Usually they were only heard backstage, but I remember once when the music was loud enough to be heard by the audience during a performance.
Sadly, the tall antenna was taken down, and the rods with their handwheels were removed during one of the renovations of the theater. So this unique piece of Lancaster lore is gone for good. Folks will have to be satisfied with the standard ghosts.
However, if you happen to be standing alone on stage some humid night, and you hear Pat Boone singing “April Love” or recognize FDR giving a “Fireside Chat,” it might just be the building trying to express itself as part of Lancaster’s history.
The author lives in Willow Street.