(Orig. Published 9/3/2004)
Elvis and the Beatles once “haunted” the stage of this historic theatre, but some say real ghosts also haunt the Cleveland Agora Theatre. If you are patient, attentive and brave enough to venture the dark corridors, catwalks and hidden rooms, then you just may encounter one of the theatre’s mysterious inhabitants.
Located on 5000 Euclid Avenue, the Agora Theatre is a true Cleveland landmark. Originally opened as the Metropolitan Theatre in 1910, it ran as a movie house and featured some of the most elegant interior architecture of its time. Some of that work is still visible today, as seen in this photo of the lobby, below.
The theatre stopped showing movies in 1949, when it became the famous WHK Auditorium. In its heyday, WHK Auditorium showcased live acts like Elvis and the Beatles. During the later years, the auditorium became the early home of WMMS and was the hotspot of the 70’s New Wave music scene. Nicknamed the “Disastodrome”, it featured cutting-edge performers like DEVO, Pere Ubu, Patti Smith, the Dictators, and the Dead Boys. Of course, by that time, the theatre moved away from its earlier, “respectable” reputation. The theatre was in a decayed state, and it was not uncommon for the audience to throw beer cans at the artists on stage.
Yet, the theatre endured during the changing times. It became a movie theatre again for a brief time in 1984–called the New Hippodrome–before it was reopened as the Cleveland Agora in 1985. Since that time, the Cleveland Agora has become one of the nation’s top music venues.
Which makes one wonder: Are the spirits here disturbed by all this loud noise, or do they thrive on it?
More importantly, are there really spirits haunting the Agora Theatre?
The kind folks at the Agora Theatre were kind and gracious enough to give us a private tour of the building to help us answer these questions.
The stage. It is in this area where stage hands have witnessed the apparition of a man dressed in a yellow raincoat.
One of the side balconies. During a rave, one attendee reported seeing the man in the yellow raincoat on the balcony stairs. Apparently, someone had dropped a bottle of Ecstasy pills on the floor. As kids were scrambling to pick them up, the man stared at the young man, as if to warn him not to pick up the pills. He then mysteriously disappeared.The young man did not know any of the theatre employees was presumably unaware of any prior sightings of the man in the yellow raincoat.
The catwalk above the stage manager’s office. Employees say that the man in the yellow raincoat is often seen standing on these stairs and the catwalk above.
The catwalk stairs. They appear even more treacherous in person.
The man in the yellow raincoat chose not to appear for us here. But, we did find these orbs in the photo. Are these dust particles, or his calling card?….
Well, as this photo from another part of the stage shows, they are most likely dust This shot was taken at the bottom of the backstage steps leading into the basement.
The medieval-looking metal door ahead leads into the infamous “Marilyn Manson” room. Really. Marilyn Manson did actually use this room to store his things for a period of time. At least one of his boxes remains inside the room, although no one is brave–or foolish–enough to open it.
Inside the Marilyn Manson room.
To the left of the Marilyn Manson room, this dark and creepy corridor leads to the basement lounge.
The basement lounge, where many bands and employees come to relax in privacy. However, it is difficult to imagine much relaxation going on in such a foreboding place.
Employees have indicated experiencing “strange feelings” and vibrations in this basement area.
The main balcony, viewed from the stage. Cleaning crews have reported doors unlocking and opening on their own.
On another occasion, a photographer was in this theatre, alone, taking pictures. In the seats, he saw what he believed to be workers watching him. As he approached the seats to thank them for staying with him, they disappeared.
Last year, Psychic Sonya performed an exorcism of the Cleveland Agora Theatre, intending to rid it of the spirits, including the yellow-coated ghost whom she called “John.” While employees have reported that the “strange feelings” have become much better since the exorcism, some believe that not all of the ghosts have been eliminated. It remains to be seen whether the ghosts of the Cleveland Agora Theatre have relinquished their control of this Cleveland icon.
Many thanks to the folks at the Cleveland Agora Theatre (especially Andrea) for taking us on this tour and sharing information on the theatre’s ghostly reputation.
For more information on the history of the Cleveland Agora Theatre, check out these links:
Toby Radloff’s (a.ka. The Genuine Nerd, “American Splendor”) contribution on the general history of the Metropolitan Theatre
This cool 1979 article on WHK Auditorium