get to know the history and ghosts of this haunted Austin landmark
Every Opera House must have their Phantom, and the Millett is no exception. As one of the most paranormally active sites in South Texas, this spine-chilling property will follow you long after you’ve left.
The Millett Opera House isn’t for you if you’re looking for a headcount. The establishment is populated by so many poltergeists that it's impossible to keep track.
While all historical structures creak and screech, the Millett Opera House take their hauntings to the next level.
Millett’s most popular poltergeist goes by the name of Priscilla. Some believe that Priscilla was a traveling actress who graced Millett’s stage sometime during the later nineteenth century, while others claim that she was an opera singer who fell to her death.
Either way, legend goes that Priscilla had been in the catwalk above the theatre’s stage the night of her last performance. She was to be wed the following day, so she’d retreated to the catwalk to reflect upon her illustrious career.
Prescilla was so overcome by the experience that she worked herself into a tizzy. Rumor has it that she lost her footing and ultimately fell to her death. It’s no surprise that she now haunts the house.
Staff frequently witness Priscilla as a full-bodied apparition in a long gown and loose fitting necklace. Those who haven’t seen her apparition still claim to feel her presence.
The most common paranormal disturbance occurs every night upon closing. Witnesses claim that Priscilla’s poltergeist rides the elevator continuously throughout the night, delighted by the opera’s updated technology.
Her other innocuous activity involves pulling curtains out of their tiebacks.
Yet Priscilla isn’t always such a friendly specter, and there are times when she straddles the line between good and evil.
One employee claims she attacked him while he carried a plate of food. While he was walking from the elevator, the plate was slapped from his hands by an unseen force.
Suddenly, the room dropped to near freezing temperatures. The employee then claims that he was pushed from behind before being spun around.
Was Priscilla attempting to dance with this involuntary playmate? Or, was this far more sinister activity?
Built on the site of a lumberyard owned by Charles Millett, the Opera House was intended to hold nearly ten percent of Austin’s population. It was built by “Captain” Charles Millett, who was widely considered to be one of the city’s most respected men.
One newspaper reported that Millett was “the most successful businessman in Austin.”
When Millett hired Frederick Ruffini to design the structure in a move, the exchange was so noteworthy it was mentioned in the newspapers. Ruffini was a highly esteemed architect and recent winner of an architectural competition in Chicago.
Able to seat 800 patrons a single show, Millett Opera House became the go-to venue for those seeking entertainment. It’s no surprise since the establishment was also the second largest theatre in the State of Texas.
Of course, the Theatre did not limit itself to opera alone, and the Millett played host to a myriad of events. Medicine shows, church services, graduations, dances, and recitals were all hosted upin the property.
The Millett Opera House was even used by the Legislature of the State of Texas while the Capital Building was under construction.
During its reign as one of the top theatres in Texas, the Millett’s stage was graced by the country’s finest entertainers of the era. Among these were Edwin Booth, famously related to Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth.
Edwin appeared at the theatre in a production of Othello on the 21st of February in 1888, though he later returned for James O’Neill’s 8th season of The Count of Monte Cristo.
In 1896, the theatre’s prominence was threatened by the all-electric Hancock Opera House. For whatever reason Captain Charles Millett did not renovate his theatre to include electricity. This decision would come back to haunt the Captain as his opera house fell to his competitor.
The Captain later sold his opera house in 1896 to Dr. M. A. Taylor, one of the founders of the Austin National Bank. Only two months after Dr. Taylor bought the property, he sold the theatre to his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. John T. Phillips.
The couple converted the former opera house into – of all things — a roller skating rink.
Phillips sold the former opera house to the Knights of Columbus in 1910, but their ownership of the theatre was short-lived. They sold the property in 1929, and sixteen years later the theatre was ordered to be destroyed.
Luckily for us, locals saved the Millett Opera House at the last minute. The theatre was then leased by one of the city’s most prominent printing and office supply companies, Maverick-Clarke.
The new tenant went on to renovate most of the first floor of the old opera house, propelling it into the twentieth century. (It seems like Priscilla appreciated the update.)
In 1965, the State Historical Survey Committee designated The Millett Opera House as a Texas Historic Landmark.
After decades of partnership, the printing company broke their lease with the school district. It wasn’t long before the opera house had a new tenant: The Austin Club.
With a 50-year lease agreement, the Austin Club ushered in their reign with major renovations.
The pairing of the Millett Opera House and the Austin Club was a perfect fit. The theatre was one of the city's most historic venues; the Austin Club was founded in 1949. Together they made the oldest club in downtown Austin.
Visit the Millett Opera House in the historic downtown district of Austin. Located at 110 East Ninth Street, it’s one of the most popular wedding venues in all of South Texas.
Be wary if you show up for a wedding... Priscilla may knock you over to catch the bouquet.