San Antonio is famous for its haunted locations, right down to its theaters. Most notably, the defunct Alamo Street Theater (now a hotdog place called Frank), and the Alamo Quarry Theatre (owned by Regal) which can be found at the Alamo Quarry Market are particularly known for their ghostly residents.
Alamo Quarry Theatre was built over an old cement factor. For decades, the site has been cloaked in mystery, with rumors that there are bodies trapped within its foundation, thus creating unsettled souls. The staff has reportedly felt cold spots in various spots on the second floor (on both sides of the theater), and at night they have witnessed the auditorium’s lights slowly dim to darkness, then switch back on, shining even brighter than before. This paranormal phenomena tends to repeat itself until everyone has left the theatre for the night. Others have also seen the ghostly image of a child in the projection room.
Another haunted theater, and perhaps the more famous of the two, is the defunct Alamo Street Theater. The theater (turned hot dog joint) was originally a church building, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the church's former parishioners continues to haunts the establishment, and she can usually be spotted in the choir loft, dressed in her Victorian garb.
Many of the buildings along San Antonio’s River Walk are believed to be haunted, and the building that used to house the Alamo Street Theater is no exception. It was originally the Alamo Methodist Church, built in the year of 1912. It continued to serve as a church until 1968. At that time, the building lay vacant and became a camping ground for the city's homeless until 1976, when Bill and Marcie Larsen stumbled upon the building while out on their Sunday drive—they instantly fell in love with its architecture. The story goes that Bill, glancing up at the church, exclaimed, “That sure would make a dandy place to have a dinner theatre."
To which Marcie replied, “You've lost your mind!"
But, by the end of the night Bill had his wife convinced that they should buy the little old church. So, the Larsons bought the neglected and forlorn building, and began renovating it. They converted the bottom level into a restaurant and theater, and added a stage to the former chapel. The couple was also able to preserve the Tiffany-style stained glass window and pressed tin ceiling.
The theater used to play two shows in the evening. In the lower "Green Room Dinner Theatre” they presented original films (mysteries, dramas or comedies) as entertainment for patrons while they enjoyed their buffet dinner. As for the upper theater, it typically showed more traditional productions and became San Antonio's first non-profit theater.
The building would later become known as Casbeers at the Church (aka San Antone Cafe and Concerts), but the building was once again forced to closed its doors, this time in May of 2011. The building sat quietly behind its locked gates, on the corner of South Alamo and Wickes Street for more than three years. Until plans for it to reopen as a Frank emerged. Frank hosted its grand opening on Friday, March 4, 2016, offering its brand of gourmet hot dogs (no funnel cakes, come on), a bar, a venue for live music, and yes, movies too. From now through August, they're showing Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Toy Story and Smokey and the Bandit.
The Alamo Street Theater was the first business in San Antonio to receive the South Texas Ghost Hunters Alliance "Officially Haunted" award. It's easy to see why, considering the site of the former theater hosts a variety of spirits, and reportedly there's over a dozen of these souls.
One of these souls, that people have claimed to see, is a ghostly gentleman dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing. His apparition has been seen where church services were once held, and some even believe he was a founding member of the Alamo Methodist Church. Another soul at the theater is believed to be the night-owlish ghost of a former actor named Alvin.
There are also reports of a very active ghostly child that is fond of moving objects around, turning lights on and off and running up and down the aisles of the theaters. Got ritalin?
The spirit of this young boy, who is constantly acting mischievously, has been dubbed, “Eddie." Eddie appears to be around the age of a nine or ten. He is believed to have died of polio, as his ghost began appearing shortly after the arrival of an old Victorian era wicker wheelchair, that was bought as prop for a play. People attribute Eddie's liveliness as an expression of liberation after a childhood of being stricken with polio and confined to a wheelchair. One certainly must understand his rebellious spirit and his love for the site of the old theater.
The main ghost of the building is allegedly the spirit of Margaret Gething, the great-granddaughter of an English lord. Margaret was a "charming society girl of the city," who helped the Red Cross during World War II. She left San Antonio for New York to become an actress, and even once starred in a Broadway play with Clark Gable. Margaret would later return to San Antonio, becoming involved with interior design; and later, she became the president of the King William Association, a neighborhood conservation group that operates with the goal of preserving properties like the building of the former Alamo Street Theater.
The building is allegedly haunted by the ghost of Margaret Gething, perhaps, because she is still drawn to the stage, remembering her days on Broadway. Her seamstress, Henrietta, is also supposedly attracted to the space, in particular, the costumes backstage. Reports of the two appearing in the theater began during the Alamo Street Restaurant & Theatre reincarnation, in the year of 1976 (just a year after Gething passed away). The ghostly duo continued to appear even after the building changed ownership, becoming Casbeers at the Church.
The theater used to put on a show several times a year, called In The Company of Ghosts, which is a show based on stories about Eddie, Miss Margaret and the other ghosts of the building. It was a chance to show appreciation for all the souls who call the theater their home.
The former owner of the Alamo Street Theater, Mrs. Marcie Larsen, was very protective of her ghosts, claiming once: "They are all very friendly and bother no one. Anyone who tries to come and get rid of them will be thrown out.” (By “protective” we mean “protective;” in no shape or fashion would Marcie let anyone either harm or disrupt the spirits at her theatre).
One recorded occurrence happened back in 2001, inside a glass casing on the wall, where there just so happened to be a pendulum that was rocking back and forth. Nothing too crazy, right? Well, it turns out that the clock had not operated in years.
Several times in the kitchen, Mrs. Larsen reported that "a big serving spoon would rise up off the steam table, levitate across the room and land on the floor among the dinner tables." This activity has been witnessed by numerous guests and staff-members alike.
Mrs. Larsen recalled another time, when she offered to help an elderly woman, by carrying her plate from the buffet. As the two began to walk back toward the lady's table, the plate was suddenly ripped from Mrs. Larsen's hands by an unseen force and thrown onto the ground, shattering the plate into a million little pieces (not so friendly, and dare I say downright bothersome). Marcie Larson swore up and down that she did not drop the plate and that it had been forcefully snatched out of her hands.
Back in the early 2000s, it was a lady's birthday and she had recently been given a cupcake with a candle to celebrate. But, before she could blow the candle out to make her wish, the candle was plucked out from the cupcake and thrown several feet across the room. Mrs. Larsen believes that the incident was the work of that young ghostly rascal, Eddie. On another occasion, Eddie also pulled a woman's hair (I guess he had a crush on her).
The young Eddie is reported to be especially fond of Ms. Sotello. Before she became the General Manager of the building, Sotello worked in the kitchen as a cook. When she arrived each morning, the first thing that she would do was light the oven in preparation for the bread and muffins that were needed for noon. But, Eddie would often turn the oven back off just as soon as Sotello turned her back. Not in the mood to deal with his behavior so early in the morning, she would tell him: "All right, Eddie. Let's cut that out!” As she’s told the story, Eddie generally heard the message loud and clear after that, and he would leave the oven on for the rest of the day
Other times when Sotello would lean into the giant, commercial-sized refrigerator to grab something, she would feel a push from behind, as Eddie was trying to playfully push her into the 'fridge. A playful prankster or not, employees like Ms. Sotello have griped that sometimes Eddie can get a little too carried away with his jokes and has even pulled shelves right out of the refrigerator!
Over the years Ms. Sotello established a rapport with the young ghostly Eddie. On days when she was unable to indulge in his mischief, she'd kindly tell to him, “Oh, Eddie, can you please leave me alone? I’ve just got a long day today.”
For the most part, Eddie listened. Now there’s a good ghost.
One day, Victoria Sotello recalled smelling a mysterious perfume scent, “I’ll never forget that odor.” She believed the perfume scent came from the ghost of Miss Margaret. “I followed the smell and it went all the way up to the theater, and I said, ‘Oh, my God’ … I mean, it was just one of those odors from way back, like rosewater, or something a little old lady would wear.” Whether Ms. Sotello ever stumbled across Miss Margaret’s apparition is another story indeed, but the scent of rosewater was fragrantly strong no matter where she was in the building.
“Everybody knows the building’s haunted,” says Tom Nagy, a former worker at the theater. “The first thing customers say, is they want to see Miss Margaret.” (Little do they realize that if we had the chance to make ghosts appear on demand, we would all be filthy rich).
Margaret Gething, or Miss Margaret as she was affectionately known, apparently had a low tolerance for those with poor theater etiquette. In the past, audience members who have rudely talked during a show have reportedly heard someone behind them shushing them. But, upon, turning around to see the shusher—and perhaps to give them a little piece of their mind—the chatty audience members find that there is no one sitting behind them. This shusher is said to have been Miss Margaret, another one of Mrs. Larsen's beloved ghosts.
The former director, Brian Cobb, also had some interesting experiences during his time at the theater. He specifically had encounters with Margaret that were unforgettable. He was once seated in the audience, watching as a couple of actors ran through their lines. It was then that he heard a nearby voice softly say, "Brian...Oh...Brian….” In retelling the ghostly encounter, he adamantly states that he did not imagine the whispering of his name. Apparently, it's not poor theater etiquette when Margaret is the one who is doing the whispering.
Cobb's partner at the theater, Paul Gaedke, had a run-in with Margaret as well. He remembered hearing late one evening a woman calling out, "Help me! Help me!" Another example of Margaret misbehaving occurred during a non-musical play, when all of a sudden, a disembodied female voice could be heard singing from the audience—and apparently her voice wasn't the most pleasant.
Apparently Miss Margaret might be the Queen of the Theatre, but that doesn’t mean she ever belonged on stage.
People have taken many pictures that show just how much the spirits like to hang around theater. Photos of orbs have also been captured in the hallway just outside the theater's entrance. The most famous picture was taken back in 1990, and Mrs. Larsen has spoken specifically on just how they came about getting this famous photograph.
A couple (Barbara and Edward Kulis) had come the eat at the buffet, they were visiting from out of state (Florida). Barbara told Mrs. Larsen that she was a psychic and had a "funny feeling" about the building, she asked Mrs. Larsen if she could visit the upstairs theater. It was in the middle of the summer, and the upstairs was exceedingly hot, as the air conditioning unit was broken. The couple said they were from Florida and didn't mind the heat. When they first reached upstairs, Mrs. Larsen claimed the heat was stiflingly hot, but within minutes the temperature began to drop dramatically, to the point they actually started to shiver, and Barbara, then said that she felt a presence. They took a Polaroid photo of the entryway, and once it had developed, they were stunned to see a lady wearing a white dress, the lady was believed to be Miss Margaret. Mrs. Larson, proudly displayed the photo in the restaurant for all to see.
When I think of the ghosts of this building, I think of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." Are Little Eddie and Miss Margaret, "just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl year after year?" Better than answering my own question, I'll just say, so, what if they are. Eddie and Margaret are doing exactly what they want to be doing, they're having a blast in the afterlife. And, in this case, perhaps you should "trade your heroes for ghosts."
The site of the former Alamo Street Theater (now Frank) is located at 1150 South Alamo Street, in the King William Historic District, among the lovely mansions and cottages built by German immigrants who helped to establish San Antonio. Do Miss Margaret and Little Eddie still haunt the building? I sure hope so. But, perhaps you should visit Frank, and see if you can feel their presence for yourself.
If you would like to learn more please consider taking our Ghosts of Old San Antonio Tour!