The focus of the tours is McGlohon Theater, which opened as a Baptist church in 1909. (Pam Brackett Photography)

N.C. PAC launching ghost tours just in time for Halloween

To scare up some much needed revenue during the pandemic and capitalize on Halloween, the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center has created a ghost tour of multiple theaters in uptown Charlotte.

The 45-minute tours, set for weekends starting Oct. 3 through Oct. 31, cost $25 a person for groups of up to 10 people. The price covers a “haunted” happy hour before the tour with a soft drink, beer or glass of wine for each patron.

Attendees will have their temperature taken before setting out. They’re required to wear masks and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing, said Kitty Janvrin, the Blumenthal’s season ticket marketing manager.

“We always talk about these legends, and with the pandemic and closing of the theaters over the past six months, we’re trying to think of ways we can bring some life back to the venues,” Janvrin said. “This is a way to reach out to all of our patrons anxious to be back in these spaces in a different way that’s healthy and safe.”

Ghost tours are nothing new with historic theaters. They all have their own spooky tales to tell of spirits inhabiting their facilities. A quick check of the internet shows vintage theaters in Phoenix; Atlanta; Milwaukee; Savannah, Ga.; and Asbury Park, N.J., have all done ghost tours.

In Charlotte, the focus is on the 730-seat McGlohon Theater, built in 1909 as a Baptist church. It is part of Spirit Square, a collection of small venues. (The name has nothing to do with paranormal activity, Janvrin said.)

Spirit Square in Charlotte, N.C., home to McGlohon Theater and the Duke Energy Theater. (Pam Brackett Photography)

The sanctuary and its stained-glass windows and Byzantine roof design remain intact after the space was converted to a live performance venue in 1980 and renamed for local jazz pianist Loomis McGlohon. The theater has booked Dave Mason, Tedeschi Trucks Band and Dweezil Zappa, among an eclectic mix of rock acts.

Over the past 40 years, there have been reports of a ghostly woman singing hymns in the empty McGlohon.

More recently, actors at a closed dress rehearsal observed a woman in a blue dress sitting in the balcony. She kept standing up and switching seats, distracting the performers.

They complained to the stage manager, and a staff member went up to the balcony but didn’t find anyone. No one had left the theater, Janvrin said.

In addition, security personnel have reported seeing a “blue orb” in the same location in the balcony, Janvrin said.

Ashby Blakely, an actor who works in ticketing for Blumenthal Performing Arts, was among those witnessing the phenomenon during the dress rehearsal. He will direct some ghost tours and discuss his personal account, Janvrin said.

The 2,100-seat Belk Theater, which opened in 1992, and the smaller Stage Door Theater are also part of the ghost tour, along with a walk around the Spirit Square complex.

Janvrin, herself an actor, performed in a show at the Duke Energy Theater, a “black box” venue next to the McGlohon. She has had her own experience sensing spirits in the air at the complex.

“When you’re down in the basement of the building in the dressing rooms alone, you do get kind of a chill up your back,” she said. “There’s some energy there. I’ve heard stories from (regular) tour guides that have experienced firsthand oddities and creepy things that have happened.”

This week, soon after emails were sent to priority members, the ghost tours were close to selling out, and officials will most likely schedule more of them. Those who can’t make it on weekends can contact the complex directly to book a time on weekdays, Janvrin said.

“Right now, we’re doing one to two tours a day because a few of our spaces are booked for virtual events filmed in the theaters and broadcast live or shown at a later date,” she said. “We’re working around the schedule.”

There’s no timeline for when Blumenthal venues will reopen for live events.

This week, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced venues with a minimum of 10,000 seats can open Oct. 2 but will be restricted to 7% of capacity. Smaller entertainment venues remain closed until further notice.