Our affiliate in Watertown, CT - RISEUP Connecticut - had been in negotiations with the Warner Theater to
conduct a public investigation of the theater for the benefit of the Warner Theater Restoration Fund. Using the
same template as we had for a similar series of events at Belcourt Castle in Newport, R.I., we first wanted to
conduct a controlled investigation of the building in an effort to validate the claims that had been related to us
from the Warner staff. This was accomplished on Jan. 16th.
RISEUP Investigators Present: Ken DeCosta (RI)
David DeCosta (RI)
Chris Blanchette (RI)
Julie DeMay (RI)
Dan Snizek (RI)
Tom Stewart (RI)
Gail Capolupo (CT)
Ann Collette (CT)
Don Krantz (CT)
Tom Flanagan (CT)
Geographical and Historical Data
The Warner Theatre is an Art-Deco style movie palace located at 68-82 Main Street in Torrington, Connecticut. It
opened on August 19, 1931 as part of the Warner Bros. chain of movie theaters. Today it operates as a mixed-use
performing arts center. It is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also a contributing
property in the Downtown Torrington Historic District. The theater has been deemed the "finest surviving
Modernistic theatre in Connecticut."
The Warner Theatre was built as a first-run movie palace by Warner Bros. Studios. This elaborate art-deco
building was designed by nationally-renowned architect Thomas W. Lamb. The opening was a state wide event
attended by then-Governor Wilbur Cross and many other dignitaries. Seating 1,704 patrons, the Warner was a
stunning example of state-of-the-art technology and lush, elegant surroundings.
In the 1960s Warner Brothers sold the Warner Theatre to a private owner who continued to show movies until
the late 1970s. By the early 1980s the theatre was closed and slated for demolition when a group of local citizens
banded together and formed what is now known as the Northwest Connecticut Association for the Arts. This non-
profit group worked passionately to save the landmark from destruction. After a successful grass-roots campaign,
the association purchased the theatre and re-opened it on May 22, 1983.
The theatre is in operation year-round with more than 80,000 patrons passing through its doors each year. It
provides a dynamic art-in-education program that has reached thousands of young people from throughout the
region. It features a community theatre program that is supported by more than 400 volunteers—from actors to
carpenters to ushers. It has presented some of the world's finest performers, from the Vienna Boys Choir to Anne
Murray, and from George Carlin to the Washington Ballet. The Warner's dedicated Board of Directors represents a
unique cross-section of business, education, government, and the arts, providing strong and visionary leadership
for this important institution.
The claims of paranormal activity at the Warner are very varied in scope and frequency. We had heard a number
of stories related to the theater through communications with the staff and via published accounts of guests as
well as other paranormal groups who had previously visited there. Armed with that information, we weren't fully
prepared for the words of John Kolosky, Director of Facilities as he took us on our initial walk-through.
We were fully aware of the Warner's primary spirit, an entity who goes the by the given name of "Murph".
Depending on which account you hear, he was a vagrant/drunk who, seeking shelter from a rainstorm, found
access to the inside of the theater and subsequently fell down a flight of stairs leading to the basement and died
as a result. The other version is that he was either a patron or a volunteer that fell down those stairs and
succumbed to his injuries a short time later at a local hospital. The stairs in question are shown below. A man has
been seen lying at the bottom of these stairs as well as wandering around in the basement.
The spirit of a man (assumed to be "Murph") has also said to have been seen walking through a side door in
The staff has also reported seeing shadows darting about the theater section (left, below) as well as a shape
described as an "old, round face with bushy eyebrows" peering out from an otherwise empty projection booth
(right, below). Staff members claim a feeling of uneasiness upon entering the projection room. Also on the main
stage, the apparition of a little girl wearing a yellow hat has been witnessed by one member of the theater staff.
Lights have been known to turn themselves on and off and some have felt cold wind in the middle of summer
with no air conditioning. Performers have seen dark, shadowy figures sitting in the balcony seats (below) during
their rehearsals. Again, the figure of a little girl has also been spotted in the balcony.
There is also a story of a huge control lever that controls all of the lights in the building. It normally took two
or three people to pull it down. (The lever was removed during renovations several years ago.) One day, there
were but two people at the theater - not in any way close to this lever - when suddenly the lights went out. They
went back to check and the lever was switched to the "off" position.
In the second floor Atrium area (below), the apparition of a grocery store clerk who apparently committed
suicide has been seen hanging from the ceiling on at least one occasion. His shop was at one point in the front of
Perhaps the most bizarre story we heard that night concerned the box office manager seeing a group of what
she described as "Civil War-era soldiers" standing against a back wall of the basement (below).
In the theater offices, which also contain a meeting room, the apparition of a young girl has also been seen in
a doorway there. The faucets in the kitchen area of the meeting room have been known to turn on by themselves.
One possibly unrelated, but nonetheless tragic occurrence took place in 1992, when a worker sealing another
theater roof across the street fell into a vat of hot tar and died.
All RISEUP investigators gathered at the theater at approximately 5 pm to begin the investigation. The base
was set up in the second floor hallway which granted easy central access to most of the areas of reported activity.
Every entrance to the theater was then locked to eliminate anyone from entering during the investigation.
Both Rhode Island and Connecticut teams were broken into groups to spread out through the theater. Three staff
members present were allowed to accompany us as we felt their knowledge of the theater and the activity might
prove vital at various points through the evening.
Ken DeCosta and Don Krantz began the night in the theater where voices, apparitions and odd sounds have
been reported. Ken would position himself in the lower bowl while Don stationed himself up in the balcony area.
An EVP session was conducted and Ken would record the session on video.
Nothing unusual was seen or heard during this point in time, but a review of the audio revealed a very strange
response to a question Ken had regarding the little girl and her presence in the theater. At 0:16, what sounds like
a woman's voice is heard quite clearly. What is said, however, is not so clear. We can't quite make a leap of faith
and it remains subjective as to what it is we are hearing.
Female Voice in Theater
Gail Capolupo and Julie DeMay were given the basement area for their first assignment of the night. This is
where a man died after a fall down the stairs and his spirit has been said to remain there. It is also where a
spectral group of Civil War soldiers has been seen standing against a wall.
During their session, it first appeared a series of bangs were answering questions in an intelligent manner.
Further investigation revealed it was merely the sounds of a time clock that by sheer coincidence was clicking in
rhythm with their questions. A more compelling experience had to do with a door upstairs toward the box office
area slamming shut. We ascertained for certain no one was in that area and the door cannot be shut by anything
less than a manual push. In the video, Gail at first misidentifies it as opening. It is in fact, closing.
Tom Stewart, Dan Snizek and Ann Collette ventured into the projection room for their first investigation of the
night. They were accompanied by Development Associate Laura McGuffie from the Warner Theater. At one point in
their session, Laura claimed to have seen a shadow walk directly in front of the middle doorway inside the room
(below). An immediate check ruled out any possibility someone else from our staff was in the room with them.
Later, as Ken, Dan and Chris sat in the projection room, an EVP session began with all Ken introducing himself as
he took the lead. He neglected to introduce anyone else and the other men didn’t follow suit. Perhaps this is why
this very remarkable disembodied voice was caught on a digital recorder in the area.
A change up of investigators found Dan, Chris Blanchette and Ken in the theater, still searching for some
indication of a spirit presence there. This proved to be a rather interesting session. From the very beginning, each
investigator began to have audible and visual experiences there. For Chris, it was the shadows that would dart
across aisles for a prolonged period of time. Now paying attention to try and confirm Chris' sightings, it was Ken
who watched as what appeared to be the shadow created by a set of feet crossed under the main entrance doors.
There was no head or body that could be seen through the window of the door. Breaking into a full sprint, Ken
reached the door within seconds with Chris doing the same toward an adjacent entrance. No one was found in the
outside hallway or in the lobby area.
Returning to the seating area, it was not long before the shadows re-appeared accompanied by the sounds of
footsteps. It was clear the footsteps were of a shuffling nature across the carpeted floor of the theater. They were
recorded, but so faintly heard that posting the sounds would lean toward futility in hearing them.
As the group was in the process of leaving, they all heard very distinct footsteps, this time heavy and on what
sounded like hard wood. From the direction of the sound, it was surmised they were coming from directly above
them from the ceiling. The odd part is that there is no attic area per se in the theater, and access to the roof is all
but impossible as well as unnecessary. It was only later that we all realized what we were actually hearing - the
footsteps were coming across the stage. The amazing acoustic qualities of the theater created the auditory illusion
they were coming from above us. We arrived at this conclusion because there was a digital recorder sitting on the
stage that recorded the sounds you will hear on the link below. Please note that our surveillance camera footage
shows all three investigators half-way up the center aisle, a good 50 feet from the stage standing on carpeting
when the sound was recorded. Ken is attempting to contact the little girl seen here and the door you will hear
shutting is Chris leaving the seating area. None of us at this point is standing anywhere near a wooden floor.
Footsteps across the stage
Tom Stewart claimed that during a session with Tom Flanagan and Laura McGuffie in the Warner offices, they
heard an unexplained series of bangs which seemed to increase in frequency and focus as they began asking
The next group inside the theater area was Gail, Ann and Julie DeMay. They were joined by Warner staff
members Maureen Madden-Tardy, Sharon Chase and Laura McGuffie. A laser grid was set up in an attempt to
clearly determine if anything with mass was moving about the theater.
This video recounts what the group saw, which falls in line with exactly what Chris, Ken and Dan observed
during their previous session there.
Ann asked numerous questions while there as Julie ran video. At one point, Ann stated she saw a tall thin
black shadow up in right hand corner of the upper seating area, which got up and walked up the isle. As Julie
headed up the aisle to investigate, Gail saw a head go by one of the doors outside the seating area in the hallway.
Julie ran up one isle and Gail up the other and they met outside in the hallway. No one was in the area and they
returned to the stage area. Others also claimed to be seeing shadow movements from the back corners of the
seating areas. Gail then saw a tall, black, wavy shadow run across the theater between the upper level and lower
levels. Session ended for break down of equipment.
During the breakdown, Tom Stewart claimed he saw what appeared to be someone running down the aisle in
the lower seating level. Initially thinking it was another team member, he quickly realized it was not. He described
it as "a quick, white flash" that vanished very abruptly.
The opportunity to investigate what truly is a national and regional treasure was one of the great experiences
we've had to date. We are extremely grateful to Maureen Madden-Tardy, Director of Development for the Warner
Theater for making it all possible. Our Connecticut staff has done a wonderful job in putting this together and
representing us, our principles and methodologies in nothing but a positive light.
Legends that surround theaters most often revolve around strong emotions. In many cases, the people that
once frequented them as actors or even its patrons had big personalities and were, in many instances, larger-
than-life characters. It is not difficult to imagine the emotional investment and attachment they had to these
types of locations.
Always in the back of our minds is the real possibility that these legends grow from simple truths or events.
Time and the recounting of the stories eventually take on a life of their own. In the case of the Warner Theater,
our investigation - in which personal experiences were the order of the night - seemed to support at least the
distinct possibility that energies still hold the audience's attention much in the way the performers who have
graced its stage have.
The public event has been booked for Sunday, March 20, 2011 and we are very much looking forward to the
potential experiences our guests might have and whether the ghosts of the Warner Theater will agree to an
encore performance for their benefit.