BUILT: c. 1912
OPERATION TIME: 1913 to present
The Orpheum Theater (now called the Capitol Theatre was first opened in 1913, and had “groundbreaking architectural designs” of its time since it used terra cotta as well as other materials that were not generally used. There were enough seats to have 2,000 viewers, and it had vaudeville acts twice a day.
In 1923, the theater was purchased by the Ackerman Harris Vaudeville Company. While vaudeville was very popular in the US, movies began to dominate the entertainment industry. In 1927, the building was sold to mayor Louis Marcus, who turned the theater into a movie and play theater. It was then he renamed the theater the Capitol Theatre, being that Salt Lake City was Utah’s capital.
Seating capacity was increased, a Wurlitzer organ was added, and the first “talkie movie” played in 1929. The focus of the theater between 1929 and 1975 was playing movies, but it did have the occasional travelling stage productions.
On July 4th, 1949, part of the Capitol Theatre caught fire. Even despite the huge blaze, the only casualty was that of the young new usher, Richard “Dickey” Duffin, who perished while saving those who were inside the theater at the time.
Now, he haunts the grounds and has been able to unplug extension cords, move lights, slam doors, and move the elevator up and down. Other occurrences include electronic equipment malfunctioning inside the theater when they were working fine prior to entering the building.
However, not all of the paranormal activity may be Duffin’s fault. An area next to the Capitol Theatre called the West Temple and 2nd South area has a haunted past as well. The areas banks and hotels are known for their spiritual idea. One such hotel was the spot of the murder of the Emanuel David family. A mother threw her children off the 12th floor of the site, and people can now hear a child screaming “Mom, don’t make me do it!”. Several other murders have taken place in the area.
In Popular Culture
- The story was featured in SyFy Channel’s Paranormal Witness in episode “Capitol Theatre Haunting”.
- Forgotten USA. “The Capital Theater,” www.ForgottenUSA.com
- Paranormal Witness. “Capitol Theater Haunting,” www.SyFy.com