You know what’s scary than watching a screening of the “The Haunting,” director Robert Wise’s classic about paranormal activity? Viewing it while seated next to the darkened aisles in a haunted theater.
This Saturday, the grand old Alex Theatre in Glendale will present two showings (one at 2 p.m. and, for you braver souls, an 8 p.m. screening) of the spooky 1963 film that starred Russ Tamblyn, Julie Harris, Claire Bloom and Richard Johnson. (You can see the trailer below) But there’s more: Michael J. Kouri, an author and self-described psychic-medium and parapsychological investigator, will be on hand for to describe his repoire with ghosts and also show footage of a seance staged in the 84-year-old Glendale movie palace.
Kouri, has a number of books and the latest is “True Hauntings of Glendale & Beyond,” had a, um, spirited conversation with Hero Complex contributor Susan King regarding the five dozen ghosts or so that inhabit the Alex.
SK: So the Alex Theatre is haunted?
Michael J. Kouri: It’s very haunted. I grew up in Burbank and I used to go there to watch movies. I would often see a woman in the men’s room dressed as an usherette. And this is a weird thing to say, but I was at the urinal and somebody pinched me on my butt. I didn’t notice a ghost or anything. But while I was washing my hands I could see her reflection — in the mirror behind me — holding towels. Because I can see ghosts I could talk with her mentally, telepathically. I ask her her name and she didn’t say anything. Then I asked, ‘Why are you here?’ And she said, ‘Because I like my job. Wouldn’t you stay where you liked your job?’
I told my girlfriend the story. We went back to our seats. We were seated in the balcony and saw a strange light like a ball of lightning come down the middle aisle like an usher was helping somebody to their seat. Denise, my girlfriend, noticed it. There was no one humanly attached with it, but she thought she saw a hand on the flashlight. I could see it, too. I could see the same woman holding the flashlight, but I could also see a man and a woman both beautifully dressed. The usher was helping the woman to her seat, which was a couple of rows back and across from us. There are so many spirits there, they are doing the things they were doing when they were alive.
SK: Wait, so ghosts don’t just haunt the place they died?
Kouri: It’s a misnomer that they only haunt the places that they die. The thing is, they go back to places they enjoyed themselves. That was a place where the usherette had a regular routine. Her clothing looked like the period of the 1930s. I am a historian and an antiques dealer so I know the styles really well. She’s not always there. She’s only there at night.
SK: Can you enlighten us about some of the spectral presences at the Alex?
Kouri: There is a couple that used to go to the theater every Tuesday. They always sat in the 13th row, in the center. They are often been heard talking during movies and programs. People will shush them and the man will turn around and say ‘’I can talk as loud as I want!’ and then he dematerializes from view. Many, many people have told me that story.
The last time I heard that story was when the Russian Ballet was in town. I think it was Christmastime a year ago and some people were sitting in that area and they kept hearing this couple talking. They couldn’t make out what they were saying but they could hear this bickering [about dinner]. The woman [I talked to] said she could only see the backs of heads because it was dark. She leaned over and said, “Could you talk about your dinner some other time?” The man turned around and looked at her. She said the man’s eyes were glowing yellow like a cat. She was so scared she left her husband there [and went into the lobby for help]. But they were gone…
SK: Truly creepy.
Kouri: I have interviewed people from the Gay Men’s Chorus that use that facility and they say they have seen a haggard woman in the dressing room and she’s always wearing a wedding gown.
I know that there was a woman who was an actress who came to Glendale in 1927. She and her fiancee performed at the Alex Theatre in a play. They rented an apartment in Glendale. She was stood up at the alter at a church right up the street on Brand Avenue and later she found out he had died in a car accident. She never moved on from that. She finished the play and went on to another city. Since her death, she haunts the basement of the theater. She’s seen wearing an old, torn-up wedding gown and her face is kind of gaunt and gray and her eyes are dark. She looks like a ghoul. I have seen her, too. I try to help spirits understand they are no longer in the living and they don’t have to stay there. So I try to help them make peace with their existence.
“The Haunting” at the Alex Theatre, 216 North Brand Boulevard, Glendale. Tickets are $13.50; $9.50 seniors (65+) and $8 for full-time students with I.D. For more details on this event or the venue, go to the website of the Alex Film Society.
— Susan King
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