“I love ghost stories, ghost movies, ghost hunting TV shows, and the concept of ghosts,” he continued, “but what I don’t like is how it makes my research and people’s experiences seem easily debunkable, or even hokey. There is nothing hokey about the paranormal.”
Instead, he prefers to call it a “paranormal investigation.” Colin, who hosts and produces the YouTube series The Paranormal Files, flew back to his hometown from Texas (he’s currently a full time film student at the University of Texas at Austin) to investigate the historical Orpheum Theater downtown and to film an episode. His show, which recently hit over 23,000 subscribers, posts two new episodes a week that showcase his unique experiences with the unknown.
While most of the filming takes place in the United States, Colin has conducted paranormal investigations internationally in places like England and Costa Rica, and most recently in Romania.
605’s team met up with Colin at the Orpheum on a Saturday evening in September. Colin says he likes to meet right around nightfall, so we arrived at 7 p.m. We were greeted by SMG Sioux Falls director of sales and public relations Rick Huffman, who explained that not many have had this opportunity since it’s owned by the city.
“I suppose since it’s a city building, previous decision makers didn’t want people to think it was haunted. I’m not quite sure,” he said. “But this time there was no issue, and we’re happy to have you here.”
Colin arrived and was joined by his father, Jeff, and mother, Mary, who were there to assist with gear. His co-host and girlfriend, Payton McWhorter, was unable to join the investigation.
Huffman, who has been with SMG Sioux Falls for over six years, has heard many versions of ghostly sightings and stories and would act as our guide for the evening.
We moved from the newer foyer addition back outside to re-enter through the original entrance under the glowing Orpheum sign. As we walked through the doors, Colin began filming for the interview portion.
Huffman gave some background on the oldest existing theater in Sioux Falls, which was built in 1913. John and Frank Solari designed the 1,000-seat Orpheum to be a “state-of-the-art theater” for staging vaudeville. It was sold several times over the years, and remained a vaudeville house until 1927 when it was sold to Minnesota Amusement Co., who converted it into a B-movie and second run theater. It was then purchased by the Sioux Falls Community Playhouse (SFCP) in 1954 until the city took it over.
Our group proceeded to the auditorium, which now seats around 700, depending on the show. We walked to the front of the stage, where Huffman began telling us about the different versions of the Orpheum spirit, “Larry.”
He motioned up to the balcony and said, “The balcony is the scene of probably the most famous, or the most often repeated, ghost story that we’ve ever come across.”
A popular tale goes that in 1959 a gentleman who was well known at the time had a radio show and did a lot of community theater at the Orpheum. He was there late one night performing when the script called for him to deliver a line to the “sky.”
“As he delivered the line and looked up into the balcony, he saw a growing blue, bright light, and the apparition of a male was in that light,” said Huffman. “He said the male apparition appeared to be either waving at him or motioning him to come up the balcony, and he left.”
Huffman says the man was instantly hit by an icy-cold blast, sending him to quickly grab the keys and lock the door before he left.
“The next morning, the staff of the community playhouse came in and discovered that all the newly wired fusing in the building had been blown out,” said Huffman. “And the guess is that maybe the apparition had become angry that this gentleman had just left so suddenly and wasn’t willing to communicate with him at all.”
“He left him hanging,” said Colin.
Rick said, “Yes, exactly. There’s a lot of different versions of that story, but what ties it into a lot of people is that there was a story of back in the days when this was a movie theater there was two storefronts on the front of the building. Above that were two apartments. The theater manager at the time lived in one of those apartments and was having an affair with a married woman.”
In this version, her husband came down to the theater one night and “caught them in the act.” A fight ensued, and it spilled into the balcony.
“The husband killed the theater manager. The thinking is that this male apparition was that theater manager coming back to either try to connect with people or exact his revenge. We don’t know for sure,” said Rick, as we all looked in awe.
Colin asked, “But that actually happened, like a recorded murder?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” said Huffman.
He then described how the name Larry came about.
“Eventually, the ghost, so to speak, developed a name. We don’t know where the name came from or who gave it to him, but his name is Larry,” he said. “And to this day there are people who say that they have seen Larry at least as an apparition or have felt his presence here in the building when they’ve been here. I’ve done a lot of shows here and know a lot of people who have had experiences in the building on stage, down in the basement where the greenroom and the dressing rooms are.”
It’s there that a lot of people have reported things that have “bothered them,” and some have been frightened.
Huffman then talked about a personal acquaintance who was working there.
“He was a staff member in the community playhouse at the time. And he was cleaning up the stage after a performance one night so it was ready to go the next day, and he was sweeping across the stage here, and he felt something and turned around. On the floor, where he just had finished sweeping, there was a picture laying there that had not been there because he had just swept that area,” he said.
Huffman continued, “And he reached down and lifted up the picture, and it was a picture of a male, an older black and white picture. It wasn’t very big. He was kind of freaked out by it. He set it down on the light board and went to get somebody, and when they came back the picture was gone.”
There are also whispers of a worker dying during the building’s construction. Another talk is of someone who hanged himself for not getting a role he wanted in a play. In the ‘70s, there was allegedly a janitor who died, and Larry could also be that person coming back to haunt the theater.
I, myself, heard that version.
I asked, “Something fell on him from the stage, right?”
“Yes, they used sandbags to help with set pieces and backdrops, and the pulley system wasn’t being used at the time and a sandbag had come down and landed on his head and it killed him right then on the spot,” said Huffman.
I shared my Larry the janitor story. My sister, Holly, and I were in a ‘90s SFCP production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and we were exiting stage right during rehearsal. A speaker fell from the top of stage, barely missing her head, and the corner of it sliced down her cheek. People rushed to make sure she was okay, and then the room started buzzing about Larry.
It just so happened that it was picture week, and she sported a badass mark for her fourth grade photo.
We then walked by the set production room, where Huffman explained there have been accidents, but none tied to the paranormal.
Going downstairs, we saw the greenroom and the two dressing rooms. We then went in the basement hallway where there are thousands of signatures (including mine) of past performers.
Huffman said, “It’s pretty common for people who do shows that they like to write their name on the wall and what show it was, you know, like Annie 2006, or something like that.”
“There’s a lot of energy on the wall,” said Colin.
There definitely was, and it’s down there that Colin says local psychic medium Donna O’Dea vows she’ll never return from the experience she had.
Colin asked, “Has anyone ever been pushed down here?”
“I don’t know about pushed. I know physical feelings; physical contact that might have been pushes that might have just been touches or something like that,” said Huffman. ”I have heard different descriptions of it where people have felt something touch them down here on various parts of the upper body; the shoulders, the back, the head, things like that.”
One thing Huffman believes is that Larry isn’t downstairs.
“It’s something darker. Larry, I don’t think, has necessarily always had a negative vibe about him. If anything, I would say maybe Larry has had more of a lighter or less frightening kind of aspect other than just the shock of, ‘Oh my, I think I just saw that.’ There’s nothing sinister or attacking about him. It’s been down here where the frights seem to come from.”
Our last stops were the balcony and former projection room, which is now used for storage. It was in the projection room that it began to feel hot. I noticed sweat started to bead on Colin’s forehead, and my cheeks started to feel red from the mugginess.
John Snyder, 605’s director of sales and marketing, walked by an amplifier and noticed the light was on.
He asked, “Should this be on?”
“No, it shouldn’t be. No one is ever up here,” said Huffman.
Snyder tried several times and then realized it wasn’t connected to anything.
Huffman said nervously, “Oh, that’s interesting. Power when there shouldn’t be power…”
Finally, the light went dim.
As we chatted about the room that has had the most sightings of Larry, I was looking directly at Colin as he turned off his camera and began asking Rick a question. Suddenly, a metal pole leaning against the wall behind him with other poles flung across to another wall.
Everyone came to a halt.
Colin asked me, “I didn’t move an inch, you saw that, right?”
“Yeah,” I said, totally dumbfounded. There was no reason it would fall that far even if anyone had touched it.
“Why did I turn my camera off? That happens more often than you think,” he said, shaking his head.
After our walk-through, it was time for Colin to film the investigation portion of his episode of The Paranormal Files for his YouTube channel. He describes his show’s style as a mix between Mythbusters and the The Blair Witch Project, and now I see why. Reference the page 55’s sidebar for highlights, and watch the episode that premieres October 6. Let’s just say… we’re all believers.
For more information, search the paranormal files channel on youtube.
- Cold Sensations
As the investigation started, we were all sweating. Colin placed a MEL Meter on the stairs on the balcony, and as he started talking, the light went crazy and malfunctioned. Suddenly everyone was freezing and had goosebumps. The cold sensation happened a handful of times during the night.
- A Personal Connection
Whatever we experienced was drawn to Taylor Hanson, 605’s account manager. Colin gave her the REM Pod, which flew up to 9.4 (a high) at one point, which sent her over the edge and she began to get emotional. The SLS Camera picked up a large body figure directly to her right as this happened. Colin consoled her, and as the REM Pod number went to 0, she was back to normal. She is still trying to digest what happened.
Under The Stage
There was a dramatic moment when Colin stepped under the stage floor with Mary filming. Suddenly he yelled, and they both looked terrified as he pointed at something. His mother shook her head, “Yes,” in agreement. Then a noise was heard by everyone across the hall, as if someone ran across past us. The feeling of a presence there was then lost, and we all felt it.