Leadership / 10.20.20
Actress and Paranormal Researcher Alex Matsuo Talks Theater Ghosts
Some of the most dramatic ghosts have to be theater ghosts, right? Most of the great plays and musicals staged over the decades have some element of death to them. The actors who have appeared in them have likely “died” a dozen or more deaths in past productions. So, when you get a past tragedy that’s actually happened in a theater, it’s no surprise spirits will linger.
Enter Alex Matsuo, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based actress who pulls double duty as a paranormal researcher. She is also a prolific author on the subject, with one of her best works being “The Haunting of the Tenth Avenue Theater” focused on the ghostly happenings at one of San Diego’s more popular stage venues.
So, why are theaters and performing arts venues such common places for paranormal activity? Matsuo, who has her own YouTube channel (“The Spooky Stuff”), was quick to answer in a recent interview. “Theaters and performing arts venues are incredible sources of energy,” she says. “From the electricity to the energy of performers and event attendees, it is a major source of energy for ghosts and other entities.”
Nowhere has that been more evident to her than in San Diego. The Tenth Avenue Theater, or better known today as the Tenth Avenue Arts Center, got its start in life as a small chapel that sat next door to the largest Baptist church in San Diego. It was built to be a 24-hour chapel for the sailors coming into port at all hours of the day and night. It was also where the office of the church was located, as well as a recreational venue for youth groups and scouting troops. It was never built to become a theater.
“Given that it was part of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the land was given to the church by one of the founders of San Diego, it had a reputation to live by,” Matsuo says. “According to legend, in the 1960s, a girl named Missy tragically lost her life in what is now the Tenth Avenue Theater. She was part of the church’s youth group, and she definitely went by the beat of her own step. She was on the roof with her youth group one day in October. They were all playing basketball, and she wanted to go inside. The youth pastor told her she needed to stay outside with the group. She decided to go back in anyway. The youth pastor quickly followed, and it turned into a game of chase. Missy started running down the stairs saying, ‘Catch me if you can! Catch me...’ Before she could finish, Missy lost her footing and fell down the stairs, ending her life instantly.”
The youth pastor, feeling the tremendous guilt and burden of her death, ended up taking his own life a few weeks later by hanging himself from the rafters. Today, Missy’s spirit can be sensed rather easily, Matsuo says. “She is one of the most active spirits in the Tenth Avenue Theater. She can be seen and heard running down the stairs and wandering the halls. The youth pastor remains, too, but he hides in the choir room on the fourth floor, where he hung himself. There are several other ghosts that remain at the Tenth Avenue Theater. It is truly a meeting of souls in that building.”
Matsuo, founder of the Association of Paranormal Study, first heard about the hauntings at the Tenth Avenue Theater from her time as an actress in California. “I did a few shows there,” she says. “I later hosted a staged reading of one of my plays in the space. It’s a very accessible location to any of the local talents in San Diego. I heard about the hauntings from my tech friends, and the stories were later confirmed by the owner.”
Returning as a ghost hunter some time later, Matsuo says the biggest thing she wanted to do was find proof of Missy and the pastor who committed suicide. “Through my research,” she says, “I only found one Missy that died around that time. In terms of confirming the pastor, I didn’t have as much luck. But I did have the story confirmed through a former member of the church, and they said that the church swept the matter under the rug because it would have been a huge controversy.”
There are, of course, numerous other theaters around the country and the world that have been the sites of paranormal activity. Matsuo has been to some of them and dreams of visiting others. “Broadway’s Palace Theatre is haunted by none other than Judy Garland,” she says. “There are apparently 100 ghosts that haunt the Palace. I bet it’s an active place! There’s also the story of how Daniel Day Lewis saw the ghost of his father while playing Hamlet at London’s National Theatre in 1989.”
And as Ray, Peter, Egon and Winston of the Ghostbusters will tell you, Manhattan seems to be where many ghosts end up sooner or later, whether they’re riding the subways, taking up permanent residence in Gotham’s old apartment buildings or, yes, spooking major ticketing venues. In addition to the Palace Theatre, the current home of “Hamilton,” the Richard Rodgers Theatre on W. 46th St. is reported to be quite haunted. “I would say it’s safe to assume almost every theater in New York City has some sort of ghost!” Matsuo says.
Matsuo will appear on an episode of The Travel Channel’s “Most Terrifying Places in America” on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 6 p.m. EST and re-airing Saturday, Nov. 7, at noon.
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Tags: Theater , Broadway , Venues , Leadership