Ghosts in the house - The Bremerton Community Theatre is a haunted hotspot, filled with ghostly visitors at night.
By LYNSI BURTON
Bremerton Patriot Staff Writer
December 8, 2010 · Updated 7:24 PM
When Jeanette Tucker first started acting and volunteering at the Bremerton Community Theatre about a year and a half ago, she was skeptical about all things paranormal.
In fact, she had no idea that she had joined a theater rumored to be haunted, especially in the costume loft, where she now works as the costume and props director.
It wasn’t until after she performed in her first show that a friend told her, “You know that’s one of the most haunted places in Kitsap County.”
“It kind of was a surprise,” Tucker said.
Since then, she’s witnessed unexplainable occurrences, such as odd noises when she’s alone in the theater, untouched doors that seemingly open and shut on their own and boxes that move out of place within a matter of moments.
“You just catch things move out of your peripheral vision and you look and nothing’s there,” Tucker said. “You just wonder.”
The Olympic Peninsula Paranormal Society, which came to investigate the theater in August, is one of the research groups that has paid a visit to the theater. It is listed as a haunted hotspot on several paranormal-themed websites and even appears on the website of the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau as a haunted site, along with the Chester Apartments in Bremerton and Holland Road in Central Kitsap.
Not everyone who works at the theater is a believer in the ghosts — known to mainly appear in the middle of the night and when few people are around — but those who do claim to have witnessed strange happenings say it’s part of the theater’s character, and say they have even made friends with some of the more frequently-appearing spirits.
When she began working as the costume and props director in June, Tucker was warned by her predecessor, Diana George, about the spooky costume loft, especially the “military room,” where the old donated military jackets and helmets are stored. George told Tucker she wasn’t allowed to come to the military room by herself because doors will shut and lights will go out, making the cramped, low-ceilinged military room feel scarier than it already was.
“If you ever walk into a place and you just didn’t want to be there, that was this place,” Tucker said of the military room, adding that it spooked almost anyone who came there.
However, the military room has felt less frightening since she cleaned and reorganized it in July, she said.
George remembers first showing Tucker around the costume loft and military room, sensing an intense feeling near the military uniforms that overwhelmed them with anxiety.
“Both of us could sense that there was a high amount of hostility in the room and both of us became extremely agitated,” George said. “It was a very intense, intense feeling. It was just an atmosphere that was around us.”
George credits that feeling to a character known as “Captain John,” who is said to be attached to one of the military costume pieces in the room.
“When you went up into that space, especially if you disturb things and move things around, he would get very upset,” she said.
Tucker experienced another scare when she brought a black costume hat home to mend some ribbon trim. During the three weeks it was at her house, hanging pictures repeatedly fell off the wall and doors slammed shut. Finally, her husband asked her to take the hat back to the theater, so she colored the bare trim in with a black marker and called it good.
“I just wanted it out of the house,” Tucker said.
Steve Goupil, who has worked at the theater for about 20 years as a set designer and publicity officer and is also known to be most familiar with the ghosts, said ghosts are probably attracted to the theater because it is filled with old, donated items that have come from other places. The theater’s nearly 200 seats came from the former Music Box Theatre in Seattle and the fly system - the backstage set of pulleys and ropes that help move set pieces and stage lights on and off stage - were taken from Seattle’s former Orpheum Theatre.
The ghosts are drawn to emotional energy, Goupil said, adding that they’re particularly active after the children’s shows.
They are also likely attached to the antiques and costumes that theater members donate.
“Anything that could be connected to a memory could have something attached to it,” Goupil said.
When working with the old costumes, Tucker often wonders what spirits they hold. Because the costume loft is full of “old, loved things,” she finds it natural that they would be connected with memories.
“Why couldn’t it be that way?” she said.
Goupil, like Tucker, was also a skeptic about ghosts until he started working at the theater.
His first encounter was on the empty stage, working with George. He saw a pair of green mechanic pants walking across the stage, but didn’t hear any doors open or close. He said they then saw “gray masses” sitting on a table, talking, and their entire vision went gray.
“This gray mass just went right through us,” Goupil said.
Since then, he has seen and heard about several more hauntings, and said they have “intensified” during the past 15 years.
One night, Goupil said, some technicians were working on the lights at 1 a.m. When they left the light booth, they found the booth’s lights had been turned back on after they turned them off. They heard the doors to the auditorium open and saw the shadow of a man in a top hat and cape walking down the stairs alongside the seats.
Another night, he and George were working on a stage set and a radio playing on stage turned off, then switched back on again, playing “white noise.”
Goupil said there are so many odd phenomena that happen throughout the theater that increasingly more people start to believe in the ghosts.
“People that used to say, ‘Steve, you’re outta your tree,’ are having experiences of their own,” he said.
George said that while the less frequent volunteers doubt the ghosts’ existence, about two-thirds of the regular workers believe in them.
Now, several paranormal investigators make requests to explore the theater. Goupil denies most of the requests - he wants to respect the theater spirits - but he did bring in the Olympic Paranormal Society multiple times, who most recently investigated the theater in August. They brought eight digital video recording cameras, audio recorders, two camcorders and a full spectrum camera.
They found an orb in the orchestra pit and another that crossed every row of seats until it found a seat that was folded down, then disappeared. The group also collected audio recordings of ghost responses, posted on its website, and took photos of a white mist hovering around Goupil’s feet.
These days, Goupil feels like the spirits know him now. In addition to Captain John, there’s another John who wears a white hat and walks with a limp, and other familiar shadows without names. He says the ghosts back off when he tells them to, and he bids them “goodbye” when he leaves the costume shop.
“I kinda consider these guys my friends,” Goupil said. “They probably protected me when I did stupid things.”
Bob Montgomery, the theater’s emeritus director and historian, who has worked there since 1951, said there’s no such thing as ghosts. He says the knocking noises he hears from the metal rooftop over the shop come from the pigeons and gulls walking across the roof.
“I swear they’re wearing hobnailed boots,” Montgomery said. “That’s what it is.”
But pigeons can’t explain everything that happens in the theater, said Ray Deuel, who has acted in shows at the theater since 2003. They can’t cast human-like shadows or turn water bottles upside down.
Deuel says he doubts the existence of the ghosts, but he doesn’t try to dissuade others from believing in them.
“I don’t say they’re wrong, I just don’t believe in it,” he said.
George and Goupil say a lot of people tell them “yeah, right” - that there could never be ghosts haunting the theater.
“My family thinks I’m crazy,” George said. “They’ll figure it out someday.”
Goupil, in his defense, swears he doesn’t drink.
“I know I sound like a crackpot,” he said. “I understand.”
But when they get a sudden chill down their spines and feel goosebumps crop up, they know something’s there.
“You know that you’re not alone,” George said.