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Apollo Theater member recounts scary sightings

January 28, 2002

Apollo Theater member recounts scary sightings



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY
andreabh@herald-mail.com


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Mike Noll said he saw his first ghost at the historic Apollo Theater in Martinsburg in 1975.

He'd heard plenty of ghost stories from theater visitors after he and other members of the Apollo Civic Theater Group bought the old building on Martin Street earlier that year, Noll said. But he didn't believe them until he experienced the paranormal himself.

"You don't know if your mind is playing tricks on you or if it's something serious," said Noll, 50. "I probably wouldn't have believed it if so many other people hadn't seen or heard the same kinds of things here."

A man with facial hair, a brown-checked shirt and bib overalls. A woman in a long, white dress. A couple trying to strangle each other in the ballroom. Footsteps. The smell of cigar smoke.

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Noll was alone in the theater one night when he saw the shadows moving across the back balcony. He was alone when he heard footsteps creaking up and down the stairs.

"Of course, I was scared," he said. "I shut the theater up as quick as I could and got out of Dodge."

The otherworldly presences don't bother Noll anymore, he said.

His ghost tales and dozens of others prompted paranormal investigator Susan Crites, founder of the West Virginia Society of Ghost Hunters, to scour the Apollo Theater on Saturday for signs of the supernatural.

Crites and about 20 members of her group hoped to prove or disprove claims of the paranormal at the Apollo by comparing temperature readings, photographs and voice recordings taken during the day to like measurements the group planned to take Saturday night.

Most of the paranormal activity reported at the Apollo has taken place between 8 p.m. and midnight, she said.

Crites said she and her ghost hunters have investigated more than 5,000 suspected hauntings since 1991. The group has authenticated about 50 percent of those hauntings, said Crites, of Hedgesville, W.Va.

She said she has concluded that ghosts are real, that many of the spirits in the Tri-State area hail from the Civil War era and the influenza epidemic of 1918, and that most ghosts make themselves known to people because they have unfinished business.

She said she's received dozens of phone calls, letters and visits from people who claim to have seen, heard or smelled ghosts at the Apollo.

One person said he was pushed forward while standing alone backstage. Another claimed to break out in hives after standing alone in a theater room that suddenly filled with cigar smoke that disappeared just as quickly, Crites said.

She plans to write a book about the Apollo ghosts to benefit the Apollo Civic Theater Group. Crites said she will research the theater's 89-year history, and include Apollo ghost stories she's heard and any evidence her group gathers to prove or disprove claims or the supernatural.

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