Is there a ghost in the Florida Theatre and does it have a favorite seat? If so, the spirit can rest easy.
The Florida Theatre has unveiled its refurbished "ghost seat" that gained fame on local and national TV.
The lore started in 1997 when WJCT Public Television examined the theatre in a production that used psychic consultant Jill Cook-Richards. She claimed a male ghost spoke to her, and said he wanted to be called “J” for Joy, which is what he felt for the theatre. “He said he didn’t need a name from his past, that he wanted a name for his future,” said Cook-Richards.
Then in 2010, the locally produced TV show Local Haunts, which aired on CW17, conducted a paranormal investigation of the theatre. Local Haunts captured images of what it claimed was a ghostly apparition of a man sitting in the balcony, in Section 500, Row E, Seat 2. Steve Christian, who led the Local Haunts team, called it, “The Holy Grail of paranormal investigation.”
That in turn sparked the SyFy Channel's Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files TV Show to try to debunk the local findings.
Using Infrared cameras, thermal imaging, and EVP recorders, the theatre said Fact or Faked heard noises and discovered heat signatures in two places in the orchestra section, and in the very balcony seat where Steve Christian’s apparition appeared. The show said it found “zero proof” that the Local Haunts video was faked.
This fall the theatre installed new, historically-accurate seating. However, it was decided that the “ghost seat” and its companion chair (Section 500, Row E, Seat 1) would be the only seats to be restored, refurbished and reinstalled.
“We did not want our ghost to be homeless if his or her seat went away permanently. They are the only two seats being restored. Every other seat is being replaced,” said Florida Theatre President Numa Saisselin in an email to WJCT News.
The “ghost seat" and its companion seat were refurbished in Grand Rapids, Michigan by Irwin Seating Company.
The seats are being reinstalled in time for the theatre’s reopening this month. The first event will be Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s Wild and Swingin’ Holiday Party on Wednesday, December 9 at 8:00 p.m.