The Florida Theatre: Jacksonville

  • By: Timothy Rose
  • Date: 29 July 2023
  • Time to read: 4 min.

The Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, an iconic and classic venue, is known not just for its roster of world-class performances, but also for its reputation as a haunt for the supernatural. The grand structure, with its ornate interior, has been the site of numerous reported ghost sightings and paranormal activity. Amid the applause and encore calls, the whisperings of its spectral occupants seem to echo through its halls.

Historical Background

The Florida Theatre

The Florida Theatre first welcomed audiences on April 8, 1927, serving as a glamorous movie palace and performance venue. Designed by renowned architects R.E. Hall and Roy Benjamin, the theatre is a beautiful showcase of the Mediterranean Revival style, combining elements from Italian, Spanish, and French design. The theatre was initially a part of the chain of theatres owned by Paramount Pictures, bringing a touch of Hollywood to the city.

Key Personnel

The Florida Theatre

Throughout its history, the theatre has seen many remarkable leaders. One of the key figures in its recent history is Numa Saisselin, who as of my knowledge cutoff in 2021, served as the President of the Florida Theatre Performing Arts Center, Inc. With his extensive experience in theatre management, Saisselin has been instrumental in preserving the historic venue and ensuring its continued legacy.

Paranormal Activity

With a history stretching back to the early 1500s, the First Coast region has been home to both European settlers and the indigenous Timucua and Mocama tribes for centuries. Even before the Florida Theatre came into existence, the corner of Forsyth and Newnan Streets was once the site of a city jail. Hence, it hardly comes as a shock that Void Magazine labeled the Florida Theatre as “One of the Top Seven Most Haunted Places in Northeast Florida.”

The theater staff has had many strange experiences over time, which have led to its creepy reputation. Mysterious things often occur in this place. Doors close without explanation, and lights and equipment turn on and off mysteriously. People have reported hearing humming noises even after turning off nearby electronic devices. EU Magazine contributes to this strange story by saying, “Unusual sounds, ghostly voices, and complete apparitions make this movie theater a highly active center of paranormal activity.”

Performers and staff have reported ghostly apparitions, echoing laughter, and cold spots in the halls. The spirits of the past mix with the present at the Florida Theatre, creating a magical atmosphere. Audiences gather to watch captivating performances at this iconic venue. The mix of the living and supernatural elements adds mystery and intrigue.

The Florida Theatre

One belongs to the friendly ghost known as “J,” possibly a former building engineer paying homage to Joe Collier, the theater’s engineer. The other seat is said to belong to Joseph Hilton, a 1920s organist who tragically took his own life. Prepare for more spine-tingling tales as we venture into the theater’s projection booth, where a slamming door shocked school kids who dared to ask about spirits.

While many visitors have encountered the supernatural, it was Chrissy Sellers who captured the ghostly presence of “J” on camera, making her video a rare documentation of the paranormal. So, as you sit in the theater, unknowingly occupying these “ghost seats,” remember the stories and experiences that add an extra layer of intrigue to the Florida Theatre’s captivating history.

Moreover, there have been sightings of a spectral figure in a 1940s-era suit, believed to be the spirit of a past manager. People have reported hearing footsteps, doors opening and closing on their own, and feeling sudden chills without a discernable source.

Pop Culture & Media Coverage

A crown jewel in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, the Florida Theatre has significantly impacted pop culture and media through its vibrant history and eclectic mix of performances. Since its grand opening in 1927, the theatre has welcomed a multitude of talent, from Elvis Presley to Diana Ross, contributing to its rich tapestry of musical heritage.

The Florida Theatre has not only been a stage for countless renowned performers, but it has also stepped into the limelight itself. It featured prominently in the 1981 film “Gal Young ‘Un,” reinforcing its place in popular culture.

Media coverage of the theatre’s ghost stories, including appearances on TV shows like “Most Haunted Towns,” has added another layer to its cultural significance. Reports of phantom applause and ghostly ushers have intrigued both the local community and paranormal enthusiasts alike.

Today, the Florida Theatre continues to play a vital role in shaping Jacksonville’s cultural scene, hosting concerts, plays, and classic films, while also drawing in crowds eager to experience its historic charm and rumored spectral inhabitants. Its influence spans multiple facets of pop culture, from music and movies to ghostly lore, underlining its status as a cultural touchstone.

Preservation and Present Day:

Despite the eerie stories, the Florida Theatre continues to thrive as a cultural hub in Jacksonville. It has been meticulously restored and maintained, and it continues to host more than 200 performances annually, spanning genres from ballet, opera, pop, and rock concerts, to stand-up comedy and classic films. When you visit the theatre, you’re stepping back in time, while still enjoying world-class contemporary entertainment.

Credits News4JAX The Local Station

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Is the Florida Theatre still operating?

Yes, the Florida Theatre is still a vibrant part of the Jacksonville cultural scene. It hosts numerous performances each year.

2. Can visitors experience paranormal activity during performances?

While there have been reports of ghostly encounters, these experiences are not guaranteed. Most patrons come for the performances and the historical ambiance.

3. Are there tours available for those interested in the haunted history of the theatre?

It’s best to check the theatre’s official website or contact them for the most up-to-date information.

4. How can I buy tickets for performances at the Florida Theatre?

Tickets can be purchased through the official website or at the theatre box office.

Note: Always remember to respect the space and its occupants, both living and spectral. Enjoy your visit and the rich history that this haunted theatre offers.

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