South Bend, IN - Ghost hunters take over State

posted by ThrHistoricalSociety on August 2, 2016 at 4:31 am


From the South Bend Tribune:
Skeptic, believer or somewhere in between — on Saturday, everyone got something out of public ghost hunts at The State theater.

For the believers in the paranormal, it was an opportunity to try to communicate with the past. For the skeptics, it was a unique tour-by-flashlight of one of South Bend’s historical treasures. For the State itself, it was a chance to raise money for repair work to return it to it’s former glory.

Theater manager Jackie Oberlin said she’s experienced unexplained activity throughout the historic structure, which opened in 1921 as the Blackstone Theatre Vaudeville House. It became the State in 1931 and closed in 1977. It opened later as a nightclub, and was foreclosed in 2005. In recent years, efforts have been made to restore the crumbling plaster and other issues the aging structure faces.

“You can be in here and feel cold spots, hear noises or catch something out of the corner of your eye,” she said Saturday evening, standing in the theater’s main room. “I hope that people can get a better feel of the State, and, if people have that openness to connect, maybe experience something from the past.”

BSR Paranormal founder Jennifer Jacobs orchestrated the event, marking her second time exploring the theater for paranormal activity. The first time she came with her Fort Wayne-based team was February. On that trip she experienced cold spots, felt touches, saw electromagnetic field readers light up and even caught voices on a recorder, she said.

She didn’t expect to have a roomful of believers on the several public tours Saturday, but hoped that people who came out were interested in the property for one reason or another, whether that be paranormal or just to see the theater and play a part in its restoration. She said she does encounter skeptics from time to time.

“Skeptics are fun,” she said, smiling. “They say they don’t believe, but then a lot of them will say, ‘Well, this one time…’ and talk about something they can’t explain.”

Even for the most skeptical, you couldn’t help but feel some apprehension at turning off a flashlight in the pitch-black basement furnace room. The only glow came from recorders and the lights on the EMF readers.

“Do you remember me?” Jacobs asked to any spirits in the room. The EMF readers did light up a handful of times, and some in the group said they felt cold spots.

After the hunt, Jacobs told the group of a man they believe to be haunting the theater, but said they had no documentation or other proof of him or his activities.

South Bend residents Jen Penrod and Larry Wroblewski came out to Saturday’s first hunt, wanting to support the State. Neither of them came as complete skeptics, but by the end of the hunt said they didn’t see anything to sway them to complete believers, either.

“I’m looking to find the ghost of my youth,” Wroblewski joked before the hunt. The last time he was in the theater, it was in 1972 to see Gene Hackman in “The Poseidon Adventure.”

Afterward, he said it was fascinating to see so many parts of the theater you don’t normally see, such as the basement furnace room, old dressing rooms and behind the scenes, though he didn’t experience anything he would call paranormal. Penrod agreed.

“I loved seeing the parts of the theater not seen everyday,” she said. “You could see how beautiful it was, and how beautiful it could be again.”

Story link, with photo gallery, at:

ABOUT THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA: Founded by Ben Hall in 1969, the Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) celebrates, documents and promotes the architectural, cultural and social relevance of America’s historic theatres. Through its preservation of the collections in the American Theatre Architecture Archive, its signature publication Marquee™ and Conclave Theatre Tour, THS increases awareness, appreciation and scholarly study of America’s theatres.

Learn more about historic theatres in the THS American Theatre Architecture Archives and on our website at



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