Seeking out spirits at the Woodland Opera House | Fun
WOODLAND, CA - On Friday October 19, News10 followed along with the paranormal investigation team at California Haunts to seek out evidence of the afterlife at the Woodland Opera House.
The Opera House, wedged between Main St. and Dead Cat Alley, was rebuilt after a massive fire destroyed the original structure, as well much of what is now Historic Woodland in July 1892.
William Porter, a volunteer firefighter in woodland was one of the many who responded to the massive blaze. Unfortunately for Porter, he was dowsing the flames at the original Woodland Opera House when the building crumbled on top of him, killing him in the process. Ever since, Porter's presence has been seen, felt, and even smelled in the building when random odors of smoke arise, then fade away just as quickly.
But Porter's spirit is not the only one rumored to haunt the theater. Since the building's restoration, companies of traveling actors regularly passed through the little town, performing brief engagements before moving on to the next town. But one actress known as Helena Modjeska, is said to have stuck around the classic building long after her final curtain call.
"We were doing an investigation here another time, and we were on the upstairs hallway asking questions when all of a sudden we heard what sounded like a pearl necklace smashing on the ground, followed by the sound of pearls rolling around on the ground," explains Charlotte Kosa, investigator and founder of California Haunts.
Kosa has been hunting ghosts for more than ten years, originally learning the ropes with another team before setting out on her own to create California Haunts.
"My home was haunted as a kid and ever since I've been fascinated," says Kosa.
Kosa's crew arrived at the Opera House promptly at 9:30 p.m., armed with a vanload of ghost hunting gear and an ample supply of optimism over capturing a glimpse, sound, or even a smell of one of the antique building's resident haunts.
Once the theater let out for the evening, the Haunts team went to work laying and taping down cables, setting up infrared and motion sensor cameras, and checking batteries in their digital cameras and audio recorders.
The investigation got underway about 45 minutes later with the group's two senstives (the term psychic is no longer used in paranormal circles) Ann and Caren Clarke splitting off and performing preliminary walkthroughs of the lower and upper levels of the building.
"We just kind of walk around the building to get a feel of a location to see what areas are active [with paranormal activity]," explained Ann as she made her way around the theater's basement while investigators busily set up cameras to capture any activity in the building's dark sublevel.
Upstairs, Clarke was feeling out the second-floor hallway where a memorial of William Porter sat in a glass case beside a row of old wooden theater seats, salvaged from the fire.
It wasn't long before Clarke picked up on the first presence of the evening, detecting a man she believed to have been a "caretaker" or "handyman" of sorts for the theater.
"He's a kind of rough man," said Clarke peeking around a partition into a pitch black storage area also located on the upper level. "He wears a hat, and he's the sort of guy who likes to be left alone."
Respecting the caretaker's wishes, Clarke led a group of investigators to the opposite end of the hall where she detected a woman's presence in the corner beside the old theater chairs.
"I see a woman in a polyester pencil skirt...with a pretty ruffled shirt," Clarke revealed. "She was a cook, or an chef. She was involved with the theater."
Clarke then suggested an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) session. An EVP session entails a person or group asking questions to a spirit then waiting a designated time for a response. The entire session is captured on an audio recording device then reviewed following an investigation to ascertain whether any spirits decided to speak up (most responses are inaudible to the human ear).
Clarke and Kosa took turns firing off questions to the unseen presence. And while there was no audible response, several members of the team claimed to have heard a grumbling sound following a number of questions.
It was also during this EVP session that the News10 team discovered the following odd sounds on our own audio equipment when reviewing our interview at the studio days later:
During this sequence, a team member asks if the lady watched the performance that night. There is a long pause then the faint sound of what could be a woman's voice.
In this clip, Clarke is speaking and suddenly a heavy breath sounds out by the microphone.
In the third clip, Clarke declares the woman to be a sad soul. As soon as she finishes her statement, a sound resembling a sigh is heard on the recording.
Dowsing rods were also employed during the 25-minute session around the theater seats. Dowsing rods are a pair of L-shaped metal rods held in the hands of the questioner. The rods are said to pivot together and apart in response to a question. In this case, Kosa took control of the rods and also used them to answer questions in relation to the location of the alleged specter.
Following the investigation of the woman upstairs, the team moved down to the main stage where several individuals have claimed to see William Porter walking the catwalk high above the stage. Porter did not make his presence known or felt during the investigation, but Clarke said three other spirits, two men and woman who had performed in the Opera House, were hovering around the area.
"They're a raucous bunch," Clarke claimed with a smile. "One of the guys was gay and the other enjoyed the ladies. But they all liked to party.
Deciding a brief encounter with the former thespians was sufficient, the crew descended into the dark depths of the basement to see if anything was stirring below. The basement seemed the perfect location to encounter a ghost. Dark, damp and filled with ominous silhouettes of mannequins, busts and other shapes to play tricks on the mind, it's unsurprising that many actors and stagehands have felt as though they were being stalked in the depths of the theater.
Unfortunately, the loud humming of the building's electrical system in the basement created too much interference to conduct a clean EVP session, so the crew was left to rely on the strategically placed infrared cameras to capture any recorded evidence of entities in the basement.
The team returned to the theater's main stage from the basement to find the other members of California Haunts circling around investigator Jose to look at a series of pictures he had just taken on his digital camera.
"You have to take three at a time," Jose explained. That way, if something like an orb shows up in all the pictures, you know it's dust or a reflection or something like that. But if it only happens in one of the three pictures it could be something else."
Sure enough, Jose's first picture of a row of chairs showed nothing peculiar. But in the second shot, a white ball of light shone from the side of one of the chairs. Then on the third image - nothing.
Strangely enough, it was from this exact vantage point that the team captured their most convincing piece of evidence to date. During a prior investigation of the building, one of the team captured a picture of a misty, white, blob-like apparition streaking above a theater chair. The picture was sent off to numerous photographic experts but none have yet been able to debunk the photo.
PHOTO: See what they captured
The crew returned to the upper balcony for a final channeling session. Ann, the California Haunts' other sensitive on hand, led the session which was cut short due to time restrictions.
Whether the Woodland Opera House is haunted will obviously remain up for debate. But the team at California Haunts is confident the building is inhabited by those who have passed on, and there were more than a few occasions on the evening that, if nothing else, could be used to support their belief.