Haunted Kalamazoo: The Civic Theatre’s Resident Ghost
Many people know of the Civic Theatre in Downtown Kalamazoo as a great place to catch stage performers put on amazing performances. There are also those who also attend because of the theatre's history, which includes a resident ghost. The ghost is said to be that of Thelma Mertz, who was supposedly part of a program at Chenery Auditorium. Rumor is Mertz fell to her death off Chenery’s prop deck and her spirit came with them once the Civic’s main stage location was built.
Many accounts have been shared with MLive by present and past members but here are some of the ghostly encounters people have witnessed:
- In 1965, Prod Asst. Jim Carver was the only one in the building when he heard the piano playing in the Green Room downstairs. When he opened the door, the piano stopped. He turned on the lights and there was no one there.
- On another occasion, at about 3 a.m. when Carver was again alone in the building, he was working in the space under the stage known as the “trap room” when he heard someone walk across the stage above him. When he went up to the stage to look, there was no one there.
- And on yet another late-night occasion, he was alone in the light booth above and behind the audience area, working on some light cues, when he was suddenly aware that there was someone standing right behind him. He turned around quickly, he said, but again there was no one there.
- Janet Gover, who has been involved with the Civic fr over 30 years, had her first experience in the 1980's, when she was running sound for a Civic production of “Deathtrap” and she saw the “figure of a person” in the black and white monitor fed by a camera trained on the stage, which was empty at the time.
During a production of “Singin’ in the Rain” in the ’90s, Gover had another odd experience, this time in character, onstage during an actual performance. In the middle of a scene, she said, she felt like someone was pulling off her hat.“It wasn’t a hat that would come off unless I took it off.” I really felt like somebody was just slowly pulling it straight up off my head.” Eventually the hat fell off her head.
The Civic refuses to let ghost investigators into the theatre because, as Janet Gover says, "She’s our ghost and we love her." Still, the next time you're wandering the halls of the Civic, and you feel the hairs on your neck standing and a slight chill, it could be Thelma saying hello.