My Paranormal Investigation of the Annie Russell Theatre

October 31, 2012

Paranormal Investigation
Paranormal investigators use EMF Meters to monitor levels of paranormal activity. (Photo by Justin Braun)

Paranormal Investigation
I photograph the paranormal investigators while they search for electromagnetic disturbances. (Photo by Lauren Carder)
Paranormal Investigation
Thinh "Ting" Rappa of American Ghost Adventures communicates with spirits. (Photo by Justin Braun)
Paranormal Investigation
Christopher Huffer, owner of American Ghost Adventures, looks for evidence of paranormal activity. (Photo by Justin Braun)

I always heard the Annie Russell Theatre was haunted. During the six years I’ve been at Rollins, I’d been told tales of unexplained phenomena occurring in the 80-year-old structure. Yet I had always remained a skeptic. That changed on the evening of Tuesday, October 9. 

That night, I oversaw a production crew from the FOX 35 news station that was filming a Halloween segment featuring American Ghost Adventures’ paranormal investigators. They were attempting to make contact with spirits haunting the Annie. By midnight, the team had successfully communicated with six phantoms, and I, along with the film crew, was struggling to maintain composure.

Using high-tech electromagnetic measurement tools, investigators identified hotspots for paranormal activity using locations of previously reported bizarre happenings. Yet simple store-bought flashlights, proved to be the most effective communication device with the “other side.” The lenses were loosened so that delicate contact with the flashlights caused the bulbs to turn on.

Standing in complete darkness, Thinh "Ting" Rappa, a paranormal investigator since 2004, asked aloud, “Is there a spirit out there who wants to communicate with us?” Suddenly, the flashlight on the other side of the dark room flashed on and then faded into the gloom. The silence was electric. “Is this a male spirit?” Rappa said. Again, the flashlight lit up and faded. Using this seemingly rudimentary yes or no question and answer technique, the team learned about the lives of several of the Theatre ghosts, who identified themselves as Billy, Henry, and Samuel.

The Annie is considered one of the most supernaturally active sites in Florida. The Theatre’s spectral history began shortly after the 1936 death of internationally known actress and namesake of the Theatre, Annie Russell. Legend has it that her favorite theater seat (balcony, house right, third row down, second seat over) folds down independently, remaining in that position whenever her ghost particularly enjoys a production. Some have heard rocking sounds emanate from the seat, while others rehearsing alone at night have experienced a lone, invisible clapper.

Previous ghost-hunting teams have had similar experiences. In January 2005, White Light Investigations dispatched teams to investigate the Annie and noted and photographed multiple floating “orbs”—balls of light. The conclusion to their report stated, “There is obvious paranormal activity within the walls of the Annie Russell Theatre.” Then in 2006, Peace River Ghost Tracker conducted a weekend exploration in the Annie and recorded Annie Russell’s seat folding down and then back up several times. The team also heard shuffling feet and saw what looked like mist passing in front of the camera.

I, along with the team from FOX 35 and American Ghost Adventures, came away from the experience convinced. Though the ghost of Annie Russell did not reveal herself, I want to believe that her passion for her Theatre lives on. I am no longer a skeptic. I am a humbled and terrified believer.

Read more about the Ghosts of Rollins.

By Justin Braun

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