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Phoenix Orpheum Sets Spooky Scene With Ghost Tour

Annika Cline/KJZZ
editorial | staff
Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix.

This time of year, people see and hear a lot of tricks at haunted houses to spook visitors. But one haunted place  sets the mood not with tricks, but with history.

The Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix doesn’t have to try too hard to look haunted. Opened in 1929, the theatre is the last remaining movie palace in Phoenix. The Spanish baroque architecture, red velvet seats and a powerful pipe organ resurrect a bygone age.

"It was an actual romantic, and somewhat scandalous, and somewhat colorful history that I never realized until I started looking into it," said Joe Atredies. He runs Phoenix Ghost Tours and has volunteered to give tours of the Orpheum during Halloween week this year.

First stop is the second floor, right above the theatre’s marquee sign - the manager’s office. Atredies said this is where the theatre’s first manager, Harry Nace, used to work. Some think he’s still here.

"They’ve seen him through the windows; they’ve seen him from the building across the street. Some people have even reported someone walking along the second floor, right over here where you see there’s no floor to walk on," he said.

Atredies pointed to where the second floor balcony opens up to look down on the first floor. He said sightings and photos of ghosts piques his interest. Then he sets out to disprove them. "About 90 percent of the stuff I could discount, or maybe just say it is a good chance it could be something else. But it was that 10 percent that was left over that the least craziest explanation was that it was a ghost."

It’s that 10 percent that Atredies simply can’t explain that becomes the material for his ghost tours. Then, he digs into historical records to try to connect the supernatural reports to a real person. His Orpheum tour actually includes five ghosts, four humans and a cat.

Luis Ruiz has been the venue manager of the Orpheum for eight years and said talk of ghosts is common.

"It happens all the time. I hear it from staff. I hear it from visitors. I hear it from my friends. I hear it from coworkers," Ruiz said.

Granted, theatres are naturally superstitious places. The Orpheum, for example, has a collection of rubber duckies backstage that no one is allowed to move or else the show will go wrong. But Atredies said it’s less about potential ghost sightings and more about reviving their stories in a building that is one of Phoenix’s most historic places.

"I want to give somebody the access to a place that they haven’t experienced before," Atredies said.

Proceeds from the tours go to the Orpheum. The tours start Wednesday night.

Annika Cline was a producer for KJZZ's The Show from 2014 to 2019.