Meet the ghosts who call St. Paul's Historic Mounds Theatre home

Three ghosts are said to reside here.

Three ghosts are said to reside here. Image courtesy Mounds Theatre

Historic Mounds Theatre, a movie theater and entertainment venue on St. Paul’s East Side, has long been rumored to be haunted. Three ghosts are said to reside there: Red, the theater’s longtime projectionist; Jim, who worked on the main floor as an usher; and Mary, a little girl whose apparition often appears on stage, performing for the guests.

Since the theater’s 2003 reopening, scores of paranormal investigators have visited the space. Dan Amitrano, from the Ely-based Northland Paranormal, visits on a cool summer evening with hopes of meeting Red.

A local pro wrestling league is here tonight. As athletes prepare, Amitrano walks away from the noise to the projection booth—the perfect spot to measure what paranormal investigators call “cold spots.”

“Cold spots are generated by a spirit when it wants to be able to manifest because it’s putting all the energy into one particular area,” he explains.

As the story goes, Red spent much of his life working in the projection booth during the theater’s initial run from 1922 to 1967. One legend says he had a crush on a lady moviegoer, which prompted him to jump from the balcony to the aisle to impress her. Instead, he broke his leg. Red died one year after the theater shut down.

Chanel Huston, who volunteers at Mounds Theatre as a concessionist and tour guide, has developed what she laughingly calls “a fun history” with Red. His voice is gruff and he swears a lot. He also gropes her on occasion.

“He likes to touch people, and I tend to be one of the people he touches a lot,” she says.

Inside the projection booth, Amitrano turns on the EMF meter, which measures electromagnetic activity. A small light on the device turns green. Ghost activity makes the light turn red, he says.

“Red, I’m going to ask you if you can make this EMF meter go red for me,” Amitrano says to the spirit. “No pun intended.”

The meter turns yellow numerous times, but not red. Amitrano says the yellow could indicate ghost communication, but could just as easily signal routine activity like the electricity powering the air vents above. Roughly 90 percent of the time Amitrano doesn’t find anything. He does these ghost probes as a hobby, free of charge.

During this session, the video camera shuts off several times, despite the battery being at 70 percent. It’s unusual, but not enough evidence to convince Amitrano.

Other paranormal groups have had better luck. Justin Minor, who works with Johnsdale Paranormal Group, conducted an investigation five years ago. His strongest piece of evidence came from an EVP device, which captures electronic voice phenomenon. Minor had set up Scrabble letters in the women’s bathroom in hopes that an apparition would spell out words.

“What’s going on in here?” a male voice says. “You’re overwhelming me.”

Minor says this recording is the best EVP voice his group has ever caught.

But is that enough to convince him that Mounds Theatre is haunted?

“There’s definitely something out of the ordinary going on,” he says.

Historic Mounds Theatre
1029 Hudson Rd., St. Paul