Theater's Ghostly Residents Always Willing to Perform

The next time you take in a show at the Lions Lincoln Theatre in Massillon, Ohio and observe empty seats, you might want to take a closer look.

There just might be someone or something filling them.

Recently, Paranormal Debunking and Investigating LLC – a group of paranormal investigators that prides themselves on debunking the things that go bump in the night – investigated the historic downtown theater.

PDI founder Jim O’Brien said the group approached Lincoln officials about spending a night in the movie house after doing extensive research on the building which dates back to 1915.

O’Brien said the theater has a rich history, including a 1921 robbery and the possible death of a construction worker during the building phase. Besides housing the silver screen, it has also been home to doctor’s offices and a speciality clothing store.

Lynda Blankenship, a Lincoln Theatre volunteer, said to her knowledge there have been no real reports of spirits in the theater.

But, after spending a night with the PDI crew, Blankenship is a little spooked herself.


O’Brien “definitely believes there are some paranormal experiences going on in there,” but he stopped short of saying that the place was haunted.

“I wouldn’t say it is haunted but there is some kind of paranormal activity – what kind, I can’t tell you,” he said. “We only got to spend one night there. We need to study it a couple more times. We would love to go back.”

“Myself, I actually saw for a split second a woman’s face appear in front of me,” he said.

Using cameras, video cameras and tape recorders, investigators fanned out across the theater, exploring nooks and crannies of the theater’s underbelly, main theater and balcony for signs of paranormal activity.

Also, in one of the dressing rooms – which is believed to have been the women’s dressing room – two investigators got “violently shoved.” Pictures snapped in the dressing room, according to PDI, revealed a woman’s face in the mirror.

“That was something,” O’Brien said. “There were a few experiences there but some things we couldn’t catch.”

O’Brien said he and another investigator were in the basement and clearly heard footsteps walking toward them. He also claims to have been touched while on the stage.

O’Brien believes he spotted something on the steps leading the balcony of the theater, and with a partner, raced to the stairs to see who was there.

“Something patted me on the back. That kind of startled me,” he said. “I have been doing this a while but it still startles me.”

Another investigator had their camera pulled out of their hands.

Several voices – or electronic voice phenomena – were caught on recorders, including a plea from a woman for help.

“We had some good experiences,” O’Brien said. “You can actually hear those words being spoken over top of the investigators.”

In the upstairs of the theater, where several doctors once practiced medicine, O’Brien said the crew caught the image of a person in a mirror.

“To me, it looks like a doctor’s head,” O’Brien said. “You can definitely tell it wasn’t one of us. You can almost see something going around his neck (like a stethoscope). To me, that was excellent.”

The investigators also caught a number of orbs – a circular “light” image – in photographs, but O’Brien has no use for those photos.

“My people like orbs but I think it is just dust,” he said. “It can too easily be dust.”

An investigator who spent time in the projection room said he felt like someone was leaning on his shoulder. When he shared his story, the theater’s projectionist said he has had the same feeling.

One of the biggest mysteries of the night was the closing of the movie screen curtain.

“Nobody noticed it,” O’Brien said. “We had people down there (near the screen). Lynda (Blankenship) actually noticed it. When we got there, it was wide open. At the end of the night, the curtain had closed.”

Blankenship said during the investigation she asked what they would like to see played on the big screen.

“I asked, ‘Is there something you want to see on the screen?’” she said, noting she hadn’t considered how they would respond to her answer.

But they did, Blankenship said.

“The next day I told Jim (Lions member) to put ‘Now Voyager’ on the screen. He puts it on and it is a perfect match (to the curtains). It was hard work for us to get the curtain set for the movie – it was a thin and tall movie.

“It was a better (match) than when we had it set to show the movie,” she said. “Maybe they want more Bette Davis, more black and whites or more 1940s movies. I can’t explain it. The curtain is hard to move. For it to move that slowly that the guy standing in front of the stage didn’t see it move, it’s pretty bizarre.”

A lot of activity took place in Blankenship’s basement office, she said.
“There were temperature changes,” she said. “You could feel cold spots. The temperature would drop from 64 to 48 (degrees).”

O’Brien said he was pleased with the outcome of the investigation and he would like to spend more time in the theater to further investigate.

“A lot of cases, we get nothing,” O’Brien said. “We get nothing in photos, no EVPs. So when we get something, that is good. I didn’t expect to get anything out of the theater. I was kind of amazed that we got anything. I will put my reputation on my two pictures and the three EVPs.”

O’Brien’s interest in the paranormal was piqued at an early age when his grandmother passed away.

“That night I saw my grandma,” he said. “She came to my room and covered me up. It was a perfect vision of her. I wasn’t scared, I was a kid and it was my grandmother.”

The thing was, O’Brien’s parents had not told him his grandmother had passed away.

When he got up in the morning, he asked his parents where his grandmother was and that’s when he learned she had passed away.

O’Brien, along with his sister, Christine Brehm and her husband, Phil, spent childhood exploring old cemeteries and learning about the paranormal.

“We lived in the country in New York,” he said of the trio. “There was a family cemetery (on Phil’s property) that we would mess around in. I like to debunk things. I really want to know if there are spiritual things going on.”

O’Brien says he and the rest of the investigators – including his wife, Angel – are self-taught.

“You just learn as you do it,” he said. “When I started, I started with nothing, no camera I just went to old places and sat down and listened to see what would happen. That’s how we got started. It was a hobby.”

The Lincoln Theatre is one of the bigger locations that PDI has investigated. PDI mostly conducts investigation in homes but recently visited the Prospect Place Estate in Dresden. The home has been featured on the SciFi Network’s popular “Ghost Hunters.”

O’Brien said PDI doesn’t charge for investigations and they are willing to help anyone who believes they are experiencing paranormal activity. They do, however, ask that the client to buy the materials used in the investigation, including CDs and tapes.

PDI never conducts séances or demonic activity during investigations and will keep clients confidential.

Besides the theater, PDI has approached other landmarks in the city about possible investigations. So far, none have signed on.

In the meantime, O’Brien and theater officials are working on possibly hosting ghost tours at the theater to allow people to experience the paranormal.

The notion that she might not be alone while in the theater hasn’t rattled Blankenship.

“Now I just say hello to them when I come in,” she said. “Apparently, the clairvoyant said the building is alive with joy and happiness. I am sure I’ll be there in time.

“If we have spirits in the house, we will treat them with the same respect we treat all our audiences with.”
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