Opened on July 17, 1926 the Hollywood has not changed much outwardly since 1926, but its heart has continued to advance with the times and, as the film industry changed, so did the technical capabilities of the theater. More changes came in the 1970s when the theater was divided into three separate auditoriums.
Despite the attention the Hollywood received when it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, the theater became a victim to the newer and more modern theaters in Portland, and its business all but disappeared. But in the 21st century, the theater came back to life. It now not only shows movies but also focuses on independent and local filmmakers and educational programs. No one can accuse the Hollywood of not being able to adjust with the times, and because of that, its legacy lives on. And so do the ghosts that reside there.
Walking into the theater for the first time was an almost dreamlike experience for me. I am fascinated by history and architecture, so I found the best of both worlds in the lobby of the Hollywood. While parts of the theater have been updated with modern amenities, I could still envision vaudeville acts and silent movies and Model T Fords parked outside.
The ghosts of the Hollywood have never been given obligatory names or identified as other than male and female, but the reports of their existence are many. Past theater managers recall seeing a well-dressed, middle-aged man floating or hovering in the upstairs lobby. Some people have reported seeing a young, blonde female in high heels in the upstairs theater. She has also been seen nervously pacing the halls while smoking a cigarette. The sightings are brief but detailed, and each witness recalls a similar experience. People also report a feeling of uneasiness on the stairs leading to the upper theaters. A male ghost enjoys tapping people on the shoulder or back and whispering unintelligible words into their ears. Yet another ghost, a female, has been seen sitting quietly in the back row of the theater. While many are startled by a physical touch, most feel that it is done in jest. In all of the accounts that have been relayed to me, no one has felt threatened or fearful.
A woman I spoke with after my visit that claimed to be a medium said that the nervously pacing female ghost waits eternally for her husband to pick her up from work, not knowing he had been killed in an automobile accident on the way to meet her. I do not have an opinion either way on mediums or psychics, and this explanation certainly seems plausible when I consider the reports and the repetitive actions of this particular ghost, but we will never know if this is indeed true.
There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to the floating man or the woman seen in the back rows. Perhaps they simply enjoyed their time at the Hollywood and thought it would be a nice place to retire after they expired. But turning from a conversation there, I caught a glimpse of a misty, transparent figure that passed before me and dissolved into the wall. It was not as detailed as many other reports, but I do not doubt what I saw with my own eyes. I replay it over and over in my mind in an attempt to come up with a rational, natural explanation, but am left without one.
As the sun began to set, the mood of the theater seemed to change, and at one point I was actually eager to leave. Two people in my party heard a voice whisper “Hey, you!” and felt unexplained cold spots that had not been there before. It seemed as though when the darkness set in, people we were not able to see were arriving to watch their favorite movies. And perhaps that was the case, nothing more and nothing less.
If you liked this excerpt from Donna Stewart’s book check out Ghosthunting Oregon for more spookiest haunts across the state.
Hollywood Theatre by Visitor7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons