by Kimberly Rubio, assistant editor
Local residents may flock to the Janey Slaughter Briscoe Grand Opera House for theatrical performances on the stage, but paranormal investigators recently visited the West North Street building to track down ghosts.
Although opera house manager Rosie Whisenant has never experienced any odd occurrences at the iconic downtown structure, others have tales to tell.
Former Uvalde Police Department Lt. Jerry Martinez said his first encounter with spirits at the opera house happened last October when he responded to a call at Gree’s Boutique, located across the street from the opera house.
“I was outside standing by my patrol car waiting for a keyholder,” Martinez said. “I observed an older female peering down at me from a window on the second story floor of the opera house.”
Martinez, a 22-year veteran of the local police force, said the woman was wearing what appeared to be vintage clothing, so he assumed she was taking part in a theatre performance.
“A couple of minutes later I finished up the call and realized there were no cars in front or on the side of the opera house, so no one should be there,” Martinez said. “I had a keyholder for the opera house make the location and I cleared the building. No one was located.”
Furthermore, Martinez discovered the window where he spotted the woman was covered in a black cloth used to keep the room dark.
“The way it was attached to the window frame, there is no way anyone could have been [seen] standing there,” Martinez said.
Although the encounter was out of the ordinary for Martinez, city employee Isaac Perez said he worked alongside many opera house ghosts for several years.
“The first encounter was when I was working on the west side of the building restoring windows,” Perez said, noting the incident occurred in March of 2014.
“The seat fell down. At first I thought I knocked it over but after a little bit I had to turn around and get another tool and noticed that it was back up,” Perez said, going on to detail another similar occurrence.
“Once, the custodian was vacuuming – she always wore headphones. I was on the top of the balcony looking down, and as she moved I noticed the seats fell behind her,” Perez said.
Perez, who has worked for the city since 2014, also noticed objects were often inexplicably moved.
Former opera house manger Olga Charles said she once witnessed an extremely frightened probationer after he encountered a ghost.
“He was upstairs on a ladder cleaning the mini-blinds and all of a sudden I hear the rumbling of someone running down the stairs,” Charles said. “When he reaches the bottom I come out of my office and asked him if he was okay. He was having trouble catching his breath. I told him to calm down, as he began to ask me if I knew someone lived upstairs.” Charles said the worker explained that he was on the ladder cleaning when he looked down and saw a lady in a red cape with blond hair and big earrings.
“He was very descriptive,” Charles said. “He said he looked down at her and said, ‘Look I am not here to bother you. I am working.’”
According to Charles, the man said ghosts then floated over the stage. He described seeing a tall man in a gray military suit, complete with gold bars on his shoulder and a gold sash around his waist.
“He left that day and said he would never return because he was scared and did not want to ever see them again,” Charles said. “He did call back to have me sign some of his paperwork, but he parked across the street and I had to go out to his car.”
Once, while waiting for a security system employee, city employee Perez was repairing a vent in the women’s restroom.
“I kept going back and fourth to check if they had arrived. I finally got tired of making the trip and started mumbling to myself, asking ‘When are they going to show up?’” Perez said. “Then I heard a lady’s voice say they were here.”
When Perez went to the front door, he saw the employee pull into the parking lot.
But while that particular ghost was helpful, Perez said another was always sad.
“I noticed every time I passed the steps on the right side of the stage I felt this heavy sad feeling,” Perez said.”
“I said ‘Who are you? Tell me what is going on.’” Perez said.
Perez said the ghost said her name was Ann. He said he also observed a child ghost who liked to participate in YouPOP’s performance of “Alice in Wonderland.”
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