HAUNTED MICHIGAN: The Haunting of the Ramsdell Theatre, Manistee
The Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee was constructed in 1903 and named after its founder, Thomas Jefferson Ramsdell. Ramsdell wore a number of hats: during his life he was a farmer, teacher, lawyer, Michigan Supreme Court clerk, member of the Michigan legislature, state representative, school board member, county treasurer, and building contractor. He opened Manistee’s first hardware store, invested in real estate, produced the first local newspaper, and was founder of the First National Bank and the Manistee Water Works.
After Manistee’s theater on the corner of First & Greenbush burned down in 1900, Ramsdell took it upon himself to get another one built. In 1902, the Ramsdell Theatre was completed on the corner of First and Maple streets. So it seems very likely that if there was going to be any kind of haunting in this theater, it would be at the hands of the spirit of T.J. Ramsdell.
Employees, actors, stagehands, and custodians have reported strange happenings: doors slam shut behind them, stage & theater lights falling and smashing on the floor, electrical equipment failing for no reason, lights going on & off, and windows opening by themselves. It seems that it’s not just Ramsdell’s ghost that haunts the theater…but also that of a woman whose identity is unknown. Both apparitions have been seen throughout the building and floating near the balcony.
Aside from the haunting, the Ramsdell has its own Historical Marker that reads: “Thomas Jefferson Ramsdell—pioneer lawyer, state legislator, and civic leader—built this theater between 1902 and 1903. Many traveling companies played here and praised the features that made it unique among the playhouses of the era. Theatrical artist Walter Burridge painted the main curtain utilizing the theme “A Grove Near Athens.” The dome and lobby murals were the work of Thomas Ramsdell’s son Frederick. Public spirited citizens saved the landmark from demolition in the early 1920s. It was acquired by the city of Manistee in 1943. The Manistee Civic Players have helped to preserve its architecture and interior decor. The Ramsdell Theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.”
The Ramsdell Theatre was also where actor James Earl Jones gave his first performance of Othello. Jones was from the Michigan ghost town of Dublin (some sources mistakenly say he’s from Brethren), and you can read all about that by CLICKING HERE.
So now you have a few reasons to visit the Ramsdell: for historic considerations and to seek paranormal activity. Take a look at the photos below, then add this to your next Michigan roadtrip!