by Michele Newbern Gillis
A spirit lives in the Florida Theatre — his name is J. or Doc Crowther, depending on who’s telling the tale.
His “home” is in the dark reaches of the balcony. Only one person — a psychic— has seen him but a few others have felt his presence.
“A few years ago, Ch. 7 did a story on the ghost and brought in a psychic consultant, Jill Cook-Richards,” said Saundra Floyd, director of rental operations. “There have been so many stories about the history of the theater [that] they just assumed that there must be some type of spirit here.”
According to Cook-Richards, he is.
She claimed that that the ghost had spoken to her, and that he wanted to be called “J” for Joy — what he felt for the place.
“He said he didn’t need a name from his past, that he wanted a name for his future,” said Cook-Richards.
She picked up several things during the visit including that the ghost was associated with a person who was involved in the building either as a performer or someone who worked there before. Also, he is there to protect Joe Collier, who acts as the building’s maintenance manager.
“The ghost described Joe’s personality, which is kind laid back and open,” said Floyd. “He said he is there to protect and help him.”
According to legend, the ghost is the spirit of a man named Doc Crowther, who was a motion picture technician in the early days of the theater.
“I definitely saw a spirit when I was there,” said the psychic. “I saw him as a real big beam of light and I could hear his voice.”
Ch. 7’s John Osif did the filming of the documentary.
“When I was there I felt something, too,” said Osif. “When she started talking to him, it felt like there was static electricity in the room because the hairs on my arm stood up. The energy in the room changed when she was talking to him.”
Floyd said the first thing she heard about a ghost was that some cleaning people saw something many years ago in the projection booth.
She herself has never seen the ghost, but has had a few run-ins with it.
“We’ve had doors close and lights and equipment going on and off over the years,” said Floyd.
One experience really stood out in her mind. She had taken a different physic up into the balcony where the ghost is supposed to reside to see if she sensed a presence.
“We were walking up into the balcony and the balcony lights went off,” said Floyd. “Things always happen in the balcony.”
She thought Saul Lucio, the technical director of the theater, had turned them off but when she went downstairs there was no one there.
When she returned to the balcony, the physic turned to her and said, “I have something for you; that was J. and he’s playing with you.”
Another time, the ghost helped Floyd keep a group of visiting school children in line.
“I took a group of children through the theater,” said Floyd. “When we got to the balcony, some of the children ran toward the projectors and I told them to not do that because of the ghost.
“They said ‘Yeah, right.’
“I told them the lights go out when he gets upset. Just as I said that, the light in the corner went out.”
She said when they came to join the rest of the group at the walkway out of the balcony level, the light went back on.
“The teacher asked how I did that; I told her I
didn’t,” said Floyd.