Thursday, October 22, 2009

Springer Opera House: Georgia's Haunted Theater

The historic Springer Opera House dominates a city block in downtown Columbus and is one of the most beautiful buildings dedicated to the arts in Georgia. It also is reputedly one of the most haunted.

The Springer is unique because it opened in the midst of the turbulent Reconstruction Era as a tribute to culture and arts in a time of great violence. Over its long and storied history it has hosted such luminaries as Oscar Wilde, Will Rogers, Edwin Booth, John Philip Sousa, Ethel Barrymore, William Jennings Bryan and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is a true landmark of Southern history and heritage and, if stories told around Columbus are to believe, at least one of the finest actors who performed there is still hanging around.

According to Columbus legend, the Springer Opera House is haunted by the playful ghost of noted 19th century actor Edwin Booth. Sort of the Brad Pitt or George Clooney of his day, Booth was one of America's most famous actors until a fateful day in 1865 when his brother, John Wilkes Booth, shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln.

The assassination forced the entire Booth family into self-imposed seclusion. But in the 1870s, as animosity over the assassination began to fade, Edwin Booth began an effort to salvage is career. As part of this move, he came to Columbus to perform "Hamlet" at the Springer Opera House. The performance was warmly received and did much to help Booth redeem his career.

Legend holds, though, that Edwin Booth promised to haunt the theater after his death until it staged a performance of "Hamlet" once again. Strange events began in the theater after Booth passed on from this world and continue to this day.

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