“Theater people” are a very special breed. While some people only devote themselves to an occasional production, others make it their life. And in some cases, their afterlife too! The Newton Community Theatre got its start in October of 1963, with productions held in the old Maytag Ballroom. In late 1965, the theatre group purchased the former Four Square Church building. This served as its home until a power failure and fire occurred during a production in 1971. The community of Newton raised funds for a new auditorium, and, in 1976, a theatre was built on to the west side of the town’s new YMCA building. The theatre now consists of a 250-seat auditorium, with sound and lights controlled from an upper balcony. The basement houses dressing rooms, a makeup area, storage, a small kitchen, and a workshop. In the tradition of all good theatres, they also have a long-time resident ghost. No one seems to know the ghost’s identity, Iowa or when he was first reported. He is usually just referred to as T.G. (Theater Ghost). Rather than being an actor, this spirit seems to prefer the technical aspect of the theatre. There have been sightings of a shadowy male figure, both backstage and in the light booth. But T.G.s most common prank is to play havoc with stage and auditorium lights. For years, the lights near the sound and light balcony have behaved strangely. Many people have witnessed these lights flickering. The lights have also often refused to turn off during performances, despite being on the same switch as properly functioning lights.
Electricians had been called to inspect the wiring, but no defect was ever found to explain this behaviour. Recently, a new lighting system was installed, but even this didn’t stop the pranks. Now besides causing an occasional flicker in the house lighting, T.G. has computer-controlled stage lights to play with. One night after a rehearsal, the directors and some cast members stayed late talking. Suddenly, a stage light moved loudly along its track. This was not a technical possibility, as the computer that controls those lights had been shut down an hour prior.
T.G. was particularly active during the 2001 investigation that the Central Iowa Ghost Hunting Team conducted. The light in the men’s dressing room turned on by itself, a wire stretched above the auditorium began to vibrate violently, and an apparition was sighted backstage. The house lights also started to flicker for us before we left. Other reports from actors and stagehands include unexplained smells, the sensation of being touched by an unseen hand, set pieces moving by themselves, and unusual sounds. A children’s group that was staying overnight in the theatre’s basement reported hearing a few notes from a piano and muted voices coming from the stage above. A search showed the auditorium to be empty—of any earthly presences, that is.
Written by — Lynette Baker Leader, Central Iowa Ghost Hunting Team
NEWTON COMMUNITY THEATRE
1701 SOUTH 8TH AVENUE EAST
NEWTON, IOWA 50208