For years, Orpheum employees have reported strange ghostly happenings — dressing-room doors that slam on their own or the sound of running feet when no one is around. Some have also heard the sound of a little girl singing when the theater is empty.
The sounds are generally attributed to "Mary," widely believed (at least by those who believe such things) to be the ghost of a little girl who haunts seat C-5 on the theater's mezzanine level. According to legend, Mary died in the 1920s, though stories vary as to whether her death was by fire or the result of being run over by a horse or streetcar.
However, television psychic and medium Sylvia Browne — often seen performing readings on The Montel Williams Show — has a different take on Mary's ghost. And according to Browne, Mary's spirit is not alone at the Orpheum. Browne performed a quick reading of the Orpheum's ghosts over the telephone in preparation for her upcoming appearance at the theater on Friday, April 23rd.
"It seems that where the Orpheum Theater is now, there was some kind of makeshift hospital or a place where hurt soldiers were taken," Browne said in her signature gravelly voice. "It seems like [Mary] was a nurse. Apparently, she had someone in the service, maybe the Civil War. And he died. She keeps looking for him."
Unlike most accounts of Mary as a little girl, Browne speculates that the ghost is actually in her late 20s. Browne says her full name was Mary Margaret Forrester, and her dead soldier lover's name was David.
"[Ghosts hang around] because they have some unfinished business, like a lost love, a trauma, or a mother losing her child," Browne said.
During the telephone reading, Browne picked up on another ghost — a man named Clifford Ferris.
"He hung himself. I think he was mentally deranged," Browne said. "He was older, sort of an indigent. He was one of those handyman people who walked around and talked to himself. Not right in his head."
Browne said Clifford hanged himself from a large tree near the Orpheum's location. Browne said the two ghosts never knew one another.
"You have layers of time. Mary comes from maybe 1865, and he comes from 1902," Browne said.
The best-selling author will perform readings on audience members during her Orpheum appearance. Browne believes she manifested her psychic abilities at age 3. For years, she claims to have assisted individuals in contacting dead loved ones, and in 1974, Browne founded the nonprofit Nirvana Foundation for Psychic Research.
While she's at the Orpheum, Browne says she may help Mary and Clifford move on:
"Somebody needs to go in there and say, 'Look, Mary Margaret. You're dead. Go to God. Go to the white light.' I've always helped people do that, and about 99 percent of the time, I've had luck."