Opening in 1913, the Palace (tallest building above) became a premier vaudeville theater. When an act played the Palace they knew they had hit the big time. Performer Jack Haley once wrote:
The walk through the iron gate on 47th Street through the courtyard to the stage door, was the cum laude walk to a show business diploma. A feeling of ecstasy came with the knowledge that this was the Palace, the epitome of the more than 15,000 vaudeville theaters in America, and the realization that you have been selected to play it. Of all the thousands upon thousands of vaudeville performers in the business, you are there. This was a dream fulfilled; this was the pinnacle of Variety success.
Up until the 1930s stars such as Helen Keller, Harry Houdini, Fanny Brice, Bob Hope, and Ethel Merman graced its stage until the popularity of motion pictures turned it into a high-class movie house. In the 1950’s it attempted to reclaim its live-theatrical roots with stellar performances by Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. It began producing legitimate Broadway productions in 1965 with the opening of Sweet Charity, and stars continue to grace its stage.
However, some acts have refused to bow out. The most famous ghost is thought to be Louis Bossalina, who is the second from the left in this picture from an article published in The Reading Eagle on March 31, 1935. (His name was apparently misspelled as Borsalino in a New York Times article in 1935, and the misspelling stuck.) The article reported how Bossalina fell 18 feet to the stage while performing with the acrobatic team, The Four Casting Pearls on August 27, 1935. They leapt from stationary positions without nets, and Louis, the team captain, missed the hands of his partner while performing a double summersault, a move his team called “The Death Loop”. He suffered a fractured pelvis and internal bleeding. It was thought he died because stories abound that stagehands have seen his ghost swinging from the dress circle rim. Some people have heard him scream and seen him fall. Actually I believe I found his obituary in his hometown paper, The Reading Eagle, and it listed his death as August 4th, 1963, at the age of 61. Perhaps the paranormal activity is a residual haunting as a result of the dramatic nature of the accident.
Bossalina isn’t the only ghost in the majestic theater. Other phantoms seen include a sad little girl who looks down from the Mezzanine and a little boy who plays with toy trucks. There is also a man in a brown suit who walks past the House Manager’s office door at night after the audience has left. In 1995 an actor in the cast of Beauty and the Beast saw a white-gowned cellist in the orchestra pit vanish during a performance. Intrigued cast members invited the famous psychic, Elizabeth Baron, to do a reading of the theater, which she conducted on October 6th, 1995. As Baron sat down, she became overwhelmed by the impression of more than 103 souls. One included the singer, Bing Crosby (performing for the troops above), who conveyed his remorse at how he had treated his children in life. Baron went on to say that many of the spirits were full of pain, worry, and unhappiness and were stuck in their stubbornness in not wanting to leave the theater. Some of the ghosts wouldn’t go on to a higher dimension until they make it right with people left behind, so when she finished her reading, the psychic asked cast members to pray for those stuck behind. A moving account of the reading is told by her daughter on Ms Barron’s official website: