Kjer to join me?

Reports of theater's haunting increase; rumors unverified

By Theresa Schneider


10/30/06 - The Spectator

Sophomore Eddie Neve said he heard rumors that Kjer Theatre was haunted during his first UW-Eau Claire theater production last fall.

"I had heard about it, so I was watching for (stuff)," he said.

But it wasn't until later that year during the spring production of "Bat Boy" did Neve have an encounter that turned him into a believer.

Neve said one night after a show he was slow taking off his stage make-up so he was the last one to leave. Neve said he went onto the stage and saw a side door was open, as though it had been pushed. As Neve prepared to leave he glanced once again at the open door. As he looked at the door, he saw it slowly close on its own.

"I knew nobody was there so I freaked," he said. "Now I won't go in (there) if it's dark and I'm by myself."

Eau Claire area paranormal researcher Chad Lewis said he receives an increasing number of reports every year of unexplained happenings in the theatre -specifically from students.

Earl Kjer, founder of the theater, was a faculty member who taught speech and theater during the late '40s through the early-'60s. Kjer died suddenly in January of 1965 at the age of 61, Lewis said. Since then people have reported strange activity, he said.

Most of the reports are of seeing Kjer sitting in his favorite auditorium seat, of someone tampering with equipment and props or of sensing a presence in the theater while alone.

"The most common (report from students) is that they sense something there when the theater is empty that sense of being watched," he said.

Senior Becky Witt said that she, too, believes that the theater is haunted.

Last fall, Witt stage-managed the play "Everyman" and said she had an unexplainable experience.

"I'd come in (to the theater before rehearsal) and lights would be turned on when I hadn't turned them on," she said.

Five years ago, Lewis decided to investigate, he said. He camped out in the theater for one night hoping to detect activity. He brought video cameras with night vision lenses to detect figures, motion detectors, both 35-millimeter and digital cameras, audio recording equipment, laser guided thermometers to determine if there were any areas in the building that were drafty or particularly cold and electromagnetic frequency meters. EMF meters pick up changes in electrical and magnetic energy, which can be indicative of a ghost, he said.

Despite all his equipment, Lewis found nothing unusual that night, and has not been back since then to continue his investigation, he said.

"I'd like to go back (and finish the investigation)," he said. "It's unfortunate because we only have a limited amount of time (to investigate)."

Neve said he believes Kjer is still hanging around his theater because he doesn't want to leave the place he loved.

"People have a strong passion for theater and if you devote your life to something it makes sense why you'd stay for your afterlife," he said.

Witt said she thinks Kjer might move props and lights to his personal tastes.

"I think he tampers with stuff to let us know he's still here," she said. "I think he's welcoming to the college students and likes that we're doing theater here and continuing on."

Although three stage directors declined to comment, Lewis said he heard many students have tried to see Kjer's ghost themselves.

"If anything, it helps the theater department," Lewis said. "Some people attend plays because they hope to see (Kjer)."

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