Located in the heart of Illinois, the city of Springfield serves as the hub of the state’s political activity. In 1839, Springfield became the state capital with the help of a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln. Many believe that some of the citizens from these bygone days still roam the streets and buildings of Springfield; citizens of a more spectral nature, who appear out of nowhere to haunt those whose paths they cross. The Legacy Theater and Springfield Theatre Center, located at 101 East Lawrence Street, is such a place.
Housed in an unassuming location, the quaint and friendly atmosphere of the theater gives you the feeling that you have taken a step back in time. Located not far from the State Capitol Complex, the Springfield Theatre Center (as it was formerly called), was the venue used to showcase live performances for the Springfield Theatre Guild.
On November 8, 1951, the Theatre Center opened its doors with a performance of the Broadway show “Born Yesterday.” The Center received numerous congratulatory telegrams from many famous celebrities, such as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Broderick Crawford.
One of the members of the Theatre Guild was an actor named Joe Neville. According to some, Joe was a little odd and at times arrogant. Some of the other cast and crew were not fond of him. Joe also had a mysterious side to him as well. It was rumored that he previously acted in England under a different name, but being a talented and dedicated actor, his past was overlooked by his fellow actors.
In 1955, Joe was given the lead role in the play, “Mr. Barry’s Etchings.” Things were not as they seemed. After a dress rehearsal for the opening of the play, Joe returned home and committed suicide by overdosing on pills. He never performed in the show. It was later determined that the reason Joe ended his life was due to an audit at his place of employment. Funds had been misappropriated and Joe was the likely suspect.
But as they say “the show must go on!” After Joe’s death, his role was assigned to another actor only one day before the show was set to open.
Even after his death, many of those who frequent the Legacy believe that Joe’s spirit continues to linger inside the theater. Reports of paranormal activity began almost immediately following Joe’s demise and continue to this day. Actors and stage crew have reported strange sounds (such as doors opening and closing on their own), lights turning off and on without reason, and costumes and tools that disappeared only to be found later folded or placed in places which had been previously searched.
Many claim to have seen Joe’s spirit wandering the Theatre Center prior to the opening of a new show. Joe was known to use large amounts of Noxzema cream for a skin condition on his legs, so whenever Joe was around, the pungent odor would annoy many of the other actors and staff. After Joe’s death in 1955, the use of Noxzema cream was banned from the theater. Some still claim to smell the odor of Noxzema in the old dressing room…
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