Originally known as the Loews Theatre, the Akron Civic Theatre was designed by Viennese architect John Eberson in grand “Atmospheric” style. The ceiling was painted to look like the night sky, and it is one of the few theatre ceilings that can rotate. The Civic is believed to be haunted by three ghosts. A girl who allegedly committed suicide by jumping into the canal behind the theatre has been encountered walking along the edge of the canal, weeping uncontrollably. The ghost of a longtime employee of the theatre, a janitor named Fred, has been spotted all over the building. Finally, the anonymous ghost of a man has been seen sitting in the balcony. These phantoms make the Civic Theatre one of the most haunted theatres in the Midwest.
The Akron Civic Theatre is located at 182 South Main Street in downtown Akron, Ohio. L. Oscar Beck began construction on this site in 1919, intending to build an impressive entertainment complex called The Hippodrome. His project went bankrupt in 1921 and the site stood incomplete until Marcus Loew, founder of the Loew’s theatre chain, built the Loews Theatre there in 1929. It was an ambitious project incorporating Moorish and Mediterranean architecture and decor. The theatre lobby extended over the Ohio and Erie Canal. It had many owners over the years, including the Akron Jaycees and the Women’s Guild. In June 2001, the Akron Civic Theatre closed to undergo a $19 million renovation. Today, it is one of only sixteen remaining atmospheric theatre designed by architect John Eberson in the United States.
“Fred” is one of the most well-known ghosts believed to occupy the theatre. He is thought to have been a janitor who worked at the Loews Theatre most of his adult life and died during one of his shifts. He protects the building to this day, discouraging vandalism and even frightening off men who make unwanted advances on female patrons. According to Weird U.S., “Fred also apparently has no tolerance for people who disrespect his beloved theatre, especially the bathrooms. In fact, Fred’s ghost is said to get so angry over people messing up his bathrooms that he will sometimes chase or attack you if he catches you doing anything other than answering the call of nature in the restrooms.”
A former theatre patron or actor is often blamed for mysterious disturbances in the balcony. What distinguishes this balcony ghost from “Fred” is that he is always described as being very well-dressed. He often appears clad in a formal black tuxedo complete with coattails. Theatre patrons are unable to decide who he was in life or why he is haunting the Civic.
The Civic Theatre’s third and final ghost is that of a sorrowful young woman who haunts Lock 3 in the Ohio and Erie Canal. Some believe this haunting predates the theatre itself. The Ohio and Erie Canal was completed in the early 1830s and carried freight traffic until 1861. The canal was finally abandoned in 1913, shortly before L. Oscar Beck attempted to build The Hippodrome. The young woman allegedly drowned herself by jumping into the canal and is often seen walking along the edge. When spotted, her ghost will disappear into the tunnel under the theatre. Others have heard her weeping uncontrollably.
Nearly every theatre is believed to be home to a ghost or two, but what makes the Akron Civic Theatre unique is the specific nature of the hauntings. Rather than the usual moving props, shadowy figures, and other anomalous things, the Civic Theatre’s ghosts are well defined. This trio of ghosts have become as much a part of theatre goers’ experience as the beautiful proscenium arch over the stage and the violet sky decorating the ceiling. For most patrons, these ghosts are a welcome presence, but those with less than noble intentions should take care, lest they meet Fred and his otherworldly companions floating through the darkened aisles.