Stage Fright

Tupelo ghost scares up interest from Premiere magazine

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

Sadly, Premiere magazine has no interest in the actors who work magic on the Lyric Theatre's stage.

The publication only cares about Antoine, a restless spirit prone to sing and clomp around the theater in the wee hours.

"It's an old building that has a lot of knocks and bangs. Animals have been known to scurry around," said Lynn Nelson, a board member with Tupelo Community Theatre. "The thing is, animals don't sing."

Nelson, who claims to have heard mysterious singing while working alone at the Lyric late at night, tells the Tupelo ghost story in the November issue of Premiere. The Downtown Tupelo landmark is listed among the magazine's six spookiest movie theaters in the nation.

"They came by us through a Website," Nelson said. "They contacted the theater back in July or August."

The magazine reports how the Lyric was used as an emergency hospital and morgue in the aftermath of the 1936 tornado that devastated the town and killed more than 200 people.

"People say maybe Antoine is one of the tornado victims who died here," said Tommy Green, a TCT board member who's never come in contact with the specter in question. "We don't know if he's a frustrated actor or what. We say it's Antoine, but we don't know how he got the name. It could be a woman, Antoinette, for all we know."

TCT board member Jess Mark doesn't believe there really is a ghost, even though he's had a couple of strange experiences. Both took place late in the evening when he was supposedly the only person in the building.

"The first time, I was up on a ladder on stage and I heard someone walking around upstairs," Mark said. "It was distinct enough that I got off the ladder to see who it was, and I didn't find anyone."

Another time, Mark was working on the lights and heard footsteps, but, again, his inspection revealed no one else in the building.

"To me, that would just be an old building settling," he said. "There's nothing that can't be explained."

Others have reported seeing lights in the control booth, then seeing the silhouette of a man. Another person has reported hearing a single note on the piano played over and over.

Nelson swears she heard footsteps and singing when there was no one else around.

"You'll be down here and all of the sudden you have this fight or flight feeling and all of your hair stands up. Then it just goes away," she said. "Antoine doesn't seem to be malevolent. No one's ever been hurt."

If fact, the spook's reputation has been sullied by the living who don't want to take credit for losing their own car keys.

"He gets blamed for a lot," Nelson said. "If something is missing from the prop table, they'll say Antoine got it."

Nelson doesn't let the ghost keep her away from her appointed TCT rounds. The show must go on, after all.

But if she has to visit the Lyric late at night, Nelson usually invites her husband along.

"Let me put it this way," Nelson said. "I don't disbelieve."

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