Sandwich Opera House’s
- Lights are known to flicker and go on and off without explanation
- An apparition is sometimes seen in the theater
- A sense of being watched by something unseen is often reported
- Strange sounds and sensations are encountered in the former jail / current women's lavatory
- Child spirits in the basement reportedly move objects around
- The basement spirits are also said to rock a rocking chair stored down there
Sandwich Opera Houses’ Various Uses
In the yesteryears of Sandwich, Illinois, the little town boasted convenience few towns could match. Whenever you wanted to go see a show, you just headed to the Sandwich Opera House. Whenever you needed a meeting with the mayor or town council, you just headed to the Sandwich Opera House. And if ever there was a fire or vagrant in need of jail time, you just headed to the Sandwich Opera House.
In its time, the Sandwich Opera House has served almost every purpose a small town could ask for, and still sports many aspects of its countless uses, from a façade still emblazoned with ‘city hall,’ to a jailhouse with heavy barred doors still attached.
And, for all the reminders of the past you can see at the opera house, local legend suggests there are many more reminders you can’t see. From spectral children to ghosts of mayors, the list of spirits at the Sandwich Opera House are just as varied as the building’s past.
How it Became a Community Cultural Center
Over the decades that followed the building’s completion, it not only had a long rotation of mayors, police chiefs, and fire chiefs, but a seemingly endless list of new performers, lecturers, and entertainers. The theater section of the Sandwich Opera House quickly established itself as the community cultural center, and it saw a wide variety of theater acts performed including Shakespearian productions and vaudeville acts.
Along with theater troupes, the theater also hosted traveling lecturers and politicians, local club gatherings, temperance talks, debates, school recitals, and graduation ceremonies. While the building served its many uses well over time, by the time the 1920s rolled around, some departments were desperate for modernized workspaces.
Community Action To Save The Sandwich Opera House
The theater went dormant during the war, and when the war ended in 1945, it didn’t come back to life. As a few city service offices bustled below, the theater sat empty for years. By the 1970s, there were talks of razing the whole building to make way for more development.
That suggestion spurred community action to save the building, and a committee formed to investigate the potential for saving the structure produced positive results for the old opera house.
Modern Production And Historic Registration
The Sandwich Opera House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and a large-scale revitalization took place in the years immediately following the designation. Walls and ceilings were repainted to the building’s 1890s look, and light fixtures were replaced with period-appropriate fixtures and chandeliers. New sound and light equipment setups were added to the theater to help bring more modern and tech-heavy productions to the old theater.
Sandwich Opera House’s Trail Of Ghosts
After many years of work, the restored Sandwich Opera House was reopened in 1986. In the years that followed the reopening, not only have many shows been put on, but many stories have been made, some more mysterious than others.
Over time, visitors and workers alike have reported strange happenings and potentially paranormal encounters at the opera house. Some people now believe that the building’s varied uses have left a trail of ghosts to keep that eclectic history alive.
Death of Julius Hummel
One of the most well-known opera house ghost stories is the tale of Julius Hummel. Once a mayor of Sandwich and one of the opera house’s original commissioners, Hummel insisted his funeral take place at the opera house upon his death. His wish was granted when he died in 1930, but during the procession of the casket up the theater aisle, the cart carrying it broke.
Restless Restroom Spirits
Another reported hotspot of paranormal activity is the women’s bathroom on the building’s first floor. Once used as a jail, the bathroom still sports thick brick walls, and heavy barred jail doors, though the doors no longer close.
Visitors to this lavatory often say they feel an eerie sensation there, while others report sounds of clanging metal, as if the doors are closing or chains are knocking against them. Investigators who have reviewed the area in the past have reportedly come away with EVP responses and potentially anomalous photographs from the space.
Sandwich Opera House’s young spirits
In the basement of the building, employees and investigators alike have said they’ve encountered the ghosts of two children lingering down there. The child spirits reportedly enjoy stuffed animals, particularly a toy rabbit left down there, and are known to frequently move this rabbit to different locations around the basement. They are also notorious for rocking a theater prop rocking chair that is stored down there.
While no one is exactly certain how a pair of child spirits ended up in the opera house’s basement, it is thought that they paid visits to observe the workings of the fire department, which housed many of its functions in the basement. Regardless of how they ended up there, the child spirits reported in the basement seem to have no interest in leaving, being two of the more frequently encountered ghosts on investigations.
Are Sandwich Opera House’s Hauntings Keeping It Alive?
In its time, the Sandwich Opera House has played many parts, and it still continues playing roles in the community today. Though not the heart and soul of the town’s function anymore, the opera house succeeds at entertaining visitors from far and wide with an ongoing rotation of local and traveling performances.
But despite leaving many of its old functions behind, the numerous historic chapters of the Sandwich Opera House stay alive today thanks to both preserved artifacts, and purported apparitions.