The beautiful caste-like Elsinore theater, known for its hauntings, looms over Salem, Oregon

Elsinore Theatre

Elsinore Theatre, a true movie palace, is reportedly haunted by its former owner

Paranormal Activity at
Elsinore Theatre

  • Shadows are seen on stage at night when the theater is lit only by the stage's ghost light
  • Many people report hearing and seeing the former owner, George Guthrie
  • A cold spot seems to always exist somewhere on the stage, without explanation
  • An unknown spirit supposedly moves props around and plays pranks on performers during rehearsals
  • Blood stains mysteriously appear and disappear from a bathroom mirror

History of the Elsinore Theatre

Named for the castle in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and built to match the grandeur of a medieval fortress, the Elsinore Theatre looms large over central Salem, Oregon.

The theater’s Tudor Gothic architecture helps it stand above its more modern neighbors on High Street, a true theatrical cathedral that beckons the fans of screen and stage to come and witness their favorite works play out upon its altar of artistic expression.

The historic and haunted Elsinore Theatre in Salem, Oregon

Shortly after the Elsinore opened, Capital Journal writer D.H. Upjohn lauded its sturdy beauty, saying, “When the grandsons and granddaughters of those who are now infants in the cradle have graying hair, the Elsinore will still stand, immutable, imperishable, a thing of beauty and joy forever.” Little did Upjohn know just how right he would be.

But another fact the good writer didn’t know was that while those grandsons and granddaughters do still enjoy the Elsinore’s immovable presence today, the spirits of their long-passed grandparents may still be enjoying films and performances at the Elsinore Theatre.

Timeline of Elsinore Theatre's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Elsinore Theatre through the years

Come for the show, stay for the reported spooky paranormal activity at the Elsinore Theater in Salem, Oregon


The life of the Elsinore Theatre began on May 28, 1926, when owner George Guthrie first opened the doors of his silent movie house. Designed by regionally renowned architect Ellis Lawrence, the Elsinore Theater was a grandiose project from the very beginning. Opening night was the crowning moment for what would be one of Salem’s longest-lasting theatrical treasures. Quickly, the Elsinore made a name for itself as one of the finest silent movie houses in the state, and a luxurious performance venue with superb acoustics.

The castle-like entrance to the Elsinore theater, said to be full of ghosts


A few short years after opening, the Elsinore followed the interest of the movie-going public and made the switch to talking pictures. But, regardless of modernization, the Elsinore couldn’t avoid the hardship of the Great Depression. To reduce costs, George Guthrie rented the movie house out to Fox Theaters, and later to Warner Brothers, who operated the theater until the early 1950s. After over a quarter century of ownership, Guthrie finally sold the Elsinore in 1954 to a group called the Foreman Brothers.

The haunted Elsinore Theater in Salem, Oregon


Ownership of the theater changed hands over the following decades, with the 70s and 80s bringing new problems to the aging theater. By this era, the Elsinore Theatre was reduced to a second-run movie house plagued with neglect. Many locals feared that High Street’s medieval castle would be lost to a wrecking ball. Luckily, community organizers created the Save Elsinore Committee in 1980 and helped raise $130,000 to restore the grand venue. The restoration was finished by 1986, in time for the Elsinore’s 60th anniversary celebration.

George Guthrie's ghost is said to be seen around the Salem, Oregon theater - making sure it is still in tip-top shape


In 1993, the theater was sold and sat in limbo for a few years before a complete restoration project was taken on in 2002. Restorations were completed in 2004, and the Elsinore Theatre has attracted tens of thousands of visitors since then, continuing to thrive as a movie theater and performance venue today. But, with its revitalization has come stories about strange occurrences and ghostly experiences patrons have had in the 95 year old theater. And that’s left more than a few people wondering: is the Elsinore haunted?

The spirit of a young boy murdered within the building is also said to appear, but this death is undocumented

Ghost of George at Elsinore Theater

One of the most popular ghost stories about the Elsinore Theater stems from George Guthrie himself. As the long-time owner and operator, it is only natural that Guthrie would want to keep an eye on his life’s work, and many patrons and employees say he still watches over his theater.

Performers have reported seeing his apparition watching them rehearse from the theater seats, and night shift workers have reportedly seen his shadow drift across the stage when it is lit only by the stage’s ghost light.

The shadow of a young girl is frequently seen on the balcony of the Elsinore, rumored to be the young daughter of George Guthrie, a former owner

Elsinore Theatre’s Paranormal Prankster

Others have sworn that it is Guthrie’s spirit that repeatedly moves props around and plays little pranks on performers like dropping pebbles on their heads while they’re running lines.

It’s also believed that Guthrie’s ghost is the source for an infamously permanent cold spot frequently reported to hang around on stage. But, while George Guthrie is the most commonly reported spirit at the Elsinore Theatre, he is far from the only one.

Spirit of Tragedy at Elsinore Theatre

Another commonly reported entity is said to be that of Guthrie’s young daughter, who reportedly died after falling off the theater’s upper balcony, though this death could not be confirmed by our researchers.

Now, visitors and performers all report seeing the shadowy figure of a little girl playing around the balcony. And, this little girl is not the only child spirit said to reside in the Elsinore.

Elsinore Theater’s Ghostly Little Boy

In another currently unconfirmed legend, a young boy was murdered in or around the theater and is now said to haunt one of the bathrooms. The most common report associated with this young boy spirit is the sudden appearance and disappearance of blood on one of the bathroom mirrors. He is also said to be another spirit causing mischief by moving props and messing with rehearsals.

Elsinore Theatre: Salem’s Spookiest?

Over the near century that the Elsinore Theatre has been open, countless big names have come and gone, including John Philip Sousa, Clark Gable, Jack Benny, Bonnie Raitt, and Gregory Peck. Throngs of patrons waiting to see these great performers have come and gone as well. And, if you believe the local legends, a good few of them never truly left the castle-like theater.

This haunted theater has numerous specters

So, if you ever get a chance to visit the Elsinore Theatre on your trip to Salem, keep a close eye on the shadows around the ghost light. It just might live up to its name in more ways than one.