Is Mabel Tainter Theater Haunted?

Mabel Tainter Theater

Mysteries at the Mabel Tainter Theater include flickering lights, shifting seats, and apparitions

Mabel Tainter Theater’s
Paranormal Claims

  • The apparition of Mabel Tainter is seen in the theater and in the restrooms
  • Piano playing can be heard from the theater when no one is there
  • Lights that are shut off will mysteriously be flipped back on
  • Seats in the auditorium are said to be pushed down by unseen entities
  • Potential EVPs have been captured by past investigators
  • EMF anomalies have been reported during past investigations
  • Sound equipment in the theater will reportedly be played with by spirits
  • The elevator has been operated by unseen forces in the past

Mabel Tainter Theater’s History

Just a block shy of Lake Menomin on the busy Main Street of Menomonie, Wisconsin, sits a stately yet imposing sandstone structure that sneaks right up to the sidewalk, intricately inscribed with the words ‘Mabel Tainter Memorial.’

Mabel Tainter Theater is rumored to be haunted by its namesake

Mabel Tainter Theater is rumored to be haunted by its namesake

But the Mabel Tainter Theater isn’t just any simple memorial, but rather a historic and respected local monument to the arts. Built to honor Mabel Tainter, an artistic young woman who died suddenly at age 19, the Mabel Tainter Theater has done such good work attracting people to it that some say it has attracted the ghost of Mabel Tainter herself.

Timeline of Mabel Tainter Theater's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Mabel Tainter Theater through the years


In the years that followed the Civil War, Andrew Tainter made a success of himself in the northern Wisconsin lumber trade. Gaining wealth quickly, Tainter looked forward to a prosperous and long life for himself and his family.

Unfortunately, Andrew’s daughter, Mabel, died suddenly of appendicitis in 1886, leaving her father with a sense of grief that no amount of money could hope to resolve. After a prolonged depression, Andrew decided to use his fortune to build a fitting memorial for his late daughter.


Mabel Tainter adored the arts and music, so Andrew built an arts venue for Menomonie that would carry Mabel’s name. Andrew gave $125,000 to construct the Mabel Tainter Memorial Building, which was meant to house a 261-seat theater, a library, and community meeting spaces for the local Unitarian Society.

When it was opened in July, 1890, locals marveled at the luxury and the state-of-the-art features, including a massive pipe organ, a Tiffany glass pane memorializing Mabel, and a complement of electric lights.


The Mabel Tainter Theater was an overnight success. Not only did a steady stream of traveling performers stop in, but the public library was moved into the building in 1891 and included over 4,000 books. The Unitarian Society also moved in and made frequent use of the assembly rooms.

When Andrew Tainter died in 1899, he left a substantial endowment fund to keep the theater operational. This endowment only grew over the next twenty years thanks to legacies left from other Tainters and prominent community members.


Over the next hundred years, the Mabel Tainter Theater went through many changes. The pipe organ, originally water-powered, was converted to electric power in 1957. The theater was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The library continued to grow until it outgrew the building and was relocated in 1986.

The main reading room became the box office and gallery store, as the original box office was no longer up to fire code. In 2007, a new wing was added that included the building’s first elevator.


While changes have helped the Mabel Tainter Theater remain successful, another factor contributing to its success is how little it has changed. Step into the Mabel Tainter today and you’ll see the original box office, the original pipe organ, the original wooden seats, and even a set of fully functional Edison bulbs that date back to the building’s grand opening.

Going along with this historical charm, tales have spread that old world Menomonie still lives on in the Mabel Tainter through the spirits of former visitors.

Does Mabel Tainter Haunt
the Mabel Tainter Theater?

Unsurprisingly, one spirit said to haunt the Mabel Tainter Theater is Mabel Tainter herself. Most often reported as an apparition wearing a long white dress, Mabel’s spirit is usually spotted on the second floor around the theater’s balcony seats.

Additionally, visitors to the women’s restroom also report encountering Mabel’s spirit checking herself in the mirror before disappearing. Mabel’s spirit is also said to play the auditorium piano every once and a while, still reflecting the musical tastes she carried in life. Mabel’s phantom has also reportedly been photographed sitting on the old theater steps.

Mabel Tainter Theater’s Holy Haunter

Another spirit who reportedly haunts the theater is the former Unitarian minister, Henry Doty Maxson, who helped convince the Tainters to build the theater as a way to memorialize their artistic and creative daughter.

Maxson’s entity is often encountered in his former pastor’s study on the second floor, where previous investigations have turned up potential EVPs and numerous EMF anomalies.

Specters Fill Seats at Mabel Tainter Theater

Henry Doty Maxson is also said to play harmless tricks around the theater, including going around and pushing the theater seats down. Sometimes, employees will come in and find every one of the old wooden seats in the house pushed down.

Maxson is also said to be the spirit responsible for lighting issues in the building, as lights that are shut off have a tendency to mysteriously be flipped back on.

Mabel Tainter Theater’s Mischievous Spirits

While Mabel Tainter and Henry Doty Maxson are two of the most well-known spirits lingering around the Mabel Tainter Theater, others may reside there as well; there are numerous other reports of activity not attributed to either of them.

One of these reports is changes to the soundboard settings for the theater, like some mischievous spirit is playing with the knobs and dials during the night. Another unexplained happening reported is that the elevator has been operated by unseen forces, being summoned to floors with no living soul there to call it.

Mabel Tainter Theater haunted by multiple ghosts

Mabel Tainter Theater haunted by multiple ghosts

Mabel Tainter Theater Paranormal & Performance

The Mabel Tainter Theater today certainly has their work cut out for them balancing both production events and paranormal ones. But, despite their rather busy schedule of productions and community programs, the Mabel Tainter still makes time to offer guided ghost tours regularly to any interested paranormal enthusiasts.

In addition, they have hosted large paranormal events, as well as the occasional private investigation. The ghosts around the Mabel Tainter sure seem to be a significant attraction for people, and maybe that’s the point; perhaps Mabel Tainter is beckoning people to her namesake theater through spirit.