The Grand Oshkosh Theater

Ghosts at The Grand Oshkosh Theater include spiritual stage managers and phantom dogs

Ghostly Occurrences at
The Grand Oshkosh Theater

  • An apparition of a former stage manager is seen around the theater balcony
  • A mysterious orange mist has been spotted floating around the building
  • Potential EVPs have been captured by past investigators
  • EMF anomalies have been reported throughout the theater
  • The apparition of a stage hand is often encountered in the basement
  • Smells of phantom tobacco smoke have been encountered in the theater
  • A ghost dog has been seen on the stage
  • Performers in dressing rooms report seeing shadow figures in the mirrors
  • The apparition of a child has been seen sitting on the main staircase

The Grand Oshkosh has a Storied Past

You’d never guess The Grand Oshkosh of Oshkosh, Wisconsin was once a crumbling, rundown X-rated movie theater, among other things, by looking at it today. The attention to detail placed on the cream-colored exterior speaks of artisanship of past eras and storied history for the old theater.

The Grand Oskkosh Theater's beautiful expanse of seats

That history is best understood by stepping inside The Grand Oshkosh and taking in the magnificently-restored interiors and the well-structured schedule of new and popular shows and performances. But workers, performers, and visitors alike will all say there are spirits as well as thespians crossing the stage at The Grand Oshkosh.

Timeline of The Grand Oshkosh Theater's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see The Grand Oshkosh Theater through the years


First built in 1883, The Grand Oshkosh, or the Grand Opera House as it was known at the time, was meant to bring entertainment, culture, and fun to the swiftly growing community of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Opening with a production of The Bohemian Girl in August of 1883, the Grand Opera House was a runaway success for the city.

So much so that capacity was expanded to accommodate up to 1,200 with foldout jump seats built into the walls.


This new opera house was able to bring the first traveling Broadway productions to Oshkosh, and throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, the theater greeted other big names of the era like Mark Twain, John Philip Sousa, Harry Houdini, and President William Howard Taft.

After the 1920s, the opera house took on the new name of the Granada Theater and underwent major renovations to add new lighting systems and modern plumbing.


Another brief name change came to the theater in 1948, becoming the Civic Theater after an update into a movie house. But it was changed again to the Grand Theater in 1950. Much of the stage was removed in the 1950s to make way for more seats.

The entrance to the building was moved to a far corner and a large metal marquee was added above it. Many original front windows were covered up and the building was coated in plaster to give it a more modern feel for the era.


Over the following decades, the Grand Theater transformed into a low rate second-run movie house. By the early 1970s, it had become a dilapidated pornographic theater. However, a long-term initiative to save the theater succeeded in getting a city referendum passed in 1980 for the city to purchase and revitalize the theater.

Restoration began with a ceremonial removal of the old marquee on October 4, 1982.


The fully renovated theater reopened in 1986 as The Grand Oshkosh, with both the interior and exterior meticulously recreated with modern materials and amenities. The revitalized theater saw great success as a venue for traveling performers as well as rental space for a variety of events.

In 2009, a second restoration project was undertaken to improve structural issues from the original 1883 structure, and over $2,000,000 was put into refurbishing the structure.


The Grand Oshkosh reopened in 2010 and remains a rousing success today as a 550-seat theater that hosts over 100 performances every year. But, between the performances and private events, many people say The Grand Oshkosh is a great place to experience something go bump in the night.

From the basement dressing rooms to the theater balcony, ghosts are said to reside in just about every corner of the historic opera house.

Who Haunts The Grand Oshkosh?

Percy Keene is one ghost who reportedly lingers around The Grand Oshkosh. Once a dedicated stage manager for the theater, Keene’s apparition is still often seen by visitors, performers, and staff members.

Keene’s phantom is most often seen sitting in the balcony seats. Those who have seen him say he often appears while rehearsals are happening on stage, as if he’s still going about his normal day as a dutiful stage manager.

Shadows and Smells in The Grand Oshkosh

Passers-by on High Avenue have also reported a similar apparition watching them closely from some of the second-floor windows as they walk by the theater. Many figure this is also the watchful spirit of Percy Keene.

Keene is also reportedly known for the pungent smell of his pipe smoke, which is said to still stink up the theater whenever he’s around. Ghost hunters today consider the strange pipe odor a tell-tale sign of Percy’s presence.

The Grand Oshkosh Theater’s Haunted Basement

Another spirit known to saunter the halls of The Grand Oshkosh Theater is that of an unknown stage hand who reportedly died in the theater after falling into a coal bin and suffocating. Now, his spirit is often encountered down in the basement, well-known for appearing as a shadowy figure drifting down corridors.


The Grand Oshkosh Theater has rumored hauntings in its dark basement

The Grand Oshkosh Theater has rumored hauntings in its dark basement

Along with appearing as an apparition in the halls, the stage hand spirit is also known to play simple tricks on people down there. He is also notorious for appearing in dressing room mirrors, purposefully startling people who turn around and see no one behind them.

A Creeping Canine at The Grand Oshkosh

Curiously, the theater is also said to be haunted by a ghostly dog. The dog is most often spotted around the stage when it is empty, trotting around or sometimes just sitting in the middle of the stage.

But, whenever anyone goes to investigate or shoo the dog out the backstage door, there is never any dog there. Some people have also claimed to hear this dog barking, growling, and sniffing around the theater.

The Grand Oshkosh’s Mysterious Mists

Additionally, visitors and workers have claimed to see a strange, orange mist floating around the building at certain times. This mist reportedly appears in seemingly random places.

Visitors have further reported seeing the shadow figure of a young boy sitting alone on the main staircase of the theater. Past investigations of The Grand Oshkosh have brought up potential EVP recordings from the building, as well as reports of widespread EMF anomalies.

A Paranormal Culture at
The Grand Oshkosh

The Grand Oshkosh today is a thriving cultural center in Oshkosh with a busy schedule filled with musicians, comedians, and theater troupes. The theater also regularly rents out its space for private film showings, photo shoots, weddings, and, yes, even paranormal investigations.

Along with offering private investigation rentals, The Grand Oshkosh has also hosted guided ghost tours in the past, usually around Halloween each year. And, if you’re ever on a tour and happen to spot a dog trotting around the stage, offer it a treat or a pet. You might just make best friends with a ghost!