The Indiana Repertory Theatre has been the center of Indianapolis entertainment since its grand opening in 1927. But it has gained a new reputation as Indianapolis’s most haunted theatre since the start of the new millennium. The spirit of a former theatre director, the victim of a terrible accident, runs through the mezzanine. Employees and performers of the theatre hear his phantom footsteps jogging up and down the stairs nearly every night.
This historic theatre once played host to hundreds of revelers, night after night, dazzling them with the highest quality entertainment and technology the city had to offer. The biggest names in music played under a mesmerizing night sky, lit by the power of electricity, while dancers swayed in rhythm along with them.
Although the building is no longer a music hall, it provides thrills to the people through the power of theatre and the potency of its paranormal activity.
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The Indiana Theatre made its grand debut on September 2nd, 1927. Ever since, it has held the title of largest theatre in Indianapolis, adding, much later, the title of most haunted. Local architectural firm Rubush and Hunter designed the majestic Spanish Baroque-style theatre. Construction cost $995,000 ($15 million in modern terms) and sported the most fabulous marble, terra cotta, and customized furniture.
The building was home to much more than a theatre. A luncheonette, soda fountain, bowling alley, multiple billiard rooms, a candy store, a tobacco store, and a barbershop all dazed and dazzled guests to the theatre.
The theatre sat 3,200 people, the largest ever built in Indianapolis, and was one of the first structures in Indianapolis to provide air conditioning. Their unique “weather system” kept guests cool or warm by blowing seawater over the outside air.
Crowds would gather for years at the top floor of the modern building known as the Indiana Roof Ballroom. The domed ceiling was lit up on a nightly basis by four projectors, creating the illusion of a night sky.
Big names in swing Jazz, like Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Benny Goodman, played under this faux night sky until the venue’s decline in the 1960s. Meanwhile, the theatre had its own impressive list running. It was the first theatre in the state to have stereophonic sound, 3-D projection, and Cinerama facilities.
The Indiana Repertory Theatre took control of the building in 1975 and has owned it ever since. The Rooftop reopened in 1986 with a stunning set from crooner Tony Bennet. Their addition to the theatre community and Indianapolis nightlife has been priceless.
The IRT also indirectly added to the long list of Indianapolis lore, adding one more ghost to the registry. What was once just a stunning theatre is now a popular spot for paranormal enthusiasts.
When Tom Haas arrived in the city, his reputation spoke volumes. Haas earned a colorful education, gaining a master’s at Cornell and a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin. He ran Yale’s drama and acting programs and taught at Emerson College. This man of the stage founded the PlayMakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the Weathervane Theatre in New Hampshire, Connecticut.
The Indiana Repertory Theatre building had just celebrated its grand opening when he took over from the previous director in 1980. Haas knew what he was doing. Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep were both his students, and he brought this expertise to the historical theatre.
Haas was an avid jogger outside of his professional life. It helped to alleviate the stress that often comes with success and, being born in 1937, helped him stay healthy. He often jogged through the mezzanine when the weather was gray and unkind but had his usual route when the sun was shining.
One morning, Haas decided to forgo his usual precaution of jogging inside in bad weather. It was just a little fog, after all. He headed out on his usual route near his house, making his way through the soup-like fog.
Sadly, the fog proved to be deadly. As he was turning a corner, a vehicle suddenly crashed into him. He survived the initial impact but later succumbed to his injuries three weeks later.
A few weeks after his death, footsteps were heard in a seemingly empty mezzanine. They ran up the staircase in a fashion similar to the indoor route Haas used to jog. Some have even seen his apparition running through the lobby area.
The lights often flicker on and off in certain parts of the building, making many wonder if more spirits can be found here. If the lavish parties of the Rooftop Ballroom very well may still be echoing into the night?
The best way to find out is to experience it for yourself. Take a haunted tour of Indianapolis with US Ghost Adventures! Read our blog for more snippets of haunted history, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok for a constant flow of spooky content.