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Majestic Theatre



The haunted Majestic Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin, has seen nearly every type of entertainment imaginable, from the incredible feats of Harry Houdini to the guilty pleasures of the adult film industry. 

 

Now, this theater attracts particular patrons seeking to witness the unknown. Ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts flock to the historic haunted theater to see the famous waving lady or the terrifying “rubber man.”

 

Wisconsin’s capital is known to be one of the most haunted in the state, and its capital for live music stands up to that title. 

 

So, let’s take a journey into the haunted Majestic Theatre! 

 

Next time you are in Madison, take the #1-rated ghost tour with US Ghost Adventures to see for yourself!

 

The Majestic Theatre

 

The Majestic Theatre, located a few blocks from the Wisconsin Capitol Building, opened to great fanfare on December 15, 1906. It brought Vaudeville to Wisconsin’s capital for the first time and is now the oldest operating theater in the state. 

 

Harry Houdini, born in Appleton, Wisconsin, graced its stage alongside major Vaudeville acts of the time. The 600 seats of the Majestic quickly filled night after night as viewers enjoyed performances of a lifetime. 

 

Brother Otto and Edward Bierdstaedt opened and operated the theater together until Edward died in 1912. Afterward, Otto expanded into the world of silent films, and by 1929, the theater was fully equipped for sound.



 

Hard Times at The Majestic

 

The 1920s saw the “First Settlement” neighborhood taking a turn for the worse. Founded in 1837, the same year Madison was founded, it was the first residential neighborhood in the city. But by the roaring 20s, it had become a red-light district. The streets were full of criminals, pickpocketers, and other unsavory characters. 

 

One performer hung themselves from the balcony during this tumultuous time, and attacks on actors were common. The stage was violently set for Wisconsin’s oldest haunted theater. The Majestic continued onwards, however, providing world-class entertainment amid the chaos. 

 

From here on out, the Majestic entered a period of decline, losing its luster and elegance in coordination with its surroundings. The adult film industry began using the theater to showcase X-rated films. And, in 1969, large sections of the 2nd and 3rd floors were bricked during a disfiguring remodeling. 

 

But, it was also a time when the arts continued to flourish. Cult Classic Rocky Horror Picture Show was screened here from 1978-2000. 

 

The “First Settlement” area’s fall from grace worsened as the century progressed, however. When Matt Gerding and Scott Leslie purchased the theater in 2006, the area was riddled with crime. The Majestic had been functioning as a grimy nightclub called “Club Majestic.” 

 

Gerding and Leslie have successfully turned the Majestic Theatre into Madison’s premier live music and performance venue, and the First Settlement neighborhood has regained its stature as the city’s finest entertainment district alongside them. 

 

Some aren’t so happy with all the changes, however. The spirits of Wisconsin’s haunted Majestic Theatre make their presence known nightly to all listening. 

 

The Putty Man and The Waving Lady of The Majestic Theatre

 

The most terrifying paranormal encounter in Majestic history happened to two unlucky college students. The two of them were on the balcony studying one evening in the 1980s when something peculiar happened. 

 

One of the girls stood up to stretch, and as she turned around, she noticed something, or someone, behind her. An unusual figure was directly behind the two. She alerted her friend, and the two screamed in horror as the entity grew in size. Its arms began to wave around as if no bones were connecting them. 

 

This was not the first sighting of the “Putty Man,” and it has not been the last. In the early days of the theater, a performer billed himself as someone who could stretch and grow in front of the audience. “The Moving Man” was a big hit, and it seems he hasn’t given up the spotlight yet. 

 

The Waving Lady

 

Not all the ghosts at the Majestic are as frightening as the “Putty Man,” and some are even friendly. One night, after a big performance, a few employees were cleaning up the stage. As one of them looked up at the balcony, they noticed a woman waving at them. She kept waving even when the employee tried to tell the visitor it was time to go home. 

 

The worker headed up to the Balcony to escort the guest out. But when she got up there, she found that the woman had disappeared! The employee found out later that her other co-workers had also seen the waving lady. “Her arm dislocated from her body!” one stunned worker proclaimed. 

 

Haunted Madison

 

The Waving Lady and The Putty Man are two of many remnants of a time past. Old Madison mingles with the new in Wisconsin’s capital, and the spirits are there to guide your way. Will you follow them?

 

Take a ghost tour with US Ghost Adventures to discover the city’s most haunted locations. Wisconsin’s haunted Majestic Theatre and much more await you! 

 

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, and read our blog for more spooky content. 

 

Sources:

 

https://majesticmadison.com/history/

 

https://www.channel3000.com/madison-magazine/city-life/meet-madison-s-ghosts/article_7be4d686-3bdb-5246-b52c-ef802993ce47.html

 

https://www.ibmadison.com/the-7-most-haunted-businesses-in-madison/

 

https://www.thebozho.com/brief-oral-history-majestic-theatre-2007-rebirth/

 

https://www.concoursehotel.com/blog/haunted-madison

 

https://captimes.com/news/local/city-life/capital-neighborhood-first-settlement-has-become-a-downtown-success-story/article_36e009c9-266c-5ac0-8408-6128bce95312.html

 

https://cinematreasures.org/theaters/779

 

https://badgerherald.com/artsetc/2012/09/27/majestic-theater-the/

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