Genesee Theatre hosts Ghost Wauk public, private tours

Cold patches, unexplained noises and smells, a barking dog that’s heard but never seen are all a few phenomena that visitors on the annual Ghost Wauk tour at the Genesee Theatre will hear.

The Genesee Theatre in Waukegan opened in 1927 and has been the subject of ghost sightings and unexplained phenomena.

Public tours, which run between 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 and Oct. 7-8 are sold out.; times on Oct. 19 and Oct. 29 have been added. People can schedule private tours for groups greater than 10.

Larry Frievalt is the patron services manager at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan. He’s been there since the theater reopened in 2004 after renovations. He leads the tours.

“I was told many of the stories that have occurred here at the Genesee in the days prior to the reopening. I’ve also been told many of the stories that occurred during the renovation and as well as sat in and participated in some of the actual paranormal investigations here at the Genesee Theatre.”

The tour lasts just over an hour and includes a walk through all four floors of the theater as well as the basement. Guests will see the backstage area too. The Genesee wasn’t always a theater; it had 11 storefronts and 40 apartments at one time.

“We talk about the various unexplained phenomenon that has happened at the Genesee Theatre,” he said. “Basically, the way we explain it is that we’ve had four separate paranormal investigation teams come in and we provide them with the necessary locations.

“They set up their equipment and record whatever they encounter. The interesting thing is that the four separate paranormal investigation teams that have been here, that have no relationship to anyone else, come back with the same phenomena in the same area that they could not debunk.”

He talks about encounters that the staff and even performers have encountered when they visit the theater, he said.

Guests are allowed to bring their own equipment, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the tour, he said.

“It’s not like a haunted house where people get a jump scare, this is more of a storytelling event where we talk about these encounters and let the guests enjoy themselves,” he said.

He will even talk about his personal encounters.

“We have a ghost dog at the Genesee Theatre,” he said. “It has a pretty strong bark.”

He was in the lobby with four other ushers when they all heard a dog barking. He walked outside and checked all around the theater — no dogs, no barks.

“When I was telling my house manager this, Frank, he was actually a theater manager here back in the ’70s and he talked about the ghost dog,” he said. “It is heard and never seen.

“We had a situation where one of our marketing managers brought her dog into the theater when she was working late at night. The dog got so scared it would not come out from under her desk. She had to carry the dog out of the building.”

He’s also smelled pipe smoke — despite the nonsmoking building — the kind favored by a former employee.

He’ll show footage from one of the paranormal investigations, too.

“It’s actually a full, encompassing evening,” he said.

Frievalt used to say he didn’t believe in ghosts. “But I’ve been on these experiences and there’s stuff I can’t explain,” he said.

Ghost Wauk tour

When: 6:30-9:30 p.m. Sept. 30 and Oct. 7-8

Where: Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan

Tickets: $20

Information: 847-263-6300; geneseetheatre.com

Annie Alleman is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.

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