Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Shreveport Municipal Auditorium - Shreveport, LA (The Johnny Cash EVP)

705 Grand Ave.
Shreveport, LA 71101

            One of the things I have been the most proud of since forming Louisiana Spirits is the fact that we have been the first paranormal investigative group to be allowed into many of the state's most well-known and historic venues. In doing so, it has validated our credibility and proved what a good reputation we have earned throughout the years. To get some of the approval we have obtained, we have had to survive imposing interviews from government officials, town meetings with civic leaders and tons of other nerve-racking encounters. Once the deciding individuals quickly saw how reputable we were, permission was granted, making all of the work and persistence worth it. The feeling of bagging a big investigation is like a drug. I know in my case it often makes me say, “Ok, if I got this big investigation, what's the next one I can get?”
            As I mentioned earlier, many of these locations that we have pioneered may not have a great deal of haunted history, if even any at all. Sometimes for the hell of it we will investigate locations simply due to the immense history and energy that it holds. Every haunted location started with the first ghostly encounter. Who's to say the first encounter cannot be experienced by yours truly? Many times, we come up short handed, leaving us to say, “Well that sucked!” Other times, we actually do find something, bringing another haunted location to the mainstream. I've always said, “It's not bragging if you can back it up!” We can proudly say that several of the most notably haunted locations in the state were introduced to the paranormal community by Louisiana Spirits. Sometimes we may not be given the credit we deserve but I'll save the sour grapes for another time!

            One of the group's most crowning achievements was gaining initial access to the historic Shreveport Municipal Auditorium. Strange tales of haunted encounters had existed but remained pretty low key prior to our visits. This was also early into our existence, before the ghost hunting craze had grown to what it has become today, when everyone who has seen one season of any given paranormal “reality” show now thinks they can form a group and have a producer knocking on their door within two months. Sad thing folks, is that this is a common occurrence, and even more sadly, this is how many of these television shows come about. People with no experience and no knowledge of the field that just so happens to have a particular look that a production company wants, whether it be a “tough guy” persona or an uneducated hillbilly with scripted dialect to portray themselves as if they just crawled out from a meth lab. Again, sour grapes to the side, but sometimes I just have to say what many feel. In the words of former WWE superstar C.M. Punk, “I'm just the voice of the voiceless here!”
            Now that I have descended my fat rear end from the symbolic milk crate of irritation, allow
Photo of the auditorium being constructed.
me to proceed with the awesomeness that is the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium. The auditorium was built in 1929 in a booming part of an equally-booming young and ambitious city. Just along the outskirts of the central business district, sat an area of town known as "St. Paul's Bottoms", often simply called “The Bottoms.” Similar to the red-light district of New Orleans known as Storyville, St. Paul's Bottoms was home to legal prostitution and other less-than-holy lifestyles if you catch my drift! The area was predominately a black community and, by the turn of the twentieth century, would become most known as being the stomping grounds to the famous blues musician, Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter. Going down in history as one of the greatest blues and folk musicians of all time, Lead Belly's name would become synonymous with this part of the city. By the 1990's, in an effort to bring some positive light to this part of town, this area was suitably renamed the Ledbetter Heights, as restoration attempts began to rejuvenate the landscape.

            The massive structure often referred to simply as the Municipal is a three-level tier system, capable of seating nearly four thousand people. The exterior is extremely ornate, containing intricate brick work and carved limestone. The interior is even more beautiful with decorative ceilings and acoustics that are said to be nearly perfect. Just recently, an extensive restoration was done on the Municipal, replacing the thousands of seats, along with other improvements to an already classy venue. Since its debut, the auditorium is most known for its former radio program, “The Louisiana Hayride”, which first aired on April 3, 1948. The program was a weekly showcase of up and coming musicians, soon becoming a huge success in the south, being surpassed only by the famous Grand Ole Opry.
Beautifully decorated interior.
            The auditorium would be rightfully nicknamed “The Cradle to the Stars”, as some of the hottest talents of the era got their big breaks within these walls. Eternal greats such as Hank Williams Sr. and Johnny Cash began their illustrious careers here, yet none would be as huge as a young boy from Mississippi who first performed here on October 16, 1954. Not sure if you ever heard of him, but he went by the name of Elvis Presley. On this date, the king made his mainstream on-stage debut and the rest is pretty much history. Performing for only eighteen dollars per show, Elvis would eventually be discovered by Colonel Tom Parker and his career would skyrocket. Some even say that the famous saying “Elvis has left the building” originated at the municipal, as swarms of young woman would wait after the show in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the heartthrob. The coined phrase was said to have been started in efforts to clear the unnecessary mob from the auditorium.     
            We have all heard musicians being told to “knock em dead” prior to their performances as a way to wish them luck. That saying takes on a completely different nuance when applied to the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium. You see, as musical greats in their infancy were electrifying the crowds with their gyrating hips, pelvic thrusts and lyrics of gold, the swooning teeny boppers had no clue that in the basement that sat under their tapping toes housed the locally deceased. Yes, while Johnny Cash was singing “The Caretaker”, the undertaker was down below preparing the bodies for embalming and burial!
            With such a rich and amazing history, throw in a few ghostly tales from staff members and we
Panoramic view of the stage which once sat atop a makeshift
city morgue.
were shocked to hear that a paranormal investigation had never been conducted at the auditorium. Sometime in 2006, we decided to try our luck and obtain access to the building. To our surprise, management was more than willing to not only have us over to investigate but to also share their own strange experiences. Many had seen strange shadowed figures in the corners of their eyes while others always had the feeling that they were not alone. I was deeply bummed that I was unable to attend the first investigation of the auditorium but I had great faith that my northern chapter would represent the group quite well. During their investigation, they would encounter a few things that seemed a little out of the ordinary. In one of the dressing rooms, the scent of flowers and baby powder were smelled by two of the investigators. The scents quickly dissipated, with no origins being discovered. Later that night, an investigator located on the stage asked for a sign of the spirit's presence, and heard four distinct claps coming from directly in front of the stage. No one was anywhere near the stage or floor seating during this time. Random EMF spikes were also captured throughout the night, which seemed to move and disappear without any rhyme or reason. Although a few strange things took place, the team left feeling slightly empty-handed, as they were really hoping for a big piece of evidence. However, the group still had hours of audio and video to analyze.

            As the team began going through all the recordings, boredom began to set it. If you have never had the luxury of reviewing evidence from a paranormal investigation, you are truly missing out on a little piece of gold. It can be one of the most boring things in the world to do. No matter how alert I think I am, after five minutes of listening to the steady hiss of a voice recorder, I am immediately inclined to fall into a deep coma. The team began to lose all hope, as the only evidence recorded were the sounds of the claps, which were not that significant. One investigator began reviewing the audio from a voice recorder that had been placed in the area known as the Elvis Presley dressing room, which he is said to have used on numerous occasions. As the recorder played, one could hear a male and female investigator carrying on a conversation. They were the only two in the room. Suddenly, an extremely clear male voice whispers, “I love Johnny Cash!” Our mouths dropped when we heard this Class A EVP, as we knew no one else was anywhere near that room when the audio was recorded. To this day, the Johnny Cash EVP would be one of our all-time favorites. In two other instances, we captured a voice saying, "Time to get out" and "Get out of here!" Was it a deceased fan who lingered in the building, a former employee overly attached to their job, or a corpse from the morgue with a sense of humor?
The Elvis Presley dressing room where captured our
"Johnny Cash" EVP.
Fortunately, our group as well as the auditorium received a good bit of publicity from the investigation. The coverage allowed us to obtain other investigations while also drawing the curiosity of locals and paranormal enthusiasts to the building. We decided what better place to host a paranormal seminar than at the auditorium? The event was a huge success, as we gave a lecture on our methods of investigating, showcased evidence captured from several other locations in the city, while wrapping up the night with a public investigation of the auditorium. With over fifty people in the building that night, I had my doubts that we would encounter any paranormal activity. Fortunately, I was proven wrong, as several guests reported seeing shadows, hearing strange sounds and one individual claimed that they were touched by unseen hands. At one point of the night, I was sitting alone in the upper balcony. No one was sitting behind me, as I was about ten rows from the top of the auditorium. Suddenly I heard what sounded just like someone had dropped a handful of pocket change on the ground several rows behind me. I quickly sprung from my seat to look behind me. No one was present so I climbed up several rows where the sound seemed to originate from. Still, no one was found and no coins were to be seen either.

            For the next couple of years, we would continue hosting public events at the auditorium, drawing more awareness to such a great venue. In 2008, we decided to host the very first paranormal convention ever in the state. Of course, we opted for holding it at the Municipal. We had over two hundred and fifty people show up, not only to hear lectures from some of the most respected researchers in the field such as John Zaffis and Loyd Auerbach, but the free jambalaya and equipment giveaways didn't hurt the cause either!
            As I mentioned, the auditorium was heavily refurbished over a year ago. To unveil the revisions and refresh the community of the historical landmark, local preservation societies continue to draw awareness by offering tours to the building. Several months ago, we assisted in another public investigation of the Municipal. Roughly one hundred people were in attendance. Again, I had my doubts of ghostly encounters being experienced with so many people. Once again, I was proven wrong, as valid EVP's were captured, motion sensors were activated and shadows were seen by guests who were in isolated parts of the building. At one point of the evening, I was in the basement area and had made my way to a secluded maintenance room. The room was completely dark and had an extremely creepy vibe to it. I've been in pitch black rooms hundreds of times and none of them gave me the feeling I encountered there. It felt as if something was right in front of my face and suddenly swooshed right passed me almost with the intensity of feeling a breeze come over me. As sudden as the forced passed, so did the eerie feeling. To this day, I am certain that something ghostly was in that room with me for a short period of time and I have no clue what it was. As I've said before, as with the living, even the dead can only take me in small doses!
            One of the individuals that was in attendance that night stated that he had been doing a lot of research on the building and the property. He claimed he had learned that prior to the Municipal being constructed in 1929, a small church and cemetery stood on the property. If true, I found this to be quite intriguing, as I had never heard such a rumor. What many do not realize is that the auditorium is built on elevated ground and even what is considered the basement, is still slightly above ground. The gentlemen stated that if one could access the small crawl spaces located in the basement, one could get to the ground and examine the ground further. What small space I could find that evening definitely could not accommodate my less-than-Adonis-like physique. 
Elvis has left the building!

            Today, the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium continues to host various public events. Our northern chapter continues to do a great job assisting in preserving the history of the building, hopefully for years to come. As with many locations we have put on the paranormal map, television crews and other paranormal groups were not far behind. Fortunately, the auditorium has always been portrayed in a positive light and anytime such a historically-important building is given the attention it deserves, we feel that our years of hard work have paid off. This is another reason that Louisiana Sprits takes pride in being the echelon of the paranormal community. While some are passing fake evidence as legitimate, trying to make a dime out of everything they do and/or throwing their morals out the window in the hopes of getting the next television deal, we are educating the public while preserving and drawing awareness to our state's treasures. The “Gold Standard” known as Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations says, “You're welcome!”

1 comment:

  1. There are also Elvis Presley and hank Sr. Evo's that have been captured at the memorial Auditorium in Shreveport and a few others. We caught a segment of the louisiana hayride standing outside a couple years ago.