“Theater Ghost” of Whitmer Auditorium haunts cast and crew, past and present

Colton alum recounts the story of Zane, the ghost who haunts the Whitmer


J. Dollins

The Whitmer Auditorium may well be haunted by the ghost of Zane, a former student who died backstage. (Image Photoshopped)

When I was in the Colton High School Drama club, we spent a lot of time in Whitmer Auditorium, so much that it felt like we lived there. I joined as part of the tech crew and was given the role of stage manager. So, I became very close with the adults who helped maintain the Whitmer.

Backstage at the Whitmer, where trap doors used to hold secrets before they were sealed. (Image Photoshopped) (J. Dollins)

Now, before every play, actors were reminded to give thanks to the “theater ghost” by dedicating their warm-ups to it, and the tech crew would politely ask the theater ghost not to be mischievous on opening night.

I always wondered why this was, so I asked the older members running the soundboard one night during rehearsal.

Back in the day—we’re talking late 1950s, when the trap doors were still in use on the stage before being sealed for safety purposes—a play went on in which the main villain was vanquished. When the leading actor waved his hands, the stage crew was directed to pull the ropes to activate a trap door where the other actor would fall safely on a gym mat.

The kid playing the main villain—let’s call him Zane­—was not a popular kid in the group, but had a massive ego over his acting chops and would constantly belittle, yell, and berate the techies in the show.

The Whitmer has hosted many plays over the years, and students must pay tribute to the “Theater Ghost” if they wish for the production to go smoothly. (Image Photoshopped) (J. Dollins)

On the night of the last show, the tech crew had enough of Zane’s cruelty—particularly one member who had faced too much of the actor’s wrath. They started messing with him, cutting his mic off when he was speaking, making him late for cues, or moving the spotlight off him, so he would have to run after it.

The finale was when Zane was supposed to fall through the trapdoor. When the crew dropped him, they forgot to put the mat down. Zane’s legs shattered, causing him to scream out in pain, but everyone thought it was part of the show.

Because of how unliked Zane was, no one went down there to check on him. Instead, assuming he had stormed off after an embarrassing night, they shut down production and struck the set. The school then closed the Whitmer down for a month for some renovations.

No one found Zane until the smell hit the auditorium. They found him dead on the matless floor, leg mangled.

If you are backstage at the Whitmer, and do not pay tribute to Zane, he may well be waiting for you. (Image Photoshopped) (J. Dollins)

So, Zane now haunts the Whitmer, never having left because of his love of theater. He also remains to punish those who don’t follow the rules—like uttering the cursed word “Macbeth” backstage, or mocking the general art of it all.

Initially, I didn’t believe any of this until I found myself part of a show where everything went wrong. It was the first show I starred in. As we performed warm-ups, we forgot to dedicate them to the theater ghost. Later, someone even dropped the dreaded “Macbeth” as a joke.

That night sets fell. An actress broke her ankle when the chair she stood on collapsed. The fire alarm was pulled mid show. And all the actors had their mics go out during the big climax.

The whole show was consumed by a weird chill in the air, and when we finally ended for the night, we heard a door open. It was the entrance for under the stage.

Someone swore they heard laughter.