Flickering Images at the Avon
The History & Hauntings of Decatur's Original Movie Palace
By Troy Taylor
The Avon Theater officially opened in November 1916. It was a unique place in that it was a large, grand
theater, on the scale of the Empress or the Lincoln, but yet the Avon had been constructed for showing
moving pictures only. There would be some live entertainment and music later on, with hosts appearing for
the parade of films to follow, but this theater was a folly to many. It could never succeed they thought,
believing that moving pictures were simply a passing fad and would never last.
Over the years, the American film industry has defied the odds and has endured. Fortunately, even after a
number of near disasters, the same can be said for the Avon. After a bright beginning, a number of rough
spots and years of success, the theater was closed down and abandoned and most feared that it would be
lost. For several years, it was said that the Avon would soon join most of the other old theaters in
Decatur and would be destroyed. Such an end would have been tragic on many counts, but there is one thing
that sets the Avon apart from most of the other "lost" theaters --- the Avon is a very haunted place.
But the theater still remains today. Believe me when I tell you that the end came calling for the Avon
many times and yet somehow, destruction was avoided time and time again. It might be said that someone was
watching out for the place, but who knows? Regardless, thanks to public interest, creative planning,
innovative thinking and a lot of hard work, the Avon is once again open and thriving in downtown Decatur.
It's a matter of great celebration in the entertainment circles, and hopefully we can push to the point
where people are booking the cheapest airline tickets in from outside Decatur alongside their tickets for
the night. It's a place that's been rescued by fate, and may the good luck continue, right?
For a long time, I wondered what would happen to the ghosts of the theater when the wrecking ball came for
the Avon? I don't have to ponder that any longer. The ghosts, and the theater, are still around and look
to remain that way for many years to come.
The Avon's Early Days
Imagine for a few moments that you can travel back in time and relive an evening from another day in the
past. That date is November 28, 1916, just a few days after Thanksgiving, and you are walking along
Decatur's North Water Street. Ahead of you, along the east side of the street, a display of lights seems
to set the night sky on fire. A crowd of people spills off the sidewalk and into the street and you crane
your neck to see what all of the excitement is about. The crowd has gathered tonight to see the Avon
Theater as it unlocks its doors for a grand opening.
The audience begins to enter the theater as you approach and you get your first real glimpse into the new
lobby. Mrs. C.O. Knapp of Bement, a local artist, created the original artwork that decorates the walls.
The designers of the theater paid no small amount of money for these canvases, making the Avon one of the
most expensively decorated moving picture houses in the entire country.
This poor quality photo shows the Avon's packed auditorium for the opening night film. Unfortunately, the original print was destroyed several years ago when the Decatur Herald & Review threw out hundreds of historic photos. This murky reprint was obtained from a 1916 newspaper copy. (Restored by Miles Galfer).
The ornaments and decor inside of the theater are said to even rival the twin, seven-foot-tall monuments
on the posts outside of the building. A third statue, having arrived only weeks before the opening, is
located just above the curtains. It is of a woman, reclining in the nude, and holding a wreath outward
toward the audience. On a parallel with this figure, circling the entire auditorium, are base-relief casts
of women's heads. They are only matched by the lion's heads that circle the theater below them, the eyes
of these creatures glowing with brilliant light.
The entire scene is almost breathtaking. There has never been another theater like this one in Decatur, as
all of the other movie houses are cramped and narrow with only a few seats and poor ventilation.
Only the larger theaters even resemble the Avon and they were built for live performances. Many in the
city believed the investment needed to build the Avon was wasted money and that the theater would never
The artwork and the decor are not the only things that make this theater special. The screen is the
largest and best designed in the city. Dozens of hours were spent whitewashing the rear wall of the
theater in an attempt to make it as smooth and as clean as possible. The new film projectors are the best
models available and an orchestra is scheduled to appear on a regular basis to provide musical
accompaniment for the films. In addition, the theater is also equipped with a giant pipe organ that is
electrically controlled. It is located in three different parts of the building so that it will be
acoustically correct for the entire audience.
You can do little more than stare as the opening night audience begins to take their seats. You hurry to
find an empty seat near the front, where only a few remain, because otherwise the theater is packed. The
audience is then treated to a few words from Decatur's mayor, Dan Dineen, who expresses his appreciation
for the theater. He states that it is "unquestionably the handsomest and largest in the state of Illinois
devoted exclusively to moving pictures." He also boasts that, thanks to new businesses like the Avon
Theater opening up, Decatur can finally take its place in the ranks of real cities.
The audience is then introduced to the owner of the theater, Joseph Allman, who is taken by surprise at
being asked to speak. The mayor explains, with good-natured ribbing, that Allman plans to be married in a
few days. The new owner proudly welcomes the audience and thanks the crowd for their patronage, promising
that he will make every effort to provide good films and exemplary service.
Moments later, the strains of orchestra music fills the air and the remaining theater lights flicker and
grow dim. Light appears and floods the theater's rear wall. Soon, the opening credits of The Fall of a
Nation begin to appear on the screen.
The Avon became known as one of the most beautiful theaters in the Midwest and prospered for many years.
It would not hold onto its crown though and the years were not kind to the place. After some extensive
remodeling that was done in the 1950's, the theater never again had the elegance of its early days. For
several years, the building was closed and there was thought to be no chance that the Avon would ever
welcome theater patrons through its doors again. The lobby and auditorium fell into poor condition and the
last attempts to restore, or at least to salvage the theater's dignity, met with indifference and a lack
of enthusiasm ---- until recently, when new occupants began restoring the old building, stirring up years
And have the new owners stirred up other things as well? It's possible, because one thing is sure, there
are many secrets still hiding within the walls of the Avon Theater!
When the announcement came that a new theater was going to open in the city of Decatur, people became very
excited. There were already a number of theaters operating in town, especially along North Water Street,
but there was always room for more entertainment. Besides that, rumor had it that this theater was going
to be different than the rest.
In the spring of 1916, Joseph Allman (as he was officially referred to in all records, despite misprints
as "James" in several articles) began to release the architect's plans for the theater that he planned to
build next to the new Scovill-Warnecke Building on North Water Street. The design for the new theater was
created by R.O. Rosen and would boast main floor and balcony seating for a total of 1,080 people. Private
seating boxes were to be installed on either side of the motion picture screen. The original plans also
called for an artist to decorate the interior and for a copper, wire and glass overhang to be created over
the sidewalk. There was to be a restroom for women on one side of the lobby and a soda fountain on the
other. The new theater was slated to open by late August or early September 1916.
By July, the plans were completed and construction began. The contractor in charge of the project was A.W.
Hendricks and the structure was of white enamel brick with white terra cotta. According to newspaper
reports, "special care is to be taken in making the theater safe and sanitary." The estimated cost of the
project was $40,000.
Later that same month, the builder and owner of the new theater, Joseph Allman, announced a contest by
which the name of the theater would be chosen. "I cannot name it myself," Allman said. "Leave it to the
people of Decatur. It will be their theater anyway, let them name it. I will give a season ticket to the
person making the best suggestion." Over 700 people entered the contest and flooded the judge's panel with
a variety of names for the building. The winning name, the "Avon", was chosen in August 1916. Thomas Ronan
of Decatur had submitted it. Ronan, who claimed to be a theatrical man himself, was presented with a
season pass for the theater. Allman was happy with the judge's decision and announced that the attractive
name would surely conjure up images of William Shakespeare as it was on the banks of the Avon that the
great playwright had been born.
Allman also took the opportunity to announce what he considered to be the "crowning feature" of the new
Avon. He secured the permission of his sister, Mrs. C.O. Knapp of Bement, to use some of her original
paintings for the interior decorations of the theater. He was also able to convince a friend, who was a
student of Lorado Taft, to furnish statuary for the niches in the walls of the theater. Unfortunately, the
name of this sculptor has been lost over the years, as have the statues that once decorated the building.
Mrs. Knapp was apparently a graduate of the art school at St. Mary's of the Woods in Terre Haute, Indiana
and had studied extensively in Europe. It was said that her best-known work was a life-sized oil painting
of St. Cecile, for which she had been offered large sums of money. Instead, she allowed her brother to
display it in the Avon, along with a number of foreign landscapes with names like "The Poison Chalice",
"Egyptian Moonlight" and others. This array of art made the Avon one of the most expensively decorated
movie houses in all of America! Tragically, these paintings have also been lost over the years.
By middle September, the theater was still not open. What may have caused the delays to the original
schedule is unknown, although it has since been suggested that not all of the financing appeared as Allman
assumed that it would. Newspaper reports in October 1916 stated that decorators were just then frescoing
the ceilings and walls of the Avon and that although the plasterwork was completed, the finished work
would be started within a few days. Another report from a week or so later announced that the interior was
complete, although the pipe organ that was to be installed would not be ready for the theater's opening.
"A striking feature of the interior is the roominess," the newspaper report went on to say. "The aisles
are spacious and the rows of seats are placed far apart. An excellent view of the curtain can be had from
any seat in the house. The foundation of the ventilation system is a large suction fan placed directly
over the center of the theater."
The report also went on to describe the rooms that had been built on the front of the theater. These rooms
would have been located in (and above) where the present-day lobby is now located. There were two rooms
upstairs and two downstairs. One of the lower level rooms was the women's rest room and the other (which
was originally supposed to be a soda fountain) was turned into the Avon Flower Shop. One of the upstairs
rooms became Joseph Allman's office and the other was going to be rented out when the theater opened.
The Avon Flower Shop was operated by R.J. Dills and opened on November 28, the same day as the theater
itself. Dills used velvet draperies on the doors and windows to provide the illusion that the shop was
actually part of the theater. His idea, he stated, was to make the place look as much like a "parlor of
flowers" as possible. Older photos of the Avon will show an entrance to the shop on the right side of the
theater. The door was located where the present-day box office is now.
On November 26, just two days before opening night, Allman announced that he had already received 150
reservations for the showing of Fall of a Nation
, which he called "the best Thomas Dixon has
written." He planned to follow this film with the E.H. Sothern picture The Chattel
on December 3
After the announcement on Sunday that 150 seats had already been filled for the Avon's opening night,
Monday morning saw a rush on the theater's business office by patrons who were eager to fill the rest of
the auditorium. By that evening, the Tuesday night showing of Fall of a Nation
had been filled to
capacity. They had even sold tickets to showings of the film that were scheduled for later in the week.
Fall of a Nation was booked at the Avon for four days with the Cairns Brother's eight-piece orchestra
furnishing the music for the picture.
In late December, the much touted pipe organ was finally installed in the theater. The instrument was a
Heiner Organ, from Peoria, and was located in three locations inside of the movie house. Several miles of
wire were used to make all of the necessary connections. The organ pipes called the "swells" were located
on the north side of the screen and the great organ was on the south side. The echo organ was located in
the extreme rear of the auditorium, making the Avon the first theater in Decatur to install a "surround
sound system" of sorts. The organ and the player were both kept hidden from the audience.
In the months that followed, the Avon hosted dozens of well-received films, musical performances and even
style shows that were put on Gushard Dry Goods Co. and the Gebhart store. Occasionally, the theater would
also host the stars of some of the films that were shown, especially those from the Essanay Studios in
Chicago. In March 1917, during a run of a film called Skinner's Dress Suit
, the star of the film,
Bryant Washburn, visited the Avon. The film was show three times and both evening performances played to
packed houses. For the final showing, the Avon's ticket window was closed and a number of people were
turned away. Washburn good-naturedly watched the movie with the excited audiences and then shook hands
with over 3,000 people as they left the theater. The Avon's owner, Joseph Allman, held a dinner in the
actor's honor at the Hotel Orlando after the last showing of the film. In April, another star from
Skinner's Dress Suit
, Hazel Daly, also appeared at the Avon and a dinner was also held in her honor
in the hotel dining room.
By this time, Joseph Allman had hired a manager for the theater, J.A. Carrier and has stepped away from
most of the daily responsibilities of the business. To the general public, things were going quite well
with the Avon, but behind the scenes, the theater was a financial disaster. The cost of building the
theater had nearly bankrupted Allman and he was soon forced to seek opportunities in addition to his
beloved movie house. Even the best films, the music shows and the personal appearances couldn't save the
Avon. In August 1917, it was closed.
Later that same month, it was announced that an "outside firm" had leased the Avon from Joseph Allman. The
former owner would still retain control over the building, but the business would be leased and operated
by someone else. The new company announced that the Avon would remain dark until a "general overhauling"
could be given to the place.
During this brief period, there was much taking place out of the public eye. The "outside firm" that was
taking over the Avon was Carrier Amusement Co., which was owned by C.E. Carrier, the brother of the Avon's
manager. What actual business arrangements were involved remain mysterious to this day and it has been
suggested that some underhanded dealings may have taken place in regards to Joseph Allman. All that is
known about the building's owner is that after Carrier Amusement Co. took over the theater, he retired
quietly to his farm in Monticello. He was never involved with Decatur entertainment again. The official
word was that the Carrier Amusement Co. made it a practice to take over theaters that were in financial
trouble and then to make those theaters attractive to investors again.
Carrier's company, which was based in Chicago and also operated five other theaters in Illinois, wasted no
time in moving into the Avon. They announced a number of plans for the near future, including some
additional remodeling. The interior was redecorated and the Knapp paintings were removed. They also
installed the first real lobby in the theater and lined a portion of the walls with marble and the rest
was painted in old rose with cream trim. They also removed the center doors to the theater and replaced
them with a box office that would allow tickets to be purchased from the street or from two side windows
in the lobby. This box office would remain in place until 1972.
The Carrier brothers also announced that they would be making some changes to the theater's programming as
well. Like most of the other venues in Decatur at that time, they would begin offering vaudeville shows in
addition to the films. The new policy would present two "quality" acts of vaudeville in addition to the
films. The performances would be changed two times each week, on Sundays and Thursdays, and the films
would be changed four times.
The Avon was scheduled to re-open on September 2 with the film The Flame of the Yukon
, the latest
Keystone Comedy, and vaudeville performers the Cleora Miller Trio and Eddie Carrier, the owner of the
theater, who was also billed as the "Ragtime Sensation".
In March 1918, the Carrier brothers erected a new stage for the Avon and added small dressing rooms on
either side of it. They hoped to lure larger vaudeville acts to the theater by removing the old stage
(which was only ten feet deep) and putting in a new one that was 63-feet long and 28-feet wide. It was
constructed from brick, concrete and steel and cost around $1,600.
But the Carrier's would not remain in charge of the theater for long. Although they would continue their
lease, the management of the Avon was taken over by R.J. La Voise, who had previously been the Carrier's
house manager. His immediate boss, J.A. Carrier, had gone into the Army and was preparing to leave for
Europe. In April 1918, he would officially take over the theater's reigns and would remain in that
position through what may have been the Avon's most troubling period --- the time of the Spanish Influenza
The epidemic had a damaging effect on local theaters. Bans were placed on public gatherings and schools,
churches, dance halls, billiard rooms and taverns were closed down. While all of these were hurt by the
new restrictions, the hardest hit in Decatur were the theaters. The owners of the theaters were losing
hundreds of dollars a day by being closed and were also stuck with rent to pay on empty buildings and film
rentals for movies that were contracted for but now could not be shown. Over the next few weeks, thousands
of dollars were lost.
Finally, on November 8, the ban was lifted and theaters were allowed to open again. Reports of new
outbreaks of the flu had dropped significantly and it was believed safe for the public to gather once
more. The Avon wasted no time in getting things started and announced the showing of the film The Prussian
Cur, a propaganda film about the evils of Germany. In their newspaper ads for the film they announced that
the theater was "newly decorated and fumigated and is perfectly safe to attend."
In March 1919, J.A. Carrier returned from Europe and announced that he would be selling the lease to the
Avon Theatre to a theatrical company that consisted of theater manager R.J. La Voise and a number of local
and outside men. The lease, the equipment and the goo will of the theater was transferred to the new
corporation and while the names of the new owners were not being released, the newspaper assured its
readers that the company would "mean much to the city theatrically as it is prominent in the motion
picture theater business." A month or so later, Carrier announced that he was leaving Decatur and was
taking over the management of the Pershing Theater, located on the west side of St. Louis.
On an unrelated (yet interesting) note, the Avon Flower Shop, located in the theater, closed on May 9,
1919. The space was taken over by H.P Silverman and turned into an exclusive lingerie and blouse shop. The
shop later closed and the space was used for several different businesses until the theater was remodeled
Into the Modern Era
The company that took over the Avon was the Mid-West Theater Corporation and for the next several years,
it operated the Avon without incident, continuing on with the business plan first instituted by the
Carrier brothers. Programs at the Avon continued to be divided between films and vaudeville entertainment.
In April 1924, an announcement was made when the Mid-West Theater Corporation merged with another company
called Balaban & Katz. The combining of these two companies brought together 50 theaters in Illinois and
the Midwest (including the Avon and the Lincoln Square theaters) under one management group. Louis St.
Pierre, the general manager of the Mid-West group of theaters stated that over $35,000 would be spent to
upgrade the Avon Theatre and that he was certain Decatur would be able to see better motion picture
presentations than many larger cities. The Balaban & Katz company, which owned five of Chicago's largest
theaters (the Chicago, the Tivoli, the Riviera, the Roosevelt and the Central Park) planned to bring the
type and manner of presentation used in the Chicago theaters to Decatur.
Work on the Avon Theatre was scheduled to begin on June 1 and would include the leveling of the floor,
redecorating the building and other "important changes". H.J. Wallace, who had been transferred to Decatur
the previous winter to manage both the Avon and Lincoln Square theaters, was to remain in charge under the
On June 3, 1924, the Avon was closed in preparation for the "elaborate improvements" that were to be made
by Balaban & Katz. It was to remain closed for several weeks while the work was carried out. As it turned
out, the theater was dark for nearly two months and when it re-opened, everything about the theater had
Despite the extensive plans made by the Balaban & Katz Company, a small item appeared in the Decatur
newspaper on July 22, 1924. Apparently, Balaban & Katz had begun to have second thoughts about
the viability of the Avon. Rumors were flying that W.N. VanBatre, the owner of the company, had traveled
to Decatur from Rockford to meet in secret with the managers of the Empress Theater, Gust and Christ
Constan. It was said that the brothers were possibly interested in the theater and that negotiations were
pending. On July 21, Gust Constan left for Chicago and it was reported that the deal had been finalized,
however Christ would not verify this. He only stated that he himself had not signed the necessary papers.
The following day though, the rumors turned into fact. Balaban & Katz had abandoned their plans for the
Avon Theatre and had turned over the operation to the Constan brothers, Gust and Christ, and their cousin,
George Stevens of Chicago. The brothers had previously operated the Butterfly Confectionary 211 North
Water Street, had been part owners of the Empress Confectionary, across the street from the Avon Theatre
and had also managed the Chocolate Shop.
George Stevens was an unknown name to Decatur audiences but had apparently been involved with his cousins
in the theater business before coming to Decatur. The family had hired Leo Yancy as the house manager of
the Avon and under the Constan's supervision would continue with the painting and redecorating that had
been started by Balaban & Katz. They announced that the theater would be opened again in mid-August and
from that point on, there would be no more vaudeville performances. The Avon was strictly a movie house
The Constanopoulos brothers were Greek immigrants who became familiar fixtures in the Decatur
entertainment business. During a more than 40-year span, they would manage and operate the Avon, the
Rogers, the Varsity, the Castle Theater in Bloomington and the Times Theater in Danville. The four Constan
(as the name was shortened to) brothers, Angelo, Gust, Christian and Theodore became very involved with
the Avon (especially Gust) and truly moved the theater forward into the modern era. Their tenancy in the
theater lasted the longest and had the greatest effect on what the theater has become today. The
Constanopoulos brothers included Angelo, Theodore, Christian and Gust.
Of all of the brothers, the most actively involved in Decatur theater (and especially with the Avon) was
Gust. Born in January 1891 in Tripolis, he was the oldest of the brothers and he came to American in 1912.
In 1913, he moved to Decatur and opened the Butterfly and the Chocolate Shop confectionaries. In 1924, he
was instrumental in getting the family involved in the lease and later the purchase of the Avon Theatre.
He would remain active at the Avon (and with the Rogers and Varsity theaters) until his death in 1965.
In the past, I had previously reported that Gust was still alive when the Kerasotes brothers of
Springfield leased the Avon. Local legend has it that Gust Constan loved the theater so much that he kept
a private office here for many years. When the time came for him to move out, after the Avon had changed
hands, he simply refused to leave. Employees of the new owners were forced to remove everything from his
office and they literally threw it all into the street in front of the building. This became one of the
most often repeated stories of the theater and while I have since discovered that it isn't true, it has
been told for many years regardless.
The truth of the matter is that Gust's death in 1965 was one of the determining factors in the retirement
of Christ and Theodore and was most likely the reason that they decided to lease out the theater and step
away from operating it. As Gust had always been the one most involved with the Avon, his passing must have
left a great void in the theater's management. Those who have corrected the version of events connected to
Gust's death have also told me that they do not feel that he would have been happy having someone else
running his theater though. For more than four decades, the Avon was linked directly with the Constan
family. If this is true, then it might still explain why Gust is still reportedly haunting the Avon today!
The Avon opened again on Saturday, August 16, 1924. For the next nine years, the theater prospered into
the "talking films" era and the Constan brothers enjoyed much success in the city. In 1935, the theater
closed again, but only for renovations as the financial troubles of the past seemed to be over. This
period of remodeling marked the first major changes that had been done to the building since the Carrier
brothers had taken over years before.
Prior to 1935, the Avon's lobby had opened from the front doors and in the center of the room, the ceiling
had risen to the height of the second floor. This open area was decorated with a large hanging light that
would have been centered above the present-day concession stand. On the right side of the lobby was the
small shop area and on the left was the women's rest room. The second floor had offices on each side of
the open space and was accessed by the stairs that led up to the balcony.
During the 1935 renovations, the balcony of the theater was completely rebuilt for the price of $2,500. In
addition, the open space above the lobby was filled and offices were added behind the round windows that
can still be seen on the exterior of the theater. Prior to this, the hanging chandelier could be seen
through the windows. Across the hall from the new offices, and behind the new balcony, was the location of
the men's restroom. It had always been a small, cramped space but was slightly enlarged and remodeled
during this period. Later on, a men's room would be added downstairs.
The new balcony became perhaps the Avon's biggest problem during the era of the Constan family and while
the situation was not realized at the time, it has left a lasting impression that is still being felt in
the theater today. Visitors who now come to the Avon and who climb the steps to the balcony will always
notice that the center seating section is roped off and that patrons are asked not to sit here. Most
people think that this is because the balcony is in some way structurally unsafe, but that couldn't be
further from the truth. The reason that the section is blocked off dates back to 1935.
Shortly after the new balcony was constructed, and the theater opened again for films, it was realized
that the new design of the structure made it impossible for anyone to stand up when a film was being
shown. Any person who left his or her seat in the balcony would block the light from the projection booth
and cause a shadow to appear on the screen below! Why this was never rectified is unknown, but I can still
remember visiting the theater as a child and seeing black shadows appear on the screen when someone in the
balcony stood up and made a trip to the concession stand or to the restroom.
Another major change was also made to the projectionist's booth in 1935. A door was finally added to this
cramped space! Before this, the projectionist had to go up onto the roof of the theater, open a trap door
and then climb down a ladder into the booth. This was all done in those days to keep the patrons of the
theater safe in the event of a fire. During the silent era, movies were made using volatile nitrate film
and under certain conditions, it could combust into flames. By not having a door on the projectionist's
booth, the theater hoped to protect the audience should such a fire break out. The projectionist, I
suppose, was considered expendable.
The next several years in Avon history were largely uneventful, save for the outbreak of World War II and
the death of Angelo Constan in 1942. The next set of changes for the theater came about in 1953, when the
Avon was again renovated to keep up with the changing times. In addition to an expansion of the concession
stand, the theater also installed a new screen for showing wide screen and 3-D films. And while 3-D
movies, turned out to be a short-lived fad, the wider screen was an innovation that put the Avon ahead of
other theaters in the city.
The new screen was 12-feet high and 24-feet wide and was 8 feet wider than the previous screen. In order
to install it, the old private seating boxes that were located in the front of the theater finally had to
be removed. The new screen weighed over 300 pounds and was coated with a silver-tone finish that would not
absorb the light. The screen was also perforated so that sound from the system behind it could reach the
audience. The owners stated that the new wide screen "gives some illusion of depth and a great feeling of
audience participation". The first 3-D film to be shown at the Avon was Fort Ti
on August 15 and
the first Cinemascope feature was The Robe
, based on the book by Lloyd C. Douglas.
The End of an Era
In 1965, after a three-month illness, Gust Constan passed away. Funeral services were held next door to
the theater at the Moran Funeral Home and Gust was laid to rest in Fairlawn Cemetery. The Avon, the Rogers
and the Constan's theaters in Bloomington and Danville were closed on the day of the funeral. It was truly
an end of an era for the Avon Theatre.
A few months later, on April 15, 1966, a 42-year career in Decatur entertainment came to an end with the
announcement that Christ, Theodore and Gust's widow, Vicky, were leasing the Avon and their other theaters
to the Kerasotes theater chain, based in Springfield, Illinois. With this acquisition, the chain would
include 53 theaters in Illinois. The small, family-operated business had come to an end and the Avon had
been absorbed into another company. It was now just another theater, and it would remain that way for the
next two decades.
The Kerasotes Company announced that there would be no changes in personnel at the theater and that Harold
Peek, who managed the two Kerasotes drive-in theaters in Decatur, would take over the management of the
Avon and the Rogers.
The lease became effective at the date of signing and with that, the Constan family ended their connection
with the operations of the Avon. However, they continued to own the building until 1989, when Bob Lewis
purchased it. Over the course of the next two decades though, the Constan's would have a relationship with
the Kerasotes chain that has often been described as "unfriendly", to say the least.
The next major renovations at the Avon took place in 1972. It was time, the owners decided, to update the
theater's look and bring it into the modern era. Gone were the days of the old-time movie house (it was
thought at that time) and audiences were demanding a slick, modern look for theaters. With that thought in
mind, the old fixtures and decor were torn out of the building, the walls were paneled over, new carpet
was laid, new seats were installed and the lobby was given a gaudy, 1970's look that has remained ever
since. The addition of the new seats also reduced the capacity of the theater from 900 to around 700. The
increase in the size of the stage during the Carrier brother's management had already reduced the number
of seats from the original 1,080. The old center-door box office was removed and a new one was installed
in its current location, where the Avon flower shop and the old lingerie store were once located. The
renovations also included a men's bathroom on the main floor and so use of the facilities behind the
balcony was discontinued.
For the next several years, the Avon continued to enjoy success in downtown Decatur, then in August 1980,
the death knell sounded for all of the old theaters in town. Some of them were not aware of it quite yet,
but the heyday of Decatur's movie houses was finally coming to an end. It was in that month that the
announcement came that six movie theaters were being built at the new Hickory Point Mall in Forsyth. The
new multiplex was a joint venture of Kerasotes Brothers, which would book the movies, and American Multi-
Cinema Inc. of Kansas City, which would operate the business. Placing a number of screens into a single
building was a fairly new idea at the time and such theaters were popping up all over America, following
closely behind the infestation of shopping malls.
Business was already beginning to suffer for the downtown theaters. The Lincoln stayed open until December
31, 1980, when it was closed down at the end of the Kerasotes lease. Although the theater remains standing
today, it has not operated on a continuous basis since. The Rogers was closed in 1984, even though its
lease actually ran until 1986. It was cheaper, according to the Kerasotes chain, to simply close the place
and continue paying the rent than it was to actually operate it. As for the Avon Theatre, said president
George Kerasotes, "we have a lease that goes for five and one-half years. We're obligated by our lease to
keep it open. Either keep it open or keep paying the rent."
The theater struggled to stay in business over the next several years and in 1985, it converted to showing
second-run movies and changed its name to the Avon Cinema. By this time, the Kerasotes chain had been
split apart and George Kerasotes owned the Avon. In April 1986, it turned out that second-run movies just
wouldn't pay the bills anymore. The Avon was closed down, just a few days after the lease with the Constan
family expired. This date would mark the last time that the Avon was ever part of a theater chain.
Officials for Kerasotes declined to comment on the theater's unannounced closure, stating that any
questions had to be submitted in writing. Theodore Constan, the last surviving brother, said that he had
not been told why Kerasotes had decided not to renew his lease but could not have been surprised at the
turn of events. The Avon was the last of the downtown theaters and a shadow of its former self. Since late
1985, it had been showing second-run movies for a $1 admission and rarely saw more than a handful of
customers in an evening.
The glory days of the Avon Theatre were certainly a thing of the past by the middle 1980's. It also marked
the end for the North Water Street district as well. Where there had once been shops, theaters and
eateries, nothing remained save for the Moran Funeral home (which had already announced its plans to move
to a new facility) and the Leath building, where A.G Edwards & Sons and the Decatur Health Club were still
located. It wouldn't be long before those businesses would also leave, turning the block into a virtual
For the next several years, the theater remained dark and empty. Finally, in 1989, an attempt to bring the
place back to life was announced by Larry and Sondra Wooley. With the formation of Lake Land Productions,
they leased the theater for one year from Bob Lewis, who had recently acquired the building from the
Constan family. The Wooley's had previously operated the Lake Lander's Country Opry from 1979 to 1984 at
the Danceland roller rink, south of Lake Decatur. They moved to the Decatur Civic Center in 1984 and then
closed in 1986. "We have been shut down since then but now that we've had some R & R, we're ready to go
back to work," Sandra Wooley stated.
The opening show took place in September and in addition to a reunion of the original Lake Lander's group,
musical acts were drawn from all over Central Illinois. While the Wooley's were preparing for their
performances, Bob Lewis was busy cleaning, painting and doing general maintenance to get the theater ready
for the re-opening. While Lake Land Productions prepared for capacity crowds, eager to hear country and
gospel performances, Lewis had plans of his own. He told the newspaper that he intended to restore the
theater marquee and to re-name the Avon the "City Plaza Theater" or perhaps "City Plaza Hall".
But none of that ever came to be. Within one year, discouraged by the lack of business, the Wooley's did
not renew their lease with the theater. The marquee was not restored and the Avon (as the theater
remained) was once again dark and deserted.
The theater remained closed until November 1993. It opened again as a second and third-run bargain house,
operated by Gary Carroll, who also operated a theater in Vandalia. He had grown up in Decatur and his
father had managed Decatur's two drive-in theaters when Carroll was a child. He had also run Taylorville's
Twin Cinemas, owned by GKC (George Kerasotes Corp.), from 1983 to 1991. His plan with the Avon was to once
again charge only a $1 admission for all shows and also to divide the balcony of the theater from the main
floor and install another screen. This would essentially place two separate theaters in the Avon building.
The theater opened again on Thanksgiving night of 1993 and while the initial response was good, interest
waned and eventually died out. Carroll tried increasing the admission (still keeping the price far below
other theaters) but it was too little, too late. Public support for the theater, Carroll said, was "only
mediocre, at best." In May 1995, the Avon was closed once again. "I thought with the size of the
population of Decatur it would do a little better than it did," he said. "I really hate it. It was
something that I wanted to see work. Live and learn, I guess."
And some people did learn from past mistakes. As mentioned already, the Avon re-opened again four years
later and has become one of the largest attractions in downtown Decatur. It re-opened in April 1999 with a
six-day Christian music festival that was poorly attended, thanks in part (organizers believed) to
inadequate marketing. This was an inauspicious start for the new management team, but the festival was
followed a short time later with a near sell-out crowd that came to see the blues and rock group called
Indigenous. Although plans were to continue to bring musical acts to the theater, that idea was scrapped
in favor of the alternative films that have become the Avon's trademark. The first film shown was an
invitation-only screening of Elizabeth
and since that time, the list of movies has continually
grown and as of this writing, the Avon continues to bring people back into downtown Decatur.
Remnants of Time Past
If you should have the good fortune to visit the Avon, you will find the trip to be an interesting one if
you know where to look. Most of the decor that was described earlier in this chapter is now gone. The
lion's heads have vanished with time, as has most of the ornate plasterwork and all of the original art.
Remodeling was carried out so many times, during so many different periods (and with such tragic results
in the 1970's) that most of the reminders of yesterday were hidden or simply destroyed.
The woman behind the screen
The only place in the theater that can give you an indication of how things once looked is behind the
screen. In 1953, when the new wide screen was installed in the theater, the area behind the screen was
left just as it was. It had already been ignored years before when the first "real" screen had been
installed. At that time, the use of the whitewashed front wall of the theater, the spot where the
projectors cast their flickering images, had been abandoned. When this work was completed, the screen was
moved about 10 yards from the back wall of the theater. The area behind the screen today acts as sort of a
"time capsule" of how the theater looked in the days when it first opened.
Directly above the heads of visitors is the relief of the nude, reclining woman that once looked out over
every audience that came to the theater. She is in fairly poor condition now, but the artwork and the
design that went into her creation is rarely seen today.
Just below her, and only inches above the air conditioning duct that was added much later, is another
example of the theater's artwork. Here, mounted onto the wood and plaster wall, is a pair of angels that
are holding a metal shield between them. There is a letter "A" ornately inscribed on the shield.
In addition, most of the original painted stencils remain on the walls and ceiling here as well. The small
dressing rooms also remain on both sides of the original stage. The vaudeville performers and the
celebrities who came to entertain and announce the films that played here once used them. There is
detailed wood decoration around the doorways and also around the doorways that may have led upstairs to
the private seating boxes. These boxes were once located in front of the pipe organ mechanisms and they
offered an unobstructed view of the original screen. Other than these lonely doorways, no trace of the
boxes can be found today.
In a direct line from the old screen and stage is the balcony. This seating area is entirely constructed
of wood and is still capable of seating a large number of patrons. A staircase leads up to the small
projection booth and outside of the booth is a skylight that was once the projectionist's entrance to the
booth. It was through this skylight that burglars broke into the theater one night in 1952. They cleaned
out the office safe, and started to break into the cash register behind the candy counter ---- until
something frightened them off. They mysteriously left an open drawer and untouched cash behind. What could
they have seen that night that terrified them so badly?
This, of course, brings us to the Avon's ghosts....
The Haunted Theater: Ghosts of the Avon's Past
I have no problem with saying that I believe the Avon Theater to be one of the most haunted places in the
city of Decatur. In addition to all of the first and second-hand accounts that I have collected from the
place over the years, I have experienced things here myself that have defied all rational attempts to
explain them away.
The stories of restless ghosts at the Avon go back many years, even to the early days of the theater.
There have long been stories of not only spectral presences but of ghostly ushers and strange sensations
of being touched, cold spots and more. Many believe that the ghosts who haunt the place may not be
directly connected to the theater itself. In earlier chapters, we explored some of the history of the
other buildings on the block and also the sites (like the Race Mansion) that were here before the theater
and which were allegedly haunted. As ghosts are sometimes connected more to the location than to the
people who interact with them, it's not hard to imagine that perhaps a few of the spirits of the past have
ended up inside of the Avon, a likely haven for the spirit world!
I first got involved in the ghostly goings-on here in September 1994. At that time, I was at work
gathering material for my first book about "Haunted Decatur" and advertised widely that I was looking for
ghost stories and reportedly haunted spots. The Avon had opened again in 1993 and I was contacted by some
of the staff members who worked here. They asked if I would mind looking into some of the strange things
that they claimed were happening in the theater.
While the first visit was rather uneventful, I was able to record a lot of information about the alleged
haunting. The theater manager, and the rest of the staff, reported that things had started to turn up
missing in the theater, both small items and large. They also told of hearing footsteps, laughter,
applause and voices coming from the auditorium after it had emptied for the night. The sounds of people
walking about in empty rooms and in hallways were common, as was the feeling of being watched and being
touched by ghostly hands. One staff member even claimed to have been groped by an invisible entity while
working in the projection booth.
That night, I took a walking tour of the place with recording equipment and cameras and found the
sensations of some of the areas in the theater were very disturbing. One of the most frightening locations
was a hallway that is located upstairs above the theater's lobby. This hallway had been added to the
theater during the renovations in 1935 and now the theater's offices, and a small bathroom, opened off
this corridor. The feeling that I had while walking down this corridor was very disconcerting, and while I
certainly don't claim to be psychic, it was a strange experience. I became very uncomfortable and sensed a
chill in that spot that didn't seem to be present elsewhere in the building.
I would soon learn that the theater staff felt the same way and largely avoided the area when possible.
There had been many occasions when the sound of footsteps had echoed in the corridor and those who looked
to see who was there, found it empty. This corridor would also be the same location where more than one
person would encounter a ghost!
The spooky hallway above the lobby has long been the source of strange encounters and ghostly reports in the theater. Thanks to the frequent activity and at least one face-to-face encounter with a ghost here, it is considered the most haunted spot in the Avon! The photo above was taken during a period when the building was abandoned in 1995. I would have an unnerving incident of my own take place here in 2005!
Unfortunately, that one evening would be my last chance to explore the Avon that year. I called the
theater again the following spring about returning, only to learn that the place had closed down once
more. Later that year though, I was able to return. Ironically, Skip Huston, who now operates the theater,
was part of a group interested in buying it in 1995. The plan was to turn the place into a movie-themed
nightclub that would serve food and drinks, along with films and live entertainment. The project never
came about, but I was able to spend quite a bit of time in the theater doing research and prowling about
the place. During this brief period, there were a number of strange encounters that took place and several
incidents that were not easily explained. One of the most frequent occurrences seemed to be the odd sounds
that plagued the theater. Several different witnesses independently reported knocking sounds that seemed
to come from upstairs and from the auditorium. One person who was in the theater alone one afternoon
finally refused to stay the near the stage after repeatedly hearing a tapping sound coming from the
shadows. It was later said that these sounds seemed to be trying to get the attention of the people who
And I had my own strange encounters during this period as well. Once again, I was in the upstairs hallway
one day, this time taking photographs of the area. I had just passed the first office on the left side of
the hall when I felt something take hold of the tail of my shirt. It distinctly felt as though a hand had
sharply tugged on it but (always the skeptic) I quickly turned around to see if I had somehow snagged the
cloth on something or if someone was playing a joke on me. Not only was no one there, but I was nowhere
near a door frame or anything else that I could have caught the shirt on! Needless to say, I didn't spend
very much more time in the hallway that afternoon!
A short time later, I brought a friend (who has asked to remain anonymous) into the theater to show her
what the plans for the theater were going to be if the nightclub deal worked out. Having heard the ghostly
tales that had long plagued the building, my friend asked me to show her the hallway that I had already
described as being so strange. We climbed upstairs to the second floor and were walking along the corridor
when she cried out in surprise.
"What's the matter?" I asked, more startled by her shouting than by anything that I had experienced
"Did you just touch the back of my neck?" she demanded, not at all amused by the possibility that I might
be trying to scare her.
I said that I hadn't (and believe it or not, I really hadn't) and asked her what had happened. She told me
that what felt like an icy cold hand had reached up and smoothed her hair and then had pressed itself
against her skin. It had vanished when she had yelled but she could still feel the coldness of it. I
touched the back of her neck and she was right, the flesh there was still very cold. It would be almost 15
minutes before she would begin to feel warm again. Even if I had wanted to stay in the hallway that
afternoon (and I didn't), I could not have convinced her to hang around!
But of all of the things that happened that spring, it has become known for one very bizarre event. You
see, it was during this period that Skip came face-to-face with one of the local haunts!
During the process of evaluating the building for the nightclub project, Skip came down to the theater one
rainy afternoon in the spring of 1995. On this day, his trip to the Avon had a double purpose. He was not
only looking over the building, but was also borrowing some marquee letters from the theater for use at an
upcoming show at the Lincoln Theater. Even though it was a "dark and stormy" afternoon and he knew the
theater was probably haunted, he had no problem with going there by himself. In fact, he grabbed a
flashlight and a couple of garbage bags to hold the letters and proceeded to the theater.
Skip made his way through the theater to the "letter room", which is located off the previously mentioned
hallway on the upstairs level of the building. The room is a small office where all of the plastic letters
for the theater marquee are stored. Many of them were ancient letters for a marquee that hadn't existed
for years, while others were the old letters from the Lincoln that had been donated to the Avon when the
Lincoln's own marquee had been restored. These were the letters that Skip was seeking. After he entered
the dimly lit room, he used his flashlight to begin looking for letters and checking them off the sheet he
carried with him.
A few minutes after he started working, he distinctly heard a noise behind him in the hallway. He turned
around, but saw no one there. A few minutes later, he heard it again. Were those footsteps? he wondered,
and looked out in the corridor. The hall remained just as dark, but also just as empty. Skip shook his
head and went back to work, hurriedly filling one of the plastic bags with letters. Again, he heard
another strange noise and reflexively turned around --- but this time, he found that he was not alone!
"A man stood in the doorway to the room," Skip told me. "My first thought was that someone else was in the
theater, perhaps a homeless person hiding out there. He was of medium height and slender build. His age
appeared to be in his late '50's or early '60's. His hair was close-cropped gray and black. He was not
transparent or wraith-like. He appeared solid. His face was nondescript and he stared into the room, not
looking at me, just staring.
"I started to speak to him and then he slowly turned and started down the hallway. Recovered from my
surprise, I darted to the doorway to say something but all that I saw was an empty hall. I grabbed the
finished bag of letters and left the theater as fast as my legs would carry me!"
That was certainly Skip Huston's most startling visit to the Avon, but it would not be the last. Before
the theater opened again, another strange encounter took place in the fall of 1998. This time, it was
during the more likely setting of a "Haunted Decatur Tour". For a number of years, both Skip and I had
hosted these bus tours to haunted sites in the city and on many occasions, weird happenings took place
during the tours. When I moved away from Decatur in 1998, Skip carried on the tradition of the tours. It
was during such an excursion that one of the Avon ghosts made another appearance. And this time it was in
front of more than a dozen frightened witnesses!
Even though the theater was still closed down, and without electricity, Skip managed to secure the
building for the tour. He thought it would make an appropriately spooky setting for the end of each
night's outing. On this particular night, a terrible storm was raging outside. Skip remembered that it was
the only rainy night of the tour season and he was disappointed that the attendees had been "rained out"
of Greenwood Cemetery. He hoped that a longer version of the haunting events at the Avon Theater would
appease anyone who felt the night had been too short.
After a re-telling of the events in the building, he asked if anyone had any questions. Someone raised a
hand and asked what the name of the theater's former owner (and the resident ghost's) name had been. At
literally the same moment that Skip spoke the name of "Gust Constan", a shout went up from someone in the
crowd. This person was frantically pointing up toward the theater balcony and everyone turned in that
direction. Skip would never forget what he saw there. "It was a figure at the balcony rail!", he recalled.
He wasn't the only one who saw it either. He estimates that at least 15 people looked up and saw the
shadowy figure on the balcony ---- and panicked! People were pushing, shoving, and climbing over the seats
to get out of the auditorium, only to run out into the lobby and find the front doors locked. They were
barely able to get the doors opened fast enough and needless to say, that ended the tour for the night!
The incident left Skip's assistant so shaken that he quit the tours that night and never came back.
"I've had a lot of people come up to me later and talk about that night," he told me recently. "In fact,
one day I was at the supermarket and the young woman at the check-out said to me that she was on the tour
'that night'. I didn't have to ask what she meant... I knew exactly what night she was talking about."
My interest in the hauntings at the theater continued to be strong and even though it was still closed
down and was unlikely (at that point) to be opened again, I continued to try and research the building's
history. I was curious about the idea that Gust Constan might not be the only ghost in the theater. While
his connection with the Avon was certainly the strongest, the wide variety of activity seemed to lead me
to think that there might be other spirits present as well.
Later on, after others began to report their own personal encounters with the resident ghosts, this theory
seemed to prove itself out. In recent times, there have been sightings of a woman in a blue dress and what
appears to be a uniformed man in costume from the 1930's. Who he may be for sure is unknown, but I have
spoken to local residents who feel that he was a man who was employed at the Avon many years ago. They
recalled that he took tickets in the lobby when patrons entered the theater. These same older folks
assured me that the theater was haunted long before Gust Constan passed away in 1965, although they
admitted that his ghost is likely to have stayed around as well.
So, what does this mean for the stories still ahead ---- stories that have taken place in recent months
and years and events that are still taking place today?
It means that the Avon Theatre is literally infested with ghosts!
The Haunting Continues
The theater re-opened about six months after the October "Haunted Decatur Tour" when the figure was seen
at the balcony rail and with any sort of restoration work, a lot of time, money and hard work was
involved. The Avon had deteriorated badly during the time it was closed down and initially; it looked as
though opening the place would be impossible. There were simply too many things wrong with the old
building and every time that one thing got fixed, something else would break down. In addition, Skip had
skeptics to deal with among his partners and his staff. They constantly badgered him about the so-called
ghosts in the theater and poked fun at his belief that the theater was haunted. "They started out as
skeptics," he laughed later on, "but they're all believers now!"
As the restoration and repair work began to shake loose the dust and grime of the building, it awakened
other things as well. It was not long before everyone on the crew, including those who had been the most
skeptical about the haunting, began to report eerie incidents they couldn't explain away. Nearly everyone
talked of hearing phantom voices in empty rooms and in the deserted auditorium. They also complained of
disembodied footsteps and inexplicable cold chills that simply should not exist. Most easily convinced
were those who spent the entire night, either working or sleeping in the building. They were soon coming
to Skip and apologizing for ever doubting him.
Later, as customers began to arrive at the re-opened theater, they reported their own encounters. Many
people spoke of feeling as though they were being watched and of pressure of hands on their backs and arms
when no one was present. There were also reports of apparitions and figures who were present one moment
and then gone the next. None of the incidents were particularly frightening. It was more like the resident
specters were simply trying to make their presence known.
One of the most common reports that I have received from people involves what I have called the "phantom
audience". I have received nearly a dozen independent (and by that I mean that they came from people who
did not know one another and had no idea that anyone else was reporting the phenomenon) reports of patrons
spotting the hazy forms of people sitting in theater seats. These "people" appear to be watching whatever
film is being shown but yet they are obviously not actual, human figures. They are normally reported as
being transparent, or at least blurred, and they are often seen only from the corner of the eye. They
usually are sighted for a matter of seconds before they simply fade away.
One theater patron was present during the showing of a film one night and saw not one, but two distinct
figures seated a short distance away from her. "I happened to glance forward and a little to my right
during the movie and I saw what looked like a young couple sitting in the seats, staring at the screen.
They looked completely ordinary but they were only there for a second, then they were just gone," the
woman told me.
I asked her if, when thinking back, there was anything unusual that she recalled about them.
The only thing that she remembered was that they looked slightly "unreal". They were slightly blurred, as
though she was looking at them through an old pane of glass. It was almost like, she attempted to clarify,
that she was looking through a smeared camera lens.
"Did it frighten you that they just vanished?" I asked her.
"Not really," she replied. "I suppose that I would have been scared if it had happened anywhere else, but
Skip and the rest of the people here just seem to have such an open attitude toward these things that it
doesn't seem so weird."
Are the "phantom audience" members actual ghosts, or are they merely impressions from the past that have
been imprinted on the charged atmosphere of the auditorium. It's hard to say because attempts to pin them
down and categorize them have failed. On one hand, the witness accounts have stated that they figures
appear and then vanish in a matter of seconds. However, a few of the accounts clearly say that the figures
"turned and looked" at them, as if completely aware of the presence of the living.
In the early part of 2005 (shortly before I moved back to Decatur), Skip was nice enough to give me an
office to work out of at the Avon until I could get my operations moved here from Alton. One chilling
afternoon in March, I was upstairs in Skip's office above the lobby, talking to a friend on the telephone.
I was very comfortable in Skip's chair with my feet propped up on his desk (don't tell Skip this!) and
just happened to glance up and see someone walk past the door of the room, which was open just a few
inches. I couldn't see who this person was, or anything about them, just the form of someone walking
Assuming that it was Chris Barnett, who I often bumped into at the theater during the day, I put down the
telephone and got up to speak to them. I left my friend on hold and told her that I would be right back. I
quickly opened the door and leaned out to see who was there but saw no movement --- expect for the door of
the room next to the office. It was softly clicking shut and I guessed that Chris, Gary or whoever it was
had gone into the room. I had gotten up too quickly for them to have gone anywhere else and the door that
led downstairs to the lobby was shut tight. I walked down the corridor a few steps and opened the door of
the next room to say hello. But the room was empty....
I suddenly realized that whoever had been walking down the hallway was not among the living! I hurried
back into Skip's office, picked up the telephone again, and told my friend what had happened. She gasped.
"What are you going to do?"
I answered that question as I was in the process of doing it. "I'm closing the door to the office," I
replied. "That way, if any more ghosts walk by, I won't see them."
If the reader truly considers the place to be haunted (as I do), then just how many ghosts are actually
lingering in the Avon Theatre?
Skip Huston wouldn't dare to guess, but during the initial renovations, he came to believe that they were
still around and apparently were pleased with the activity that was going on in the building. Skip feels
they approve of the theater's re-opening and that they may be responsible for the strange run of luck the
business has experienced, from the public response to the theater to the mysterious way that seemingly
hopeless repairs have been accomplished.
One such incident took place during the theater's opening night. The Avon had scheduled the Decatur
premiere of the film Elizabeth and support for the event had been overwhelming. People began pouring into
the theater early and it was almost guaranteed that it would be a great night. Or at least it would be if
not for one small problem --- the projector refused to work! Staff members worked feverishly on the
machine but finally sent word to Skip in the lobby that the movie was going to have to be canceled. They
were unable to fix the problem. Moments later, two separate and apparently (at that time) unconnected
events took place.
One of the staff members spotted a ghost in the small bathroom in the upstairs hallway and another staff
member, who was working on the projector, heard a voice in his head. At the same time the ghost was seen,
something told Chris Barnett to try crossing two sets of wires on the projector.
"We've already tried that," his co-worker protested.
"I know, but let's try it again," he replied. He was unsure as to why it wanted to do this, but he later
described the feeling as a little voice that whispered to him. When they switched the wires, the projector
suddenly began working. The movie premiere was saved!
"I can't explain it," Skip Huston told me when I asked him to try and explain why things seemed to be
going so right with the Avon. "I just think that someone is watching over the place."
Could that "someone" be Gust Constan, still watching over his beloved theater? I'd like to think so. There
can be no denying that Gust was devoted to the Avon and would have never been happy with the way that the
place was run after he passed away. Coming from an age of theater showmen, Gust would have been
disappointed in second and third run movies on the Avon's screen and the "big business" mindset of the
theater chains. He came from a time when the Constan family, not some faceless corporation, privately
owned the theater. For this reason, I believe that Gust is happy with the way things are at the Avon these
days and he makes his presence known in a variety of ways.
And if he is here, is he here alone? It is hard to ignore the possibility that a number of ghosts may
linger in this building, from that of a ticket-taker from the 1930's, to a woman in a blue dress, to
perhaps Judge Race (see the earlier chapter about the Race Mansion and the current Avon Twins theaters)
I believe that something walks in the theater, be it Gust Constan or any of these others. Whoever it is,
the place is haunted! But don't just take my word for it ---- go and experience it for yourself!
© Copyright 2006 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.