Genesee Theater Investigation

The Genesee Theater was built in 1926 with the vision of three men; Alvin L. Brumund, Henry Clinton Burnett and David T. Webb after purchasing the land from the YMCA at a cost of $130,000. The theater itself was built at a cost of one million dollars. The theater officially opened on December 25, 1927 with the movie, “Valley of the Giants.” Tickets on opening day were 50 cents and 25 cents during the week and 60 cents and 25 cents on Sundays and holidays. The theater is 115, 000 square feet managed by SMG and although it was constructed primarily for entertainment, the Genesee also included 40 apartments throughout the four upper floors outfitted with refrigerators, stoves and private telephones. Eleven retail spaces on the first floor held stores like Sonia’s Hat Shoppe, Funk’s Book Nook and the Illinois Bell Telephone Company. The original seating capacity was 1,799 and is now at  2,450.

In 1928, the $25,000 American Beauty Pageant for the selection of Miss Illinois was hosted here. During Prosperity Week, the first week of October 1930, the theater opened up a $1.00 bank account for every child born in Waukegan.

In 1952 the theater was renovated with some new seats, a sound system and décor changes.

In 1982 the theater stopped showing movies due to economic decline and in 1989 it was closed and up for sale. The city of Waukegan purchased the building in 1999 with major renovations costing around $23 million dollars. More than 120 donors and volunteers contributed to this restoration. The theater reopened on December 3, 2004.

Located at: 4203 N. Genesee Street, Waukegan, Illinois 60085

Telephone: 847-782-2366


Hauntings: In the Grand Lobby is an immense baccarat chandelier that weighs 2200 pounds, is eighteen feet tall and eight and half feet wide. It was found in pieces in a garage in Seattle, Washington and meticulously put back together and is now quite gorgeous. The chandelier used to hang at the Orpheum Theater in Seattle around 1927. It has been appraised at $350,000. On August 7, 2008, professional psychic, Lisa Williams was there and while the performance was going on an usher started noticing the chandelier pivot one way, then pivot a totally different direction before returning to its original position. An associate was called and finally the building Engineer who was crossing the walk way when he too noticed the same thing.

A ghost dog has been encountered in the Grand Lobby as well. Four people, including three ushers, distinctly heard a dog barking. They looked up and around and even outside and did not see anything. Another one of the building employees was placing stuff away in the basement when he said he heard something like claws clicking on the concrete and a low growling sound. Needless to say, he left very quickly.

At the rear of the theater is what theater employees call a prankster ghost. She has been named Jeannie and she has played many pranks such as untying shoes, giggling, little whisper sounds and even a short gust of wind while walking past this area.

In the Clayton Street ladies restroom, some have encountered the ghost of a young lady in white. She is often heard but not seen. Voices are often heard in the Ladies Restroom, motion detectors go off five minutes after being set. During past investigations here, electronic equipment often die within the hour and there have been reports of a red orb of light being visually seen here.

On the 2nd floor landing in John Mitchell’s office a highly unusual ghost photograph was taken of a man in the doorway on a past investigation and sounds of laughter are sometimes heard.

At the Balcony Level, crowd noises are heard, some orbs have been reported.

Other occurrences include the strong smell of pipe smoke. Some believe that this could be a result of an individual who used to work at the theater and recently died. He would often smoke in some areas of the building.

On the 4th floor, three different sightings have been recorded including the Marketing Manager who was working late and brought her dog for companionship. The dog is normally quite docile and friendly but this one night, it started growling and bared her teeth towards the open doorway. Then, all of a sudden, the dog was calm again.

The second occurrence happened to a new employee named Faye. They were going into a staff meeting and when she walked in she suddenly stopped. We were all looking at her because it was quite startling. She said that something grabbed her shoulder.

The final encounter relates to the 4th floor ladies room. It is said that a young lady had passed in what was the fourth floor apartment. On more than one occasion the female staff has said that many things happen.

One of the ushers was decorating the 4th floor lounge during Christmas and had to use the restroom, so she went into the bathroom. As she’s conducting her business there, a door is pushed open so hard that it made a loud bang. Then she felt a presence on the other side of her stall door. Immediately following that sensation, a cold chill hit her chest so hard that she lost her breath. It was like being hit with a bucket of ice. Just as fast as it came, it disappeared.

Another investigative team, Northern Alliance of Paranormal Investigators claimed that when they went inside this area for their initial overnight experience, they could not stay inside for more than three minutes and later refused to use that restroom. This was so upsetting for some staff that they would go to the second floor to use the restroom.

There has been a report of at least one suicide of a man that hung himself from the water tower onto of the building. On the stage area, there have been reports of a man dressed in tails and a top hat and occasionally some see a figure of a man on the stage itself.

In the basement are people say that they never feel alone as if someone is down there with them and watching them. Cool breezes are sometimes felt along with numerous sounds of footsteps and of a dog.


Equipment setup:

Cameras were deployed facing the stage area from the auditorium seats and another camera was placed on the physical stage area. These were coupled with large IR lights to illuminate the dark theater. A REM Epod was placed in the middle of the stage.

Most of the time the group was mobile, using handheld equipment at various locations throughout the theater.

Experiments performed:

EVP, Ghost Box, Ovilus X, Radio Specter and dowsing rods sessions were conducted at 4th floor office, stage area, basement, women’s 1st floor restroom and the 2nd floor movie memorabilia area.
Some sessions were monitored with IR camcorders and the X-Cam SLS used was deployed at several locations including the 4th floor restroom, lounge area and the movie memorabilia area.

Personal experiences:

Greg Kos: The GRS members that were present were: Jim, Kathi, Mike, Chuck, Stan, Dale, and Greg

The equipment used for the night by me; Sony Cyber Shot camera in movie mode with IR light.

The camera was set up on the main stage facing two motion detectors.

I also used a K-II meter and voice recorder after completing set up.

I collected no evidence on my voice recorder or camera after reviewing both. Also with the K-II nothing unusual happened

I don’t know about if anyone picked up any evidence with a voice recorder in the Ladies Room. My recorder did not pick up anything there and the same down by the AC unit in the basement. However I heard a little girl’s voice twice and a dog bark at both ends of the AC room. I also witnessed the EMF reading in the Ladies Room.

Aaron Shriver, from the Genesee was a huge help that night and I would gladly go back.


Kathie Para: GRS team members present were: Dale Kaczmarek, Stan Suho, Jim Piscopo, Mike Wright, Chuck Williams, Greg Kos and I. The theater is quite large and meticulously maintained. We spent quite a bit of time touring the building and learning the history. It is an impressive location.

Due to time constraints, we couldn’t cover as much as we would have like to but I think we got many of the “hot spots.” Following are the sessions I was involved in:

We did EVP sessions in both the 4th floor and the 1st floor women’s bathrooms. The 4th floor was apartments at one time. We got a lot of K-II activity and a little Tri-Field Natural EMF activity there. There was a heavy, almost oppressive feeling in this room. Reviewing audio, I got a whispered response that sounds like “no”.

The 1st floor bathroom had the K-II going off the charts in addition to some Tri-Field activity and Melmeter readings up to 2.5. This is supposedly common for this area and cannot be debunked. The Ovilus came up with the name “Betty” and also “out”. This room was originally offices for the Lake County Fuel and Supply Co.

We also spent time in the 4th floor VIP lounge, which used to be apartments. We did a dowsing rod session which was interesting. We believed we were communicating with a woman who may have lived there in the 1950’s. At one point we asked the woman if she would point the rods to where she was and they pointed to a couch where Jim was sitting. Lo and behold, a figure showed up there on the SLS X-Cam. A short while later we asked her to go sit by Jim again and once again a figure showed up on the couch.

The stage and theater was also interesting. Mainly we heard noises. At one point we heard footsteps on the catwalk above the stage and we also heard what sounded like distant screams a few times. Mike tried using the dowsing rods after a while and was getting responses but shortly after he started one of the rods started spinning wildly. This had never happened to him before. I asked it to stop and it did but within a couple minutes it started spinning again. This made Mike uncomfortable and he stopped the rod session. We had some relevant Ovilus responses also.

The basement didn’t disappoint either. We heard several noises and also several of what sounded like dog barks. They seemed to come from different directions and we couldn’t pinpoint or debunk any of them. Near the end of our session in this area Mike tried the dowsing rods again but shortly after the one rod started spinning wildly again. Since this had never happened at any other location before it was unnerving and he decided to stop.

This was a very interesting evening and I would love to go back to spend more time investigating.  

Jim Piscopo: We arrived at the theater about 5:45pm. We got a tour of the theater by Aaron which was very informative. After the tour we went about setting up equipment .I set up my Sony camcorder with night vision on the 4th floor shooting down the hallway where the restrooms are located.

After everyone was set up we did a number of EVP sessions throughout the theater. During the sessions I was using a Melmeter and a Tri-field meter. During a session in the 1st floor ladies room we had readings of 3.0 on the Mel-Meter and some activity on the Tri-field. In the basement we heard a dog bark several times. Other than that it was pretty quiet.

The Genesee is a beautiful theater full of history and I would love to go back


Stan Suho: Another fine old theater dating back to the ‘20s. After the guided tour by Aaron, we broke up in to two groups and began investigating. Greg and I decided to do some camera setups in the auditorium and the stage area. Dale and the rest of the group took off for places unknown. I assisted Greg in setting up his Sony Night Shot camera on stage and I set up mine in the back of the auditorium. Since the theater was so big, we decided not to run cables to the monitors. Instead we used DVRs recording to SD Cards. After the setup, we joined Dale’s group doing EVPs.

The evening progressed smoothly as we moved from hotspot to hotspot throughout the theater. I used my other Sony camera to take pictures of Dale’s EVP group activities. About 11 PM we broke down and skedaddled. These old theaters are always fun to investigate because they were big, dark, old and usually have a history attached to them. I don’t have anything to report.   

Chuck Williams: Equipment:  Zoom Recorder, Mel Meter, REM Pod.

4th Floor Office- After a full tour of the building, we decided to start in the offices, not sure why this happened but Dale & I went to the offices as agreed, and the rest of the group went into the 4th floor VIP area.  We did an EVP Session, and then joined the rest of the group in the VIP Area where they were doing their own EVP session including Dowsing Rods.  No personal experiences here.

Auditorium/Basement:  The whole group were together from here on out.  We had Rem Pod activity/ Shadow detection in rear of theatre.  Of Note in the Basement (Felt a little creepy as all do) was the sound of a dog barking, as noted in our walk through.  Kathy felt it was too regular, and might be able to debunk it, as she said this, it stopped.  Need to review evidence to make my decision. 

1st Floor Ladies Room:  Going where duty calls, the men of GRS treaded into the women’s washroom.   No personal experiences noted here. 

4th Floor Museum:  Ended the night here, No personal experiences here.   

Michael Wright: The evening started with a tour of the theater and a brief history of the building.

The theater was the most cleanest and organized theater I have ever been in, the people in charge of the upkeep of the building are doing an excellent job of maintaining the structure.

In the first session I had some dowsing rod activity but did not get any distinguishable EVPs on my recorder.

During the second session on the main stage my dowsing rods started spinning around in a circle which they never did before.

When we moved to the basement of the theater we heard some noises which sounded like a dog barking, on the recorder it also sounded like a dog barking.

In the bathroom we had some meter readings but I could not hear any EVPs partly because there was quite a bit of background noises.

During the last sessions did not get any activity, was very pleased and grateful for the opportunity to do an investigation at this wonderful theater, and would like to go back again to do another investigation.


Dale Kaczmarek: This was an incredible investigation and seeing that the GRS was only the third official paranormal group to investigate this beautiful building, it made it even more special. As usual this building didn’t disappoint us as there were many EVP sessions were we received very relevant answers to questions posed to any possible spirits that were lingering here. While investigating the stage area, several members including myself noticed a strange flashing blue light near the entrance to the auditorium. Upon investigating, it suddenly stopped flashing and did not appear again. I have no idea what it could have been as none of the equipment set up in the area blinks blue.

I also believed that someone touched me on the shoulder or upper back while I was sitting on the stage with my feet dangling off. That is interesting due to the fact that a female employee also reported being touched on the shoulder as well.

While in the basement conducting EVP sessions, all of us several times heard what sounded like a dog barking and it seemed to come from one side of the basement and then the other side. Some believe that it was too rhythmic but we could not debunk it or explain the sound. It did not appear on my recorder but others did capture the sounds.

While conducting a Ovilus X session in the 1st floor women’s restroom, the Ovilus suddenly said “out” and I repeated it. At the same moment, Jim and Kathie were further back by the stalls when the Melmeter they were using shot up to a 2.3 reading.

Several stick figures were picked up using the X-Cam SLS system in the bathroom, 4th floor VIP lounge and near the movie memorabilia area.

This was a very interesting investigation and it took some time to get it set up. A huge thanks to our Planning Committee Person Greg Kos for making the connections with staff and Aaron Shriver for showing up around and joining us in our EVP sessions. Aaron has since expressed interest in joining our group.


The Ghost Research Society investigated the Genesee Theater June 12, 2017. Team members included: Stan Suho, Greg Kos, Jim Piscopo, Kathie Para, Michael Wright, Chuck Williams and Dale Kaczmarek with help from Aaron Shriver









Evidence collected:  

Basement bark genesee.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the basement a sound like a dog bark was heard and recorded.  

Basement bark noise genesee.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the basement another sound like a dog bark followed by a noise was heard and recorded.  

Basement dog or child genesee.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the basement, a question was asked, “Are you hiding from somebody?” In the background a sound like a dog bark was heard by all and recorded.  

Basement noise again genesee.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the basement yet another sound similar to that of a dog barking was heard and recorded.  

Basement noise genesee.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the basement, a comment was made, “We really came to see if you were okay.” Immediately following that comment another noise is heard and recorded.  

Beep genesee.MPG – Piscopo’s static camcorder facing down the 3rd floor hallway picked a “Beep” that could not be ascertained as to the cause.  

Come on genesee.MPG – during the initial walk-through William’s camcorder picks up a whisper in the background that says, “Come on.”  

Congress-con genesee.MPG – during the initial walk-through William’s camcorder picks up another whisper in the background that can be heard over Shriver’s dialog that says, “Congress con.”  

Door hiss genesee.MPG – Piscopo’s static camcorder facing down the 3rd floor hallway picked up what sounds like a door closing followed by a long hissing sound.  

Door sound genesee.MPG – Piscopo’s static camcorder facing down the 3rd floor hallways picked up the sound of a door closing and the rest of the crew were on another floor at the time of this sound.  

Gasp genesee.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the 4th floor ladies restroom, a comment was made, “We’re in the ladies washroom that’s haunted…” Immediately after this comment a female “Gasp” can be heard.  

Genesee1.MPG – while investigating the men’s restroom with the X-Cam SLS system, a stick figure suddenly appears on a wall. 

Genesee2.MPG – while conducting an EVP session near the movie memorabilia area, the X-Cam SLS system suddenly picks up a small stick figure on the hand rail of the stairs heading to the lower floor. 

Genesee3.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the 4th floor VIP lounge area, a stick figure appears in between the windows and directly behind Piscopo. 

Genesee4.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the 4th floor VIP lounge area, a stick figure appears again on the back wall.

Get out of here genesee.MPG – during the initial walk-through, William’s camcorder picks up a low male voice saying, “Get out of here.” This was recorded during Shriver’s dialog.  

North Carolina genesee.MPG – while finishing up an EVP session in the basement, a question was asked, “What’s left that we haven’t been through that’s pretty active? (Talking about locations in the building.)” A whispered voice in the background says, “North Carolina.”  

Scream genesee.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the stage area, a faint and distant scream can be heard in the background.  

Theater stage distant scream.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the stage area, another faint and distant scream was recorded.  

They are genesee.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus X session on the 4th floor office, a question was asked, “Is there anyone behind me?” The Ovilus responds with, “They are.”  

Washington genesee.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus X session, a question was asked, “How about that spotlight over there? Is anyone still operating that spotlight? What’s your name?” Immediately the Ovilus responds with the name, “Washington.”  

Weird note genesee.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the 4th floor VIP lounge area, a question was asked, “Do you believe that?” Immediately afterwards a “Weird note” sound was recorded.  

Women’s back 4th floor whisper genesee.MPG – while conducting an EVP session on the 4th floor, a question was asked, “Are you here with us?” A low whisper is heard as a possible response.  

Yeah genesee.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus session in the 4th floor office, a question was asked, “Are you trying to do something live?” The Ovilus responds with, “Yeah.”  

Words spoken by the Ovilus X is dictionary mode:  

4th Floor Office: pillow, book and excel.  

Stage area: mend, building, Jen, cupcake, dinner, real, felt, piece, quick, twenty, oremus, sister, anything and indicate.  

Basement: bush, hardly, decompose, quiet, porch, bunny, class, couch, dinner, passed, indicate, flowers, rot, who, loss, friendly, hide, alive, stood, Jen, cards, numb and modern.  

Women’s restroom 1st floor: out, along, level, gravity, Betty and song.  

Movie memorabilia area: position, result, Washington, suit, dinner, plant, soil, products, sister, dominate and level.  

Conclusions: This seemed to be a pretty active location. There were a lot of sounds especially in the basement that could not be replicated or debunked. They could have been perfectly normal sounds except for the fact that Shriver has investigated this theater many times in the past and would have probably recognized those noises are natural for the theater.

The location was so big that it would be almost impossible to do a proper set-up with cables strung back to a Command Center so all cameras were just static and had to be reviewed at a later date and no real-time sounds or movements were noted.

The location was maze-like and very easy to get lost and turned around in so the group pretty much stuck together and with the help of Shriver was easily able to navigate this property.  

A very beautiful theater and it would be worth another visit in the future!

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