The Kent Stage Theater haunted by phantoms of the past

by Heather Braddock
Shown are photos from the other theatres in Kent when The Kent Stage was being built.

Shown are photos from the other theatres in Kent when The Kent Stage was being built.

The Kent Stage in downtown Kent, Ohio has been a nexus for performers, from local folk bands to well-known talents such as Kevin Costner and Modern West, the band that Costner founded.

The theatre also hosts children’s theatre in a program designed to help teach those children group skills in addition to theatrical skills.

Beyond that, visitors have found musicians aren’t the only ones making noise. Area psychics consider the theatre to be one of the more haunted locations in the area.

Richele Charlton, the assistant director of The Kent Stage, said one of the regular ghosts visitors to the theatre can expect to encounter is “Woody,” who was formerly Albert DeVos. DeVos worked as a handy man at the stage.

“He actually worked here until his death in 1990, and he passed away sadly on Christmas Eve back in our Green Room,” Charlton said.

Shown are photos from the other theatres in Kent when The Kent Stage was being built.

Shown are photos from the other theatres in Kent when The Kent Stage was being built.

In the years following Devos’ death, Charlton said they have had many psychics approach her with a common question: Is there a spirit of someone who was once some sort of custodian or maintenance man in the theatre?

Charlton said she is confident that spirit is DeVos because they communicated with him at their most recent ghost hunt on July 13. “He was here, and we were talking to him about music and that kind of stuff. One of his really, really good friends is Phil. There used to be a record store next door,” She said. “So he and Phil are friends. It was a very cool thing.”

According to his Akron Beacon Journal obituary, DeVos was a fan of old-time radio and recordings.

The former handy man isn’t the only ghost Charlton has made contact with.

“We had this huge ghost hunt one night … These people kept making contact with this male who kept saying his name was Wood,” Charlton said. “The message was ‘Help me!’ and it was very desperate… Early the next morning, my phone went off with like a breaking news alert from Kent Patch, and they said, ‘Robert Wood dies during the night.’”

Kent residents remember Wood as F-You Bob, a local artist and eccentric who earned his nickname by giving the middle finger to motorists who greeted or honked at him as he walked down the road.

Charlton said her first experience with the supernatural at the theatre took place shortly after its purchase.

Shown are photos from the other theatres in Kent when The Kent Stage was being built.

Shown are photos from the other theatres in Kent when The Kent Stage was being built.

“When we first started working in here, we were actually working around the clock. We were sometimes here at three or four in the morning,” Charlton said. “Every single person saw the same stuff. It was bizarre to have everybody go, ‘Holy crap! Did you see that?’ There was this sparkly lady that would come down from the balcony. Everybody saw, there wasn’t anybody there who didn’t see that.”

Charlton said other activity guests have experienced include the sensation of a small child tugging on clothing and items being hidden or moved.

As for why the theatre has become so popular for wandering spirits, Charlton believes it’s a combination of elements that makes the theatre such a nexus of activity, such as their welcoming energy as well as the deep history connected with the location.

Shown are photos from the other theatres in Kent when The Kent Stage was being built.

Shown are photos from the other theatres in Kent when The Kent Stage was being built.

According to the Kent Historical Society, the physical location of the theatre is closely tied to Kent’s founding family. Amelia Kent Shively, the sister of Marvin Kent to whom the town owes its name, lived in a house that once stood where The Kent Stage is now.

Charlton said she will lead another ghost walk Oct. 19. She promises it will be better than ever because the full moon takes place the night of the 18.

She also said she has just gotten permission to hold storytelling on the porch of the Masonic Temple. In the past, she has stood at the gate.

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