MANSFIELD -- The "entertainment" continues nearly every night at the Renaissance Theatre -- even after the curtain comes down.
But for the first time in its 83-year history, the public is invited to the show.
Beginning on April 22, Haunted Mansfield Project Manager Ellis Byrd will launch a series of tours or "Night Haunts," allowing visitors to delve into the spooky past of the elegant Park Avenue West theater.
With years of paranormal investigating under his belt, Byrd, who has been seen on SyFy's "Ghost Hunters" and A&Es "My Ghost Story," said some of his most amazing sightings have come from the Ren. After spending months investigating the theater, Byrd recently invited a test group of local residents in to take a tour.
"It was a massive success," Byrd said. "We got some evidence of stuff that I'd never gotten before."
Upon arrival that night, Byrd said many of the guests placed video cameras in different locations around the theater hoping to catch unusual activity.
One captured quite a whopper.
"One woman had placed her camera on a counter in the downstairs front lobby," Byrd said. "At one point, that camera comes flying off the countertop about 5 to 6 feet and bounces off the floor. We actually have this on video, and we have the footage from the camera that went flying.
"There was about five people in my small group who saw it and none of us were within 20 to 30 feet of it. In fact, the person whose camera it was wasn't even in my group. Everyone was just shocked. There was total surprise."
Byrd cited two other notable incidents from that evening.
"The camera flying was closely followed by an incident with a hand-dispenser in one of the bathrooms," Byrd said. "It's one of those dispensers that you have to wave your hand in front of to get towels out. When we were in there, we asked if anyone was there to give us a sign and it just started pumping towels out. It probably did it for about five seconds.
"We try to debunk things like this and ask something like, 'Was anyone standing in front of it?' But everyone was a good 10 feet away."
The group also has video footage of a flashlight turning itself on after being asked, "Did you die here? Turn our flashlight on."
The flashlight was positioned on a shelf in the hallway of the dressing rooms, third floor. No one was within 30 feet.
On the video, Byrd can be heard talking following the mysterious occurrence, "Thank you very much!"
"We have a series of photographs, including a woman standing in the doorway who appears to be in a white dress," Byrd said. "We've recorded voices in the dressing room. The Renaissance is a very active place."
According to theater staff, over the years patrons and employees alike have reported numerous ghostly encounters and usual happenings throughout the building.
Renaissance Marketing manager Barb Byrd said footsteps have been heard on the grand staircase, along the dark hallways and twisting corridors outside the second floor grand ballroom.
Spectral figures have been spotted in the balcony, while disembodied voices, laughter and even music have been heard coming from the theatre.
On more than one occasion, actors and crew members have seen a shadowy "woman in white" standing in the wings during a performance.
Perhaps the most haunted area of the theatre, however, is the lobby, which was where theater manager Edward Rafter was murdered in a botched robbery attempt on the night of Oct. 30, 1929. A man, disguised in women's clothing, shot Rafter four times and then fled.
Since then, Barb said witnesses have reported seeing a forlorn Rafter pacing back and forth along the marble floor.
"The interest in the paranormal world is huge right now," Ellis said. "What's great about these tours is that people will get the opportunity to come out here and experience what they see on TV, but in real life."
Once a month, groups of 30 will be invited to the theater for a public tour.
"The evening will start with a history tour and then I shut off all the lights in the building and we get our flashlights and gauges out and see what we can find," Ellis said, noting that if guests are under the age of 18, they must have parental permission. "The experience can be quite stressful for a young individual."
Ellis noted the theater's recent additions may have played a role in the amount of activity.
"It is a well known fact that any renovations can stir up the paranormal," he said. "They don't seem to like it."