SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – There is something about theaters that attract people to them. In the Fox Theatre’s case, some of those people decided to stick around even after death.


The story begins three years before the theater opened. In 1913, when much of the Square downtown was burned in a massive fire that began in the Heer’s store and spread to much of the northeast corner of the Square.

Three years later, in 1916, as the Square was just beginning to rebuild and renovate, the Electric Theatre chain out of Kansas City purchased the space to use as a movie theater.

The theater featured vaudeville acts as well as “feature pictures” at the time.

The theatre even advertised shows on streetcars that rode around Springfield, MO. In one photo, those on the streetcar dressed like Charlie Chaplin invited people to the upcoming film.

In 1930, the Electric was bought out by Paramount, who owned the theatre for four years. After its short stint as a Paramount theater, it was then sold to the Fox Theatre chain. They changed the name back to the Electric Theatre.

A fire broke out in 1946 causing damage to a large portion of the theater. In early December, two flames occurred at the site of the theatre, one occurring at the trash barrels and a later one that decimated the theater. The first fire was reportedly extinguished before the second, more dangerous flame began.

The theater was closed for two years for renovation.

After the repairs, The Electric reopened as The Fox. The theater continued to be one of the major first-run theaters in downtown Springfield up until its closure in 1982.

In 1985, the Abundant Life Church found its home at the Fox Theatre and remained there until 2014.

In 2014, the History Museum on the Square moved into the Fox Theatre so that construction could begin on the Museum’s new gallery space in the former Barth’s building and Sherwood law office.

Currently, the Fox is utilized for a variety of purposes including displaying exhibits, hosting concerts and lectures, and serving as an event rental space.


According to Executive Director Emeritus John Sellars, employees of the theater have seen a ghost in the basement.

I was in the basement of the Fox Theater to look at the giant fan that was used to pull cool air through crevices in the ground into the theater. The light to the room was out so I was walking up to the pit slowly with the flashlight on my cell.

It would have been a nice hard fall into the bit and I literally jumped and recoiled when I thought our guide, John Sellars, was walking up beside me really close. It felt like someone had just entered my personal space on my left side. However, John was back in the doorway and nowhere near me.

I didn’t think much of it until someone upstairs asked if I saw Danny—I think that’s the name he said. I asked who that was and he said Danny is who they call a ghost in the basement and also hangs around the green room area…..where the doorway to the fan is. I said I felt like something got up in my face really fast as if to say HI and then was gone. The dude said, “That’s Danny.”

KOLR 10 photojournalist Tim Leimkuhler

Ozarksfirst.com joined forces with Southwest Ghost Finders’ Kim Luney to investigate the historic theater in the video above.

In the investigation yielded a few results, several of Luney’s tools were drained of power even though she just replaced the batteries hours prior to the ghost hunt. One of the devices is capable of “speaking” for the ghosts, the Ovilus. Three words were presented to us during the investigation: Spoon, Puncture, and Bean. The Ovilus died of lack of power despite 4 fresh double-A batteries being placed in it. Lastly, a tool capable of lighting up depending on the amount of electromagnetic energy present would blink whenever Luney asked the spirit to play with it.

Sellars said there were no deaths caused by the fire and the theater does not have a violent history as far as he knows.