Imagine this: you’re in Minneapolis—don’cha know—and you go to see a play at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater. An usher—a quiet young man—guides you to your seat. But before sitting down you realize that he hasn’t handed you a program. You turn to ask him for one, but he’s no longer there. Say what!? Only seconds have passed, surely not enough time for him to have exited the theater.

So what happened? You’ve just met Richard Miller…the ghost of Guthrie Theater.

A TROUBLED YOUNG MAN

The old Guthrie Theater.

The old Guthrie Theater.

The old Guthrie Theater began operations in 1963 in southwest Minneapolis. Four years later teenager Richard Miller landed a job at the theater as an usher, spiffy uniform and all. An introvert, Miller came off as kind of an oddball and had few friends. But it appeared that he took his job quite seriously.

That same year, Miller began taking classes at the University of Minnesota. But a run of bad luck—an accident while skiing, and a few poor grades—led to a fateful day. Still dressed in his usher’s uniform, Miller drove to a Sears, Roebuck store and bought a gun. He returned to his car—apparently parked far apart from others—climbed in and shot himself in the head. His body went undiscovered for a couple of days. His family buried Miller in his uniform.

WEIRD HAPPENINGS

A few weeks later a woman approached the lead usher at the Guthrie Theater and complained that another usher had been walking up and down the aisle during the first act of the play. This fellow knew that none of his ushers would have done this. When other theatergoers in that section also mentioned it, he asked them what this usher looked like. Their description fit Richard Miller perfectly, right down to a distinct mole on his cheek. And this had been Miller’s assigned aisle.

ghost 2Following this, there were many sightings of Miller’s ghost. Theatergoers, performers, and other employees saw the apparition gliding up and down that particular aisle, or in the catwalks, or in some exclusive boxes. While he would make eye contact with the living, he did not appear to try and speak to anyone.

In one incident, a couple of employees stayed in the theater overnight to work on the air conditioning. During the wee hours they heard a piano playing with no one at the keyboard, and while going to investigate they spotted a spectral form floating overhead. It hovered there for a while before disappearing. I would have reacted with three words: Time to go!

Another time, a performer in an opera troupe was walking to her car in the theater parking lot when she spotted a uniformed usher crying his eyes out in another car. As she approached, the figure vanished. Shaken, she reported the incident to folks at the theater. Her description of the guy she saw matched that of Richard Miller.

HAS THE POOR GUY FOUND PEACE?

The new Guthrie Theater.

The new Guthrie Theater.

In 1994 an exorcism was performed at the theater, and subsequently few if any incidents were reported. Eight years later the building was put on a list of endangered historic properties by The National Trust for Historic Preservation. But sadly, the old Guthrie Theater was demolished in 2006 after a new theater began operations in downtown Minneapolis.

So has Richard Miller moved on to a peaceful afterlife? It’s hard to say. Troubled spirits tend to hang around and resume their haunting in whatever building or home takes the place of the former one. In the case of the old Guthrie Theater, the place where it stood has been turned into an open park and an extension of a nearby sculpture garden. Until anyone spots a uniformed usher gliding amid the sculptures, we can hope that the poor young man’s spirit has found a better place.

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