Hidden In Plain Sight: Inside Derby's Sterling Opera House - NBC Connecticut
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Hidden In Plain Sight: Inside Derby's Sterling Opera House

Built in 1889 and abandoned more than 50 years ago, some believers think the theater could be haunted.

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    Hidden In Plain Sight: Inside Derby's Sterling Opera House

    Built in 1889 and abandoned more than 50 years ago, some believers think the theater could be haunted.

    (Published Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019)

    The Sterling Opera House has been standing tall on the edge of the green in downtown Derby for more than a century. It has been sealed off to the public in recent years, and some who have entered it say it can get spooky.

    Built in 1889 and abandoned more than 50 years ago, some believers think the theater could be haunted. Paranormal investigators and ghost hunters have been drawn to this space over time.

    "They claim there's paranormal activity here," said Jack Walsh, a lifelong Derby resident and self-described history buff. "Maybe we'll become the ghost center of Connecticut," Walsh said with a smirk.

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    "It's a nice looking building but you have no sense of what actually went on in here."

    Some well-known figures graced the stage over the years including Harry Houdini, Amelia Earhart, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in addition to countless plays and musical performances. The Sterling Opera House was the first structure in Connecticut to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    After its popularity faded, the theater itself went dark in 1945. However, the lower levels of the building were used for another twenty years as city hall the police station and the jail. A few eerie artifacts were left behind in the rusted jail cells.

    Walsh said one ghost hunter who visited the Sterling claims he saw a playground ball moving around the theater by itself.

    "They said it would roll for no reason," said Walsh. "But then they also showed some other things of waves that might be a person and that there were also voices - the voice of a little boy."

    The exterior of the Sterling has been maintained but it would take millions of dollars on the inside to bring it up to code if ever the doors were to open again.

    "If there's enough money, they can do anything," said Walsh.

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