Winifred Elze’s book may be fiction, but if you believe in ghost stories, then there’s no telling how much of her work might be true.
“Ghosts of Proctor’s Theatre: A Story,” Elze’s seventh book of fiction, is newly published and is available at Proctors’ Gift Centre. In conjunction with the new book, Proctors is holding a ghost tour at 8 p.m. Friday that will take visitors to places most patrons of the theater have never seen before. And, for those interested in some serious ghost hunting, “Proctors Lights Out Paranormal Investigation” will be held at midnight.
Elze’s book is set in contemporary times, but the ghosts involved go back to the theater’s opening in 1926. An early book by her, “The Borgia Prince,” set the stage for her current work.
“ ‘The Borgia Prince’ was a murder-mystery set in Proctors, and now the woman who was killed is coming back to haunt the theater,” said Elze. “She’s picking on the maintenance man, and he decides to get a couple of psychics to do something about it.”
Sticking to fiction
While there are enough ghost stories relating to Proctors to write a non-fiction book, Elze decided to stick with what she knows best.
Proctors ghost tour and Paranormal Investigation
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State. St., Schenectady
WHEN: Tours begin at 8 p.m. Friday and end at 11 p.m.; paranormal investigation begins at midnight
HOW MUCH: Tours are $15, paranormal investigation is $30 and includes an earlier tour
MORE INFO: 346-6204 or www.proctors.org
“It’s really a novella. Writing fiction is what I do best, and so instead of just listing the incidents and experiences of others, I wanted to do something that really holds all the stories together,” said Elze, who husband is Robert Warlock, a longtime Proctors employee.
“It still gave me the opportunity to include a lot of history and write about the many vaudeville performers that had performed here over the years.”
Many of those performers Elze encountered in her research are now serving as ghosts in her novel, including a German shepherd dog named Azzi.
“He was the guard dog for the theater and people have seen him frequently,” said Elze. “He’s probably the ghost people see the most often. During this one show a man felt a dog behind him, breathing on him and drooling on him, so he got annoyed and went and complained. He was told by someone with the theater, ‘there’s no dog here.’ ”
While Elze has heard numerous ghost stories, she has failed to encounter one herself.
“I haven’t seen any ghosts myself, but I know people who have heard things in the old dressing rooms, like water running, and they will check and there’s nothing there,” she said. “Other times they’ll hear people talking in the theater, but there will be nobody there.”
Looking up stories
Elze beginning looking into the many ghost stories at Proctors as well as the history of the theater itself after a conversation with family members last February.
“We were sitting around the dinner table talking about all the ghosts at Proctors, and it occurred to me that I could write a book if I could get enough material,” she said.
“Well, it started with my daughter; she worked there for a while and had a few stories, and then I started looking at old newspapers advertising who was performing at the theater and when. With the names of those performers, I started looking up their histories and it was all pretty interesting.”
A Schenectady resident and native of Staten Island, Elze graduated from New York University and worked as an actress in the New York area before turning to writing. Formerly a reporter for The Post Star in Glens Falls, she has written other books, including “Tilda,” the story of a sensitive and bi-polar young artist coming of age during the Great Depression.
If reading about ghosts isn’t enough, then Proctors is offering three one-hour tours beginning at 8 p.m. Admission for the ghost tour is $15, and anyone participating is invited to bring their own “ghost hunting” equipment.
The “Proctors Lights Out Paranormal Investigation” will be led by Gary Robusto, founder of the Tri-City NY Paranormal Society. The event will begin at midnight and last approximately two hours. It is recommended for ages 18 and over. Admission is $30 and includes one of the earlier tours.