The Historic Atlas Theater

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JULY 2010

The Historic Atlas Theatre in downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming is one of the most historic buildings in a town with a very rich, and very bloody, history. Cheyenne was a major railroad stop and cattle town in the 1800’s, and murders were common, as well as many other terrible crimes, and the history of the state of Wyoming is bloody enough on its own. This particular building however, which was a vaudeville theatre and hotel as well as allegedly a bordello at various points, is purported to be one of the most haunted in the entire state, and I’ve spent enough time there as a performer to feel that this is true. Many sightings of “white lady” type apparitions have been sighted, as well as a tall, dark, red-eyed shadow person that locals have come to call The Hat Man, as he’s been primarily described as a cowboy wearing a long black duster and a broad-brimmed black hat. My personal experience was as an actor during the yearly Old Fashioned Melodrama, a part of a local rodeo called Frontier Days where the town celebrates its frontier, Wild West heritage, for what its worth. I was upstairs, in what used to be the hotel and now sometimes serves as a yearly Halloween haunted attraction, but is often used for costume storage for the local community theatre. I was trying to find a pair of somewhat period appropriate shoes that would fit, with my director assisting me, when suddenly he was called back downstairs by our stage manager. Now, often, we don’t leave people by themselves in the Atlas. It’s just sort of an unspoken rule. But, we’re both grownups, we’re both theatre professionals, and the stage manager needs him, so, off he goes, leaving me to sort through crusty old costume shoes. A few minutes pass, fruitlessly, when suddenly I notice how quiet it had suddenly become. Earlier I’d heard rehearsal music from downstairs, and traffic noises through the old single-pane windows upstairs, but now it was dead silent, almost as if I’d put on noise-cancelling headphones, and at the same moment I noticed the silence, I suddenly felt as if I had a thousand pairs of eyes on me, and unfriendly ones to boot, like we were playing to a packed house of mean drunks and none of our jokes were landing. I felt panic, true, real panic and grabbed the first pair of men’s shoes that looked close to my size and bolted for the door, fleeing at near full speed all the way back to the main lobby of the hotel and into the theatre, terrified and just hoping to see other people. I did, and calmed down, and everyone sort of assumed what had happened and laughed it off. I wore a pair of shoes two sizes too small, for two weeks, for 10 performances, for free, and it was a wonderful time.

Submitted by Tony L