Haunted Illinois: The Avon Theater
In 1916, against the backdrop of vaudeville's dominance and skepticism toward the staying power of cinema, the Avon Theatre opened its doors in Decatur, Illinois. However, it faced it’s share of early setbacks. The tumultuous journey of the Avon is not just a tale of business ventures but a narrative intertwined with the evolution of cinema and, according to some, the enduring presence of its former owner, Gust Konstantopoulos.
The Avon's initial struggle for survival mirrored the prevailing sentiment of its time – that the movies were a passing fad. Yet, as fate would have it, the resurgence of the cinema coincided with the Spanish flu epidemic, leading to a renewed interest in this form of entertainment. Gust Konstantopoulos, a Greek immigrant, became the face of the Avon, dedicating five decades of his life to the theater.
Gust was more than a proprietor; he was a fixture at the Avon, greeting patrons and pouring his passion into the establishment. His commitment persisted even after his death in 1965. The theater changed hands multiple times after his passing, facing closures and financial struggles, mirroring the decline of downtown Decatur.
In 1999, the Avon experienced a renaissance of sorts, reopening as a first-run theater. However, with the revival came a discovery – that the theater seemed to have a resident ghost. Staff members reported strange occurrences, from mysterious figures in the auditorium to doors opening and closing on their own to lights turning on and off.
The most chilling and personal encounter was with renowned author, storyteller, and ghost story expert Troy Taylor. While alone in Gust's former office, he saw the apparition of Gust standing in the doorway. While dedicating his life to the telling and researching of ghost stories throughout Illinois, this was only the second time Troy has seen a ghost. Other sightings of Gust over the years, by other employees of the theater, have created an eerie atmosphere.
The Avon's paranormal reputation hasn’t deterred moviegoers however. Instead, it’s added a layer of mystique to the theater. People come to the Avon not just for the latest films but also in hopes of catching a glimpse of the legendary Gust, who seemingly never left the building he so loved.
Despite its ghostly reputation, the Avon remains a thriving movie theater in Decatur, proving that a touch of the supernatural can coexist with the magic of the silver screen. The presence of Gust Konstantopoulos has even become an integral part of the Avon's charm, an unseen usher ensuring that the show goes on, even beyond the limits of his mortality.
As the Avon Theatre continues to entertain audiences, the ghostly tales persist, reminding everyone that in the world of cinema, some stories extend beyond the screen and into the realms of the unexplained. The Avon stands not just as a testament to the evolution of film but as a living, breathing entity, with its own mysterious history and a spectral guardian watching over its hallowed halls.
For more great Illinois ghost stories, check out Troy Taylor's website AMERICANHAUNTINGSINK.COM for more great tales of murder, mayhem, and haunted history! Or, sign up for one of his many Ghost Hunts & Tours!