Deathly Drama

A Glimpse At The Duke City's Haunted Theaters And Superstitions

Zak Schlegel
6 min read
The “Bobby Shrine” in the KiMo. (Tina Larkin)
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The legend, as told by Dennis Potter, technical manager at the KiMo Theatre, goes like this: On a Thursday afternoon in August of 1951, a 6-year-old boy named Bobby and a group of friends attended a Western movie at the now historic Downtown theater. While seated in the balcony, little Bobby became startled and began to descend to the lobby. When he was halfway down the stairs, a water heater in the wall exploded beside the step Bobby was standing on, sending him and eight other victims to the hospital with serious injuries. Bobby did not survive.

Shortly after the incident, a series of unexplained tomfoolery befell KiMo performers, igniting the belief that Bobby’s childlike spirit had a role. Some say they can hear little Bobby opening and closing the KiMo’s doors and windows.

Performers have created a "Bobby Shrine" in memory his misfortune and to ask for an accident-free production. The offerings started out as the leftover doughnuts the morning crews neglected to eat. The next day, the pastries would either be bitten into or eaten whole. Doughnuts were then tied to the back wall behind the stage and left there as tribute, until one director requested they be taken down. The show the next day was horrific and the director ordered the doughnuts returned to the wall. His next show ran flawlessly, and the ritual of leaving treats for Bobby lives on today.

Before each performance, participants place items on the shrine—sometimes a sweet pastry, toy or trinket. There are even lipstick kisses on the walls left by the heavily made up ballerinas. Productions that pay homage to Bobby play out smoothly with no misfortune. Those that don’t raise the risk of supernatural disaster. Extreme cases of negligence have resulted in stage lights exploding, dancers falling and even an entire cast of children forgetting a matinée.

Albuquerque Little Theatre

Manuel "Manny" Jaramillo is known by the Albuquerque Little Theatre family as the friendliest ghost around, according to Technical Director Andrew McHarney. Manny was the caretaker of ALT from its inception in the ’50s until his death. He continues to keep a close eye on the place. Doors closing and opening of their own accord are reminders that he’s still as much a part of the theater as ever. Members of ALT who knew him say they feel him walking the theater. With his ashes spread beneath the trap door below the stage, an annual Christmas memorial created for him by his family and an apricot tree Manny personally planted still standing by the theater, it’s hard not to believe traces of the friendly caretaker now past still linger at ALT.

Del Norte High School Theater

With hopes of a good run, Del Norte thespians leave a penny on the first step of the stairs leading to the light and sound booth and never step on it, says drama teacher Jonathan Hagmaier. This rule is followed to appease the infamous techie ghost who has the ability to grant a successful run or condemn it. It’s said to lurk above the stage on the catwalk.

Highland High School Theater

Actors and directors of Highland High School‘s drama department always leave a “ghost light” on the center of their stage, even when no one (living) is around. A tradition followed by many theaters, the light is left on to save the crew from walking in to a dark and ghost-ridden theater in the morning. According to one student, Hornet thespians believe the ghost of a fellow drama student who committed suicide still roams the stage.

Manzano High School Theater

To keep Allen, Manzano’s theater phantom, content, drama teacher Paula Stein says the cast and crew keep a flag at half-mast backstage. Before a performance, they raise the flag to its full hight in honor of the spirit’s prominence. If not, Allen will cause fuses to burst and furniture to creak.

Thrilling Theater


Is Bunnicula really a vampire or just a friendly, furry pet? Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Albuquerque Little Theatre (224 San Pasquale SW, 242-4750) through Oct. 28. All tickets are $10.

Seventy Scenes of Halloween

A bizarre comedy of suburban horror by Jeffrey Jones. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 4 p.m. at the Desert Rose Playhouse (6921 Montgomery NE, 881-0503) through Nov. 4. Tickets are $12 general admission.

Cuento de La Llorona/Tale of the Wailing Woman

Learn the tail of the wailing woman, La Llorona, and her search for her children from beyond the grave. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. at the KiMo Theatre (423 Central NW, 768-3522) through Oct. 28. Tickets are $10-$25.

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom

A camp classic to rival
The Rocky Horror Picture Show by Charles Busch. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 8 p.m. at Sol Arts (712 Central SE, 244-0049) through Nov. 3. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students.

Mimi and the Ghosts and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

A Halloween double feature: Mimi’s wild ride through the fantasy world of Ghostyland and the terrorizing ride of the Headless Horseman through Sleepy Hollow. Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. and a special Halloween performance on Oct. 31 (wear your costume) at 6 p.m. at the Box Performance Space (1025 Lomas NW, 404-1578) through Oct. 31. Tickets are $8.
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