Greensboro, North Carolina
The Carolina Theatre, originally billed “The Showplace of the Carolinas,” opened on Halloween night in 1927 as a 2,200-seat vaudeville theater. It became the first theater in the state to install the new technology of Vitaphone speakers, and for the next 30 years, this movie palace was a hotspot for Greensboro nightlife.
During the late 1960s, downtown began to decline, and theatre audiences dwindled. The theatre was ultimately saved from the wrecking ball in 1975 by the United Arts Council. They converted the theatre to a 1,200 seat performing arts center, which opened in 1977.
However, on July 1, 1981, thick, black smoke greeted people arriving to work in downtown Greensboro. A woman named Melvaleene Reeva Ferguson had hidden inside The Carolina Theatre after it closed for the night. She was killed after a fire broke out. Her body was recovered in the stairwell, and since her presence in the building was unlawful, it is widely believed that she set the fire herself in an attempt to take her own life.
There are conflicting stories, and rumor has it that Melva had been denied her medication that day. In anger, she apparently stated that the city of Greensboro would burn that night. The Theatre was closed for a year to repair the fire damage before resuming operation.
Investigations at this location: