If you're wondering why the Elysian Theater was closed down and abandoned, you're gonna be in for quite a shock. Built in 1919, the theater also included a restaurant, bar, and shop. It was kind of like the Cracker Barrel of theaters. There was also a fireplace in the lobby which made it look really cozy. Around the time of the grand opening, James Cagney was the first one to perform for a sold-out crowd, opening for Al Jolson. Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday sung for Herbert Hoover on his birthday in 1929. The Elysian Theater was also the launching pad for Frank Sinatra's career in 1935. Up to the Rat Pack and the Bee Gees, there were tons of musicians that left their mark.
Aside from musical acts, the Elysian Theater offered plenty of movies to the general public, too. There's a lot of history behind this theater. But for some reason I can't understand, the Elysian Theater was abandoned in 1987... Why? A very prominent theater in Columbia, South Carolina... abandoned. Different theories for its abandonment varied. Some say that bankruptcy was to blame, but the theater made a lot of money and saw no reason to file for bankruptcy. Others speculated that its abandonment was the result of gross negligence.
But there were no safety hazards or accidents reported. The building maintained its structural integrity... everything was in top shape. Also, many thought the Elysian Theater was going out of business and thought there was no way in hell they were gonna stay open so they up and left everything. No. There is a real reason. I've been going to that theater since I was a kid and I had to find out for myself. It was a cold, wet rainy night when I was heading to the sight of the theater. The rain was so bitterly cold, that if you so much as stay in it for a long period of time without an umbrella, it would feel like icy needles hitting you. It was that bad. The clock in my car read 2:00 AM, so it was after dark. As I pulled up in the parking lot, I saw that the theater was still standing. Its structure was still intact, but what was once a very pristine-looking building was now swallowed up by vines, and the royal blue paint job was starting to show serious peeling and chipping. I grabbed my umbrella and got out of my car as quickly as I could and stood under the marquee to keep from getting wet. As I got myself situated, I glanced up and saw what the marquee displayed. Instead of it reading CLOSED, it showed... oddly enough, movie titles and their show times:
EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN RATED-R
12:30 PM 1:30 PM 2:30 PM 3:30 PM 4:30 PM
5:00 PM 6:00 PM 7:00 PM 8:00 PM 9:00 PM 10:45 PM
LETHAL WEAPON RATED-R
7:15 PM 8:15 PM 9:15 PM 10:15 PM 11:15 PM 12:15 AM
THREE MEN AND A BABY RATED-PG
9:20 AM 10:20 AM 11:20 AM 12:20 PM 1:20 PM
FULL METAL JACK [E and T are missing] RATED-R
12:00 PM 1:00 PM 2:00 PM 3:00 PM 4:00 PM
MOONSTRUCK [R is askew] ATED-PG
5:30 PM 6:30 PM 7:30 PM 8:30 PM 9:30 PM 10:30 PM
The marquee was never changed... the lettering was still preserved even though the once-ivory white display was now starting to show yellow from aging. It looked like yellow rings you'd see in some public restrooms due to water leakage, but this was worse than anything I ever saw. Forgetting all about the rain, something attracted my attention: it was the box office. There was a jacket still draped over the chair, a Styrofoam coffee cup with black coffee still in it, but now with mold floating on top, and an issue of People magazine with Jackie Gleason on the front. The date of the periodical was July 13th, 1987. A 1987 magazine in 2014? I brushed it off and thought no more about it.
The door to the box office was locked, so I tried another way to get inside. On the side of the building was a door that lead to one of the offices. Thinking it to be locked, I laid my hand on the knob and to my surprise, it twisted... open. I walked in, expecting the office to be in shambles, but fortunately, it was very tidy. A light from the parking lot lit up the room partially, so I couldn't see much of anything, except for a beautiful purple rug with black diamond patterns tiled.
I pulled out an LED flashlight I had in my pocket in the event I had to check under the hood of my car at night if I ran into any car trouble and turned it on. In this room was a Ghostbusters promotional poster, still in good condition. There was a sofa that had brown fabric upholstery, a small oak table with magazines, a very bulky tape player boom-box, a tiny file cabinet that had a coffee brewer on top, and the pot showing some brown hazy residue. Did someone forget to wash this out? I thought. On the wall was a KISS calendar that displayed the date: August 1987... Was I tripping out? I felt like I was walking backwards in time to the 1980s! This office had to be a manager's... I left the office and explored the rest of the theater.
The silence was very overwhelming in this building, even though I was walking on carpet. My footsteps sort of produced a muffled sound, not enough to echo. I was too freaked out to call out to anyone... As I mentioned earlier, the Elysian Theater had a fireplace in the lobby. Without hesitation, I went over to the fireplace, and saw that it was empty, except for old ashes that lay at the bottom. With the cold setting in, I pulled out a cigarette lighter I found in the manager's office, grabbed up some fresh wood, and lit a fire. I was now welcomed to the sound of wood gently cracking as it burned. This was better than hearing dead silence. I warmed myself up briefly, seeing my breath hissing out in front of my face... I wanted to find a fuse box, a generator, anything that would bring some life back into this place and at least get some lights on. The one place where a fuse box would be in a building as such, is the basement.
Next to the room where various movie posters and material was stored was a long steel stairway that lead to the basement. After going downstairs, I came across a door that read: "THEATER BASEMENT. AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY." The smell of the basement was absolutely horrendous. It smelled like a combination of an earthened cellar and a nursing home where elderly people always crapped and pissed themselves. Nobody had been down here for years, so it was understandable that it would smell this bad without the door opening to air out the stink. On the opposite side of the basement, I saw what looked like the fuse box, covered in a shroud of spider webs that almost resembled cotton candy. I took my flashlight, not wanting to get web on my fingers, because God knows spider web is really hard to get off, and brushed the webbing away, revealing an embossed General Electric logo on the door.
After opening the fuse box, I noticed that none of the fuses were blown, they looked almost-brand new. I saw where the power switch was in its OFF position, and without much thought, I flipped it to ON. I heard a rumbling as hot water heaters and other power sources came to life. The basement was now flooded by overhead fluorescent lights. The room also became warmer, indicating that central heating was available, too. I quickly exited the basement because the stench was getting to me and I wanted to get the smell that became embedded in my nostrils out. I was fortunate enough to be greeted by the sweet smell of cedar that was burning in the fireplace. As my eyes adjusted to the light that filled the building, that's when things at the concession stand became really odd. The popcorn looked questionable, and I sure as hell wasn't going to take any chances with it. Even though that it didn't spoil or show any signs of rot, there was no way I was going to eat stale popcorn that is damn-near 27 years old. The candy bars still had their classic 1980s packaging and remained undisturbed, still looking brand new. I picked up a Baby Ruth, and surprisingly enough, the candy bar still looked edible, despite the fact that the chocolate had taken on a soft, powdery appearance. That was enough to cease my hunger. I wasn't going to get anything to drink from the soda fountain out of fear that ants might be in the syrup, so I reached for, you guessed it, a bottled coca cola to chase down the candy I ate. I explored the rest of the theater to find out why it was abandoned and everything still left in place.
The kitchen was an industrial food prep area, its counters and metal surfaces giving off a divine gleam. Other than the kitchen being so well-taken care of, there was something that made me wretch-- long-rotten food on the cutting board, and some pots and pans that were in a large sink were rusted, still soaking in stagnant, dirty brown water with an empty Lemon Joy bottle floating on its surface. My guess was that during that time, these pots that ran through the dish washer didn't exactly get food that was burnt on, had to be washed manually. The freezer had sides of beef and other foods that were now freezer-burned beyond recognition and covered in ice crystals, making them barely recognizable. I didn't bother going into the walk-in fridge because its contents was now moldy, spoiled, decomposed, and smelled like hot summer road kill. I had to get out of there. Past the offices, there was an employee lounge. This should be a better change from the kitchen nightmare I experienced.
Inside the employee's lounge was a nicely-cushioned leather couch, an antique analog TV that you'd find at a Goodwill, a clunky-looking Quasar brand VHS player that sat on top for the worker's viewing pleasure, a few magazines ranging from Popular Science, Sports Illustrated (the Swimsuit Edition), Woman's Day, you name it. Much to my amusement, there was also an issue of TV Guide with David Hasselhoff on the front in his Knight Rider attire. There was a small stack of VHS tapes next to the television, but I won't go into that. Something got my attention... among the stack of VHS tapes, there was a tape still in its JVC Blank Tape packaging, with a label that read: "Georgia's Star Search Appearance." This got my curiosity. I quickly turned the TV on and popped the tape into the VCR, pushed PLAY, and the image came to life. After a few seconds of snowy static, and a blue screen, the Star Search theme played. Ed McMahon appeared on stage to announce the winner of Star Search '85. There were two kids on stage: a young African-American girl from Myrtle Beach, 10 years old. The other, a young Caucasian girl, 14 years old, platinum blond hair, petite, and sporting an overall Aryan look... Could this have been Georgia? Despite the picture quality being decent, the audio was lacking treble. It's almost as if the sound was coming from a cigar box. I turned the volume up so I could listen to what was being said. Ed McMahon, standing in the foreground of the glittery curtain spoke... This was what I heard:
"Now the moment you've all been waiting for, [horrible tracking problem, audio screws up momentarily, then returns to normal] --ealed envelopes and the checks. First off, our two new awards-- Voice of the World and Best Song Performance of '85. The round one Song Bird Champion is Bree Summerfield. And the round two Sing Off Champion, Georgia Fairbanks. Another $10, 000 dollar check and the title of Voice of the World '85 [opens envelope] goes to... Bree Summerfield!"
Georgia smiled and shook hands with Bree, walking off the stage. Bree smiled and waved to the audience before Ed McMahon was ready to announce more winners. I turned the VCR off, plopped myself down on the couch and began to put the pieces together as to how this tape had connection to this theater. I remember clearly where the stage was, and noticed that the auditorium was very similar to Elysian's. Did the Star Search '85 take place here? There was no other explanation. It did take place here. I had to find more evidence as to why this once glorious theater was abandoned for no apparent reason. It was weird entering a building, going backwards in time, even though it's still 2014, but there was something that I needed to find... proof of why this theater was forsaken during its hay-day. On one of the tables in the employee's lounge, I caught glimpse of a newspaper that looked like it hadn't been read, pale yellow with age. The newspaper for Columbia, South Carolina is The State, in case you're wondering. On the front page, there was a screen capture from Star Search '85 of Georgia Fairbanks, with a caption that read: "14-year-old Georgia Fairbanks on Star Search. Courtesy, AP," and the headline which read in bold black lettering, in all caps: "STAR SEARCH PARTICIPANT GOES MISSING AFTER FAMILY WAS MURDERED."
Did Georgia run away after both of her parents were murdered so she would be safe? Was she abducted? Not entirely true. According to police reports, Georgia fell into a deep depression that seemed endless, never having her dreams as a singer realized. She had become so despondent and bitter after her parents said she would never achieve anything and they were glad they didn't come because they would've booed her off the stage in a heartbeat if they did. Georgia's smile on the video tape I watched was nothing more than a front because all she was was a selfish little brat who was always used to getting what she wanted and wanting so much of everything, she never saw the big picture. This caused a lot of people to not want to have anything to do with her. It was two years after the events of Star Search '85 that the Elysian Theater decided to blacklist Georgia because of her little primadonna behavior. If you remember the episode of Drake & Josh with the character Ashley Blake, that's who Georgia was a lot like, only worse. Everyone thought that Georgia took a hint and got the message that she was banned from the theater, but when a lady friend of her's tried to talk to them with gentle persuasion, that didn't work either. They didn't want her back at all. To show her they weren't playing around, all the employees and customers left Elysian and never came back. That was what happened... Nobody has returned to the theater ever since and nobody ever will.
Very faintly from the auditorium, I heard singing... it was very harmonious and angelic-sounding. The feeling was that of absolute sweetness and calmness. But who could be singing? Nobody was in this theater but me. Maybe it was my mind playing tricks on me, the silence in this theater causing my auditory hallucinations to surface... could it have been a sound system? I walked to the auditorium, the singing very audible, but I couldn't see because it was dark. The song being sung was "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson. I stood frozen behind one of the seats. I knew I shouldn't have called out, but I wanted to make sure that I was going crazy.
"Hello? S-Someone... there?" I called out very hesitantly.
"You're just in time for my encore..." an unknown female voice responded. Her tone was child-like, soft, and somewhat eerie.
I shined my LED flash light toward the stage, hoping I would be able to identify who I was speaking to.
"Who the hell are you?" I asked, my voice almost fading.
"Who am I?" The woman asked, very smugly. Remembering the video I watched in the employee's lounge, the voice of the woman matched on the tape that of the 14-year-old girl. The woman whom I encountered on stage was a 43-year-old Aryan blond... Was this the same girl? The same woman?! The lights in the auditorium began to come on, just like in a movie theater when the film is over and the credits begin to roll. It was... her. "I should've been the contest winner... get a contract with a major record label... Be someone who I wanted to be ever since other kids criticized me for being smarter than them... I kept myself busy with other activities because my stupid-ass sisters were more interested in boys and getting laid than spending time with me... that's why I decided to make friends with animals. My parents said I was never gonna achieve stardom and make my dreams come true... but I brought them here for my performance."
"The one and only..."
After my eyes adjusted to the dim light in the auditorium, I caught sight of something that no horror film could ever dream of. In the front row seats were two long-decayed, dark brown skeletons still in clothing, which was now reduced to very old, tattered-looking rags. Were these Georgia's parents?! I collapsed on the floor and began vomiting violently over the horrific discovery. Georgia killed her parents, drug them to the theater, and placed them in the front seats for them "to watch her." My shock and fear suddenly turned to pure anger and outrage. I got to my feet. I looked all the way to the top row, and seated were recent victims, some with fresh neck wounds where they had their throats slit, others were shot, some were beaten to death, and others mutilated beyond recognition. It was a theatrical audience of macabre proportions.
"WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON," I demanded "YOU LOSE ONE STAR SEARCH CONTEST AND YOU END UP KILLING EVERYONE?!"
"I wouldn't say 'kill'," Georgia said, "I would say I made them my audience."
"NOBODY WANTED NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU!" I screamed.
Georgia, despite the heated argument, continued to talk in a child-like voice. It was like talking to a little girl instead of an adult woman. The tone burrowed through my ears like a fork scratching against glass. I wanted to put her out of her misery for what she did... but I know in my heart of hearts that I would never kill a woman, no matter what atrocities they committed... but in this case, I was willing to make an exception. During my exploration of the theater, I came across a prop .357 Magnum pistol, and had stuffed it in my back pocket... it was full of blanks, but so what? I had to gain the upper hand.
"Just calm down... hearing me sing will settle you down..." she said calmly.
I pulled out the prop pistol and pointed it at her.
"You come on step closer and I'll..."
"What are you gonna do... SHOOT ME?! I JUST WANTED EVERYONE TO BE HAPPY! I WANTED TO BE AT THE TOP!"
"No... I'm not gonna shoot you. I figured death would be too merciful a fate for a psychopathic, egotistical diva like you... Then again, the chances of there being a faulty blank shell stuck in this pistol would be enough to end your life, the same way Brandon Lee died. Or you and I can duke it out, I'll let you win... and I'll become a permanent part of your audience..."
Georgia stared at me like a child...
"I'll call your bluff." she responded in a spooky voice, still in a child-like tone.
The brawl began between me and Georgia. She had wantonly knocked me to the ground with a prop she had on stage. I kicked her away from me as she tried to lunge at me with the same knife she used to kill her victims with and to put in the theater seats, attempting to grab the knife for my own protection and to defend myself against her, she kicked it away until it flew out of my reach. The blows that were landed to my face hurt quite a bit, but I had to fight back. I had to retaliate. I blocked one of her fists, straining to keep it far away from my face, I ended up punching her with her own fist, stunning her momentarily. Slightly disoriented and weary from the battle, my eyes caught sight of her knife on the stage, beckoning me. I crawled over to where it was, but Georgia somehow managed to strangle me with a rope used to lower and raise the curtain. I could barely breathe and my face was almost turning blue... My fingers were inches away from the stag horn handle. Forgetting all about being strangled, I reached for the knife, jammed it into Georgia's shoulder blade, and was broken free of the rope around my neck.
"That was the most horrible performance... ever," I said, referencing Simon Cowell. At that moment, I saw the same rope that Georgia strangled me with, attached to sandbags high above... this was my chance. "Now I'm dropping the curtain on you."
I untied the ropes that the sandbags were attached to and watch them come down. They were enough to knock the woman out cold, but not kill her. It was over. I had escaped alive. Seeing Georgia out cold on the stage was enough to give me relief. I limped out of the auditorium and once I got into my car, I decided to call the police and help them solve the mystery of why so many people went missing and the mystery as to why the theater had been abandoned.
I drove off into the night, sore as hell, tired, and lucky to be alive. Though I may have been banged up and bruised, I survived. I went back home and fell asleep.
It was not but a few days later that I heard the news regarding Georgia Fairbanks. She had been institutionalized and kept out of the general public. As far as the Elysian Theater was concerned, there has been talk of it being renovated and re-opened, and the people who died there were laid to rest. Flowers, wreaths, candles, and other items were placed outside of the theater in memory of the innocent people who had lost their lives. The families of the victims finally had closure and got on with their lives... As for the future of the theater, its best days are ahead, and it will be a fresh start for everyone...