Savannah Ghost Tours
Savannah Ghost Tours make the Historic Lucas Theater a main stop nearly every night. It is a beautifully haunting building, even when it is all lit up!
It all begins with a man named Arthur Melville Lucas Jr.. Although he was born in Florence SC, he grew up in Savannah, GA.
His parents lived in a home on Victory Drive and his brother, Marion , was the Superintendent of Police. Arthur Lucas kept close ties to his family, even though he spent much of his life in Atlanta.
Lucas wore many hats throughout his varied careers. In 1919, he served on the board of directors for the Exchange Bank of Savannah. He was a contract agent for the Georgia Telephone and Telegraph Agency and Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Agency. In 1917 he purchased the Times-Recorder Newspaper of Americus, GA only to sell it in 1922. Lucas also ran a Ford dealership and renovated the B.H. Levy Department store which is now the SCAD library.
1907 was the debut of Lucas in the motion picture industry where he held many prominent positions. Early on, Lucas directed the Grand Theater in Savannah.
In 1920, Lucas became the president of the American Theaters Corporation whose focus was the operation of theaters across the south. With a plan to develop theaters in Savannah, he took over the Folly and Odeon theaters. He then began forming construction plans for The Lucas Theater. Lucas had built over 40 theaters by the end of his career, the Lucas being the only one bearing his name.
Lucas obtained the rights to build on the site of the Houston-Johnson-Screven House which sat at the corner of Abercorn and Congress streets in 1920. In the same year, construction of The Lucas began.
You may overhear on one of our Savannah Ghost Tours that on the night of December 26, 1921, The Lucas Theater premiered with a showing of two films featuring some of the biggest silent film stars at the time.
Those two films were “Hard Luck” starring Buster Keaton and “Camille” starring Alla Nazimova and Rudolph Valentino. This premiere not only launched the success of the Lucas Theater, but also Valentino who went on to gain great fame and star in the movie The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse which was the first movie to gross $1,000,000.
The Lucas Theater enjoyed continued success over the years, even installing an air conditioning unit in the building in 1926! The Lucas was the first public building in Savannah to have such luxuries.
Good Things Come To An End
The Theater closed it’s doors in 1976. The new owners, ABC Southeastern Theaters, petitioned the Historic Savannah Foundation to demolish the building. Thankfully, that request was denied.
After many meetings to discuss the future of the Lucas Theater, in 1987, Emma and Lee Alder formed a non profit that was committed to restoring the theater. That non profit was the Lucas Theater for the Arts. The Alders and others, known for their historic preservation work, began their first capital campaign that year.
Even though efforts to restore the theater began in 1987, it wasn’t until 1995 that construction began.
In 1997, Clint Eastwood ( director of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) held the film’s wrap up party at the Lucas. Ticket proceeds and an auction featuring props from the film went to benefit the restoration cost of the theater. Kevin Spacey, who played Jim Williams, donated $200,000 of his own money to the fund.
On December 1, 2000, the Lucas Theater held a Grand Re-Opening with a special three showing of Gone With the Wind. The Lucas once again, became a gathering place in Savannah for film, productions and the arts.
The Ghosts of the Lucas Theater
On some Savannah Ghost Tours, you may hear a legend that in 1928, a group of gangsters drove by the Theater and opened fire on a crowd of people who were waiting to see a show. According to legend, a ticket taker was shot in the back as he attempted to flee. There are tales of seeing his spirit as he flings the doors open and falls to the floor in the lobby. To “prove” this story, guides will point out the repair job of “bullet holes” that can be seen on the theater’s facade.
According to James Caskey in his book Haunted Savannah: America’s Most Spectral City, a theater executive named Jon Leisure recalled his ghostly tale.
While preparing for the December premiere of 2000, they were having problems with an air conditioner located above the balcony. It was leaking water. They devised a solution of hose into a bucket. When they reopened the next day, the apparatus was moved in such a way as it only could have been done by hand.
Even during the renovation the ghost stories where abundant. One worker recalls hearing the whirring sound and light from a projector coming from the old projection booth, however, there was no projector installed as of yet!
Other tales you may hear on Savannah Ghost Tours include the applause of a phantom audience, feelings of being watched, and a shadow ghost that roams the theater.
The Lucas Theater has certainly become a Savannah staple for culture, art, and ghost!
If you would like to visit the Lucas Theater you can find them at 32 Abercorn St, Savannah, GA 31401 or call them at (912) 525-5040.
We look forward to showing you Savannah’s Spooky Side!