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A ghost named George

Legend has it that Huntington Beach High School’s historic theater is haunted by a mischievous Romeo reject.

October 25, 2007|By Josh Aden

Theater people are superstitious. In fact they’re so superstitious that many traditions — like never saying “Macbeth” in a theater or “good luck” before a show — are firmly cemented as part of the drama culture. Not surprisingly, it’s rare to find an old theater that doesn’t have a ghost story or two associated with it. Huntington Beach High School’s historic theater is haunted by a ghost named George.

Students of the school’s Academy of Performing Arts have dealt with this mischievous specter for decades. “We’ve had some weird instances here,” the program’s technical director, Joe Batte said.

According to legend, George was a student who auditioned for the role of Romeo in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. He wasn’t cast, but his girlfriend, who auditioned for Juliet, did get the part. Over the course of rehearsals, George’s girlfriend fell for the boy playing Romeo.

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Distraught over the loss of his love, George tied a noose and hung himself from the catwalks above the stage on the play’s opening night.

George has haunted the theater ever since, playing pranks and making sure casts and crews know he’s there.

Lights have been known to flicker on and off for no reason and sets have been damaged or have even disappeared. People working late onstage will often report seeing figures or movement in the back of the theater.

One night after a show, Batte was backstage when he saw one of the ropes from the set riggings start to shake. At first he thought someone had climbed up and was moving the ropes, but he found there was no one there. He decided to high-tail it out of there. Batte says this isn’t an isolated incident.

“When you’re the only one in here late at night, you feel like there’s something there,” Batte said.

It’s tough to trace the story back to its origins, but it has been around for decades. Students and faculty alike take it seriously. “I’m a believer,” the program’s director, Robert Rotenberry, said. He doesn’t have a choice; George is very demanding.

A noose hangs from the catwalks above the stage and the entire cast signs a program in George’s honor. Tradition holds that if someone doesn’t sign it or the rope is removed, the show will be ruined. After each opening performance, the “George Programs” are stored in a secret place in the theater. Batte says that while there’s no way to prove a ghost exists, there are too many coincidences to ignore.

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