Chief Theatre

706 8th Avenue,
Greeley, CO 80631

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Additional Info

Architects: Carl Boller, Robert O. Boller

Firms: Boller Brothers

Previous Names: Electric Theatre, Orpheum Theatre, Rex Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Updated facade photo courtesy of Bob Sanderson.

The Electric Theatre was operating prior to 1910. Within a year of opening it was renamed Orpheum Theatre. Later renamed Rex Theatre, by 1934 it was the Chief Theatre. It was closed on February 12, 1973.

It was demolished in around 1985 and the site became a parking lot for a hotel which was built on an adjacent site.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

tcall19632006 on August 12, 2008 at 8:42 pm

was the chief theater in greeley,co. really haunted.

LouisRugani on January 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Greeley Tribune Staff Writer

Tuesday night the Chief Theater will close its curtain for the last time marking the finale of a colorful 65-year history.
When the theater closes, it may also Close the curtains on a budding legend which has been building for decades in Greeley.
The story involves a young woman who has been discussed frequently, but seen rarely. She is not human, according to some sources, and she resides in the balcony and attic of the old theater.

It was the summer of 1970 when Debbie Smith (a pseudonym) saw her.
Debbie was watching a movie in the Chief Theater in the coolness of the air conditioned atmosphere. She was a friend of the manager of the theater, and he gave her permission to sit in the balcony to watch the film without being bothered by distractions from other customers. The balcony had been closed for several months because there were inadequate fire exits.
It wasn’t the customers who would distract Debbie that night; the thing that did proved in the long run to be more distracting than anything human.
The ghost, or apparition, or spirit, or poltergiest that visited Debbie Smith in the balcony that night probably was not human.
Debbie said later that as she was watching the movie, something caught the corner of her eye. She looked to her right and saw a woman standing in the balcony watching her.
She described the woman as attractive (although she could not see her facial features) with blond hair done up in a bun, a long sleeved white blouse, and a floor length skirt. Debbie said the woman
gave the appearance of the “turn of the century."
Debbie sat and watched the woman for several seconds until the woman "just disappeared."
One of the oddest things about Debbie’s meeting with the woman was that Debbie was not frightened by the sudden appearance and just as sudden disappearance of the woman in white.
It was later, as she described the incident to her friends that she began to realize how frightening the experience could be.
It was different when David Johnson (a pseudonym) met the woman. He was frightened.
It was another summer, two years after Debbie’s incident. David had just begun work for the management of the Chief Theater, and it was early in the evening, before the theater opened for customers. The balcony had been closed for years and the candy for the theater snackbar was kept in a storeroom adjoining the balcony.
David was sent upstairs to get popcorn boxes in preparation for the evening’s hungry customers. He walked the stairs to the balcony, turned to his left, and entered the tiny room where the boxes were kept.
"Just then I got this funny feeling,” David said later. He turned around and saw a woman walking across the lower part of the balcony.
“I thought I was seeing things, so I turned around and got back to work,” David said.
He picked up the stack of popcorn boxes, and began carrying them down
the balcony ramp to the stairs. As he walked down the ramp, he glanced up to a trap door in the ceiling of the balcony. He saw the woman crouching at the edge of the trap door, holding the door up and
looking straight down at him. He ran down the two flights of stairs to the floor of the lobby, and frenetically voiced his story to the theater manager.
David described the woman as “about 30 years old, with blond hair hanging down to her shoulders, a white blouse, and wearing a skirt that hemmed just below the knees."
He said she was wearing clothes from the 1940s.
When the manager heard David’s description of "The Ghost in the Balcony” as they now label her, he immediately remembered Debbie’s description of the woman two years prior. The stories closely resembled each other. Both described a blond woman in her 30s, blond hair, and wearing a white blouse.
Both eyewitnesses said they never talked to the other prior to the sightings of the woman. Both Debbie and David had not heard of the ghost from anyone else before they met her in the balcony. Debbie saw the woman about one week before she began working in the theater,
and David had only worked at the historical theater for two weeks, before his sighting in the summer of 1972. In both cases, the witnesses said they “weren’t sure there was such a thing as supernatural entities,” but now they’re convinced.
The theater was buiIt in the early 1900s, and first sported the modern-sounding name “The Electric Theater.” One year later the name was changed to the “Orpheum."
The theater reached its glory years under the name "Rex Theater” when it was considered the hotspot of Greeley. Later the name was changed to the Chief.
The Chief is a natural place for the “Ghost in the Balcony” to reside. History reveals its reputation for showing some of Greeley’s most fright-producing entertainment.
In 1920, the famed actor John Barrymore played Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on the stage of the theater, and later, the first Greeley showing of the original “Frankenstein” movie flickered on its screen.
The movie bill has not fared so well in more recent productions, but has included “Night of the Living Dead,” “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things,” and “Mark of the Devil” to name a few.
No one knows how long the story of the balcony ghost has been told by employes and customers of the theater. A long-time Greeley resident who worked in the theater in 1915 said he “never heard of any ghost.” But another citizen who was an usher and doorman in the late 1930s told the Tribune that stories of the ghost were circulating then.
According to Louise Russell, teacher at Heath Junior High and a local authority in folklore, the “Ghost in the Balcony” could be on its way to becoming a legend. A legend is fragmentary, according to Miss Russell, and has a definite attachment to belief. A legend can be a supernatural story which is believable to some people.
Some of the citizens of Greeley already believe in the woman in the balcony, and may hold a seance in the theater to see if they can “conjure up a being."
No one seems to know where the ghost may have come from. Research shows there were two fires in the theater, in 1910 and around 1930. Reports have also been received that the balcony collapsed in the mid 1940s. In none of these instances has there been a report of anyone being killed in the theater.
In its heyday, many top vaudeville acts and traveling plays were shown on the theater’s stage, and one former employe said he can remember when the theater was so crowded customers were seated in the aisles, and more people were turned away at the door.
The future of the theater is uncertain at this time, and it will probably be torn down. The "Ghost in the Balcony” will either fade away with man’s memories, or perhaps she can fimd another historic building in which to reside.

LouisRugani on January 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm

The story above is from the Greeley Tribune of February 12, 1973.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on January 25, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Pretty good Fiction.

mcdhug on June 11, 2012 at 2:11 am

The Chief was my first “real"job in high school. I worked there until the day before it closed. As far it being haunted, Debbie and David certainly believed they saw her. The balcony was just plain creepy, I am glad I never had to go up there much.

My father worked at the Chief in the 1920’s and 1930’s but my mom said that my dad never mentioned anything about a ghost when he worked there.

In the year before it closed, it played mostly B movies and Disney movies. I remember “The Two Headed Thing” with Rosey Grier and Ray Milland, “ The Blob” with Steve Mcqueen, Blacula and Dracula AD 1972..

The address to the Chief was 706 8th Avenue and is the parking lot to the hotel.

DavidZornig on January 10, 2016 at 7:50 am

1934 photo added courtesy of Bob Sanderson‎. “Dames” on the marquee, so it was re-named Chief prior to 1941.

DavidZornig on January 10, 2016 at 7:58 am

Updated facade photo added courtesy of Bob Sanderson. Note spelling of Theatre.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 20, 2019 at 2:59 pm

Listed as the Orpheum Theatre in the 1914-1915 American Motion Picture Directory.

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