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Uncovering Americana

Ghosts Like Movies, Too

USA | Wednesday, 13 May 2015 | Views [1398] | Comments [3] | Scholarship Entry

The musky smell is what first hits you when you enter The Liberty Theatre, reminding you that this place was not meant for you—you are intruding on a relic from the past.

It’s no surprise that such a theatre, built almost a century ago, would be found in Jerome, Arizona. Renowned as the world’s largest ghost town, what was once a hub for mining activity boasts an air of mystery, which is amplified inside the walls of the silent film theatre.

The cramped space between the seats in which to squish your knees only further reminds you that times have changed.

The silver screen, though small by today’s standards, once portrayed images that shocked and awed audiences. Sitting in the audience, it’s hard not to imagine people gasping in horror at Nosferatu claiming his maiden victim or bursting into laughter at the antics of Charlie Chaplin. These films are novelties now; the acting deemed too melodramatic for today’s audiences—we often wonder how people responded emotionally to films that are so obviously works of fiction. You hear stories about how women fainted during The Great Train Robbery, thinking that a real locomotive was crashing into the building.

You slowly notice, however, that some things haven’t changed. The beautiful interior looks like something that might be designed today. The red velvet seats and curtains pair nicely with the oak wood and painted golden trim. The chandeliers that hang from the ceiling are still elegant and beautiful.

It’s easy to think of 100 years ago as the distant past, but the fact is that people had busy lives and craved entertainment just like today. Of course, the organ built in front of the screen, which required a live accompaniment to give the films a score, doesn’t seem to compare to today’s Dolby surround sound. Yet the fact remains that craving stories, as an escape from our ordinary lives, is a timeless human ritual.

The Liberty Theatre boasts of aura of remembrance, forcing the observer to acknowledge that we do not exist separately from the past. What was once a vibrant place of after-work entertainment is now deemed ghostly and obsolete, though it was modern and exciting for the people who frequented the theatre in its prime.

This testament to the past offers a lesson in humility, reminding you that your life is not so different from whoever sat in the same seat a century prior.

Perhaps that’s what it means to be haunted.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship



"Yet the fact remains that craving stories, as an escape from our ordinary lives, is a timeless human ritual. "- So true and very well put! Best of luck in the contest!

  tina May 14, 2015 12:41 AM


"Yet the fact remains that craving stories, as an escape from our ordinary lives, is a timeless human ritual. " Far removed from our cave men forefathers, exchanging stories have become our way of grooming each other, a way for us to know our place in the tribe.

Congratulations on making the short list!

  Toniño Jun 25, 2015 4:17 PM


Congratulations on making the short list. Suggest you put more thought into editing. "The chandeliers that hang from the ceiling ... "

  merantau Aug 24, 2015 5:19 PM

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