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Capturing the ‘spirit’ of the Florida Theatre: What a News4Jax team member witnessed

With Halloween just a few days away, we wanted to know in an area rich with so much history, are there any ghoulish residents still hanging around? News4Jax reporter Aaron Farrar got up-close and personal with one of Jacksonville's most popular spirits, but still few people know the story behind it.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., – The Florida Theatre downtown opened in 1927 and could hold more than one long-gone local -- a member of the News4Jax team witnessed one herself.

One of the theater’s ghosts was captured on camera by News4Jax promotions manager Chrissy Sellers 10 years ago while she was working with “Local Haunts,” a Jacksonville show investigating spiritual phenomena.

But she did not know the significance of what she filmed until a week later.

“It sounded like the seat was moving a little,” Sellers said while re-watching the video she shot. “I think it kind of looks like he’s waving at us. He seems like a friendly ghost.”

There remain plenty of theories about the “haunted” seats in the theater’s balcony.

Florida Theatre (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Florida Theatre President Numa Saisselin believes one seat belongs to a ghost named “J,” who is known as a friendly ghost. The seat beside it belongs to “J’s” guest.

“We think if this is true, that he might have been a former building engineer and he selected the initial “J” because the current building engineer at that time was Joe Collier,” Saisselin said. “Collier is still working here.”

Another theory is the seat belongs to a man named Joseph Hilton, who was an organist at the theater in the 1920s when the theatre first opened. He later died by suicide.

The other ghost story comes from the projection booth inside the theater.

A former worker was giving a tour to some school kids in the 1980s. As soon as one kid asked if any ghosts were in the room, the door slammed.

Over the years, plenty of visitors expressed they have had their own ghostly encounters, but Sellers’ video was the first to capture “J,” and as far as she has heard, the last.

“People sit in [the seats] all the time,” Saisselin said. “Some people know that they had the ghost seats but I’m sure many people who sit there have no idea that they’re sitting in the ghost seats.”

“You can believe whatever you want to believe,” Sellers said. “That’s fine with me because I’m that way too. “All I know is what I experienced and what I saw.”

Saisselin stated he has not seen the ghost for himself but does not discount what other people have seen.

It is up to you to decide.

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