Photos and Article by Sarah Record
One bitter cold winter night several years ago, I found myself at the Shuler Theater. The Shuler is one of the true jewels of Raton. It is beautiful and historic and an absolute joy to be in and around. This particular night I was there with just a few other people getting ready for a production of A Christmas Carol. The crew members and I were busy cleaning the expansive stage and checking props and sets. The stage lights were up and I felt compelled to stand centerstage, just for a moment. I threw my arms out and tipped my head back in a soundless yell. The winter wind screamed overhead in the soaring rafters of the building. Stretching out in front of me were all the theater seats extending from the stage to the front doors and up above in the balcony. The seats were all empty… but they weren’t. It seemed like the 100-plus years of Shuler casts and patrons all milled about in a timeless, surreal moment. Ghosts, if you will. Ghosts of drama and comedy and musical masters.
But those aren’t the only ghosts of the Shuler! Our ghost royalty has to be the ghost of Mrs. Shuler, wife of the Shuler’s namesake. A benevolent spirit, she seems to take pleasure in playing tricks. Flicking lights off and on, moving props, ruffling through the dozens of racks of costumes. Just about everyone who has worked in or around Shuler productions has had puzzling experiences- cool breezes and whispers.
I have many friends who have been cast and crew of endless shows and productions and even Middle School band performances, and when I reached out to them, I got a lot of responses! Many people agree that they’ve heard loud footsteps when there was no one there to make them, have smelled strange, unexplainable odors, and even heard the odd flushing of the downstairs dressing room toilets.
Laura R. of Raton said she knew of at least three specters that haunt the building- an almost friendly Mrs. Shuler, a laughing child, and a male ghost with a more malevolent intent. Of him, Laura said, “I only know it's a guy because I saw him once in a mirror. He likes to violently rattle all the doorknobs and who I imagine is responsible for any scratches or freak "accidents" that occur.”
Yes, there may be no proof but the legends live on in a ghostly fashion! From one generation to the next. It certainly is fun to tell the tales to young new actors and actresses who hang around after rehearsals! Sitting inside the Shuler, with its high ceilings and chandeliers and red velvet curtains and looming balcony, it’s hard not to imagine.
I know many would agree that you can never really be alone in the Shuler. You may hear Mrs. Shuler singing, invisible children chattering and laughing and playing with props, or the thousands of performers over the Shuler’s wonderful, colorful past. One summer 17 or 18 years ago, I was part of a children’s production of “Hansel and Gretel”. I had to wear a gingerbread costume and do a funny dance. I’ve grown a lot since then, but I like to think little 10 year old me is still backstage somewhere, sweaty and nervous. But Mrs. Shuler is there too, reminding me I can do it!
Not all ghosts are bad.