PICTURED: The lobby of the historic Majestic Ventura Theater in an undated photo. Photo submitted
by Alex Wilson
Stefan Brigati is a world-famous paranormal investigator with numerous TV appearances and his own radio show, My Darkest Hour Radio, so it seems appropriate that he also works at the Majestic Ventura Theater.
That’s because the ornate, century-old building is widely considered one of the most haunted in Ventura.
Brigati is hosting Pacific Coast Paracon on Friday and Saturday, June 3 and 4, which will include speakers on ghosts and other paranormal experiences, and even a séance with famous psychic-medium Patti Negri, known as the “Good Witch” on the hit TV show Ghost Adventures.
Brigati said ghost encounters are frequent at the Ventura Theater.
“We’ve had road crew and sound engineers doing the mixing come running out of the theater saying ‘Oh my God! Something touched me,’” he said. “It happens quite a bit. It even happened last night at one of our shows.”
In addition to talks by ghost hunters, mediums and paranormal photographers, the event will also give participants a chance to look for ghosts inside parts of the theater usually off limits to the public.
“We’re letting people know about the stories and things that have occurred in certain areas of the building as far as ghosts go. And they’re allowed to bring their own equipment on the walkthrough, and they can try to make contact with the spirits themselves,” Brigati said.
One of the speakers will be Ann Bender, who works with a paranormal investigation team in Northern California. She said her earliest childhood memories are seeing spirits and past events at her home on a farm in Michigan, which terrified her parents. Now she’s devoted her life to helping people understand why spirits may be haunting buildings, and how to live with them in peace.
“I had one family recently that wanted to sell their house because they were too scared to stay there and now they’ve turned into a family that loves their home, working with what they’re dealing with,” she said.
Bender said she’s never been to Ventura before and is looking forward to trying to make contact with ghosts in the theater. But her favorite thing about attending conferences like Pacific Coast Paracon is exchanging knowledge.
“It’s a place where we can share what we know, but we also get to learn a lot,” Bender said. “Maybe I’m doing something new that somebody else will benefit from, so there’s that exchange. And just seeing people who we’ve known over the years, who you may not get to see very often because of COVID, and because of distance. We’re humans, we need human contact, so this is a way where we can really get together and share our passion.”
Bender said there are many reasons people are interested in learning about paranormal subjects.
“It comes down to generations of storytelling and experiences that are different and new. Some people are thrill seekers, and just want to feel the excitement of something they can’t see touching them. And other people are scared of it, and they like that. It’s like when you watch a scary movie,” she said.
Ventura historian Richard Senate has been hunting ghosts since 1978 and has written 23 books. He’ll give a talk on some of the most haunted places he’s investigated, including La Purisima Mission in Lompoc, the historic Queen Mary ocean liner and Ventura’s own city hall, formerly used as a courthouse and jail.
Senate has heard many stories about hauntings at the Ventura Theater. One ghost he’s heard about numerous times is known as the “what ghost” because he taps women on the shoulder, causing them to turn around, then says one word, “what?” before vanishing, Senate said.
“Why he’s there and what he’s looking for, I don’t know, but he only taps women on the shoulder who are very attractive. So maybe he is a discriminating ghost,” said Senate, noting that other sightings at the theater involve phantoms that pass through walls and a headless woman who dances on the stage.
Senate is hoping people find evidence of ghosts during the conference. “It’s been a debated question for a thousand years. What are ghosts? Where do they come from? Why are they here? Do they even exist? In some cases they don’t, they’re just stories. In other cases compelling evidence has been collected. I hope they collect something, be it a photograph or a recording, a videotape, some evidence that supports the claim that this is a haunted theater.”
Pacific Coast Paracon, June 3-4, Ventura Theater, 26 S. Chestnut Ave., Ventura, pacificcoastparacon.com.