Less than 15 minutes after I e-mail him about the ghost that haunts the Vogue Theatre, Joey Gibbons is on the phone with me, and I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m crazy.
“Your e-mail—I don’t know what to say to that,” says the owner of the art deco theatre with a laugh. “It’s like…asking me about Santa Claus.”
Opened in 1941, the Vogue Theatre was initially a movie house and performance venue for the Odeon movie chain. The first film screened there was the 1938 hockey-themed romantic comedy I See Ice, and many classic films played there for extended runs, including Jaws and Star Wars. Bought by developers in 1987, the Vogue sat empty until 1992 when, according to The Greater Vancouver Book: An Urban Encyclopedia, it was turned into a live-performance venue under general manager (and former Prism drummer) Rocket Norton. The Vogue subsequently became one of the main rock venues in Vancouver, hosting performances by artists as varied as Nelly Furtado, Elvis Costello, Cat Power, and PJ Harvey.
Former Vogue staffers have reported one, possibly two ghosts haunting the theatre. Unexplained footsteps have been heard in the basement dressing room and, according to the Vancouver City archives, “a tall man in a white tuxedo and black bow tie” has been spotted numerous times, including by a performer while on-stage. Gibbons, however, is quick to put to rest any tales about shadowy apparitions.
“I’ve certainly never seen anything out of the ordinary,” he says. “People have created stories about it being haunted, but it’s just not.” After crawling through the entire venue—in the rafters, on the roof, even spending time alone in the theatre in the dark—Gibbons hasn’t heard so much as a falling box. “I’ve only heard of people who have heard of ghosts here,” he says.
In January 2006, the Gibbons Hospitality Group took over the property with the intention of turning it into a 1,000-seat supper club. But the number of licensed establishments in the Granville Entertainment District—nearly 7,000 seats within a three-block area—was a serious concern for Vancouver city council, which ultimately rejected Gibbons’s application in May 2008. Still, he is positive about the Vogue’s future. “I’ve got the most amazing location in town on a street that deserves the best,” Gibbons says, “and I’m excited to be able to deliver a great product down the road.”
It’s not the tale of hauntings I was expecting, but I tell him that maybe I can do something about putting those ghost rumours to rest. “Yeah,” he agrees. “Let’s put the ghost in another building.”