The Halloween article on the possible haunting of the Community Theatre in Pine Bluff netted an interesting email from Brenda Hall Lazarus of Shreveport, formerly of Pine Bluff.
Lazarus and her late husband — Tony Hall, who died in 2007 — were noted videographers and helped then-owner Bill Bettwy from 1993-97 in restoring and operating the theater.
From their upstairs office at the theater, she and Hall on several occasions overheard what seemed to be men in nearby conversation, but the voices seemed muffled and the couple was never able to distinguish any words, Lazarus said. Hall, Lazarus added, also often heard footsteps in a long, narrow hallway that extended to a staircase.
But she and Hall were never successful in their repeated efforts to confront their “friendly visitors,” she noted.
Lazarus also shared that in 1995 she heard the late Allan Bellamy Jr. relate the tale of a man being killed in the theater after his jealous wife found her husband seated with a mistress in a balcony. When Bellamy — the old Mad Butcher food store chain’s co-founder who died in 2012 — was leading his 1945 Pine Bluff High School classmates on a 50-year reunion visit to the theater, he recounted working there as a teenager during the 1940s.
Bellamy sold peanuts and took up tickets.
Bellamy, Lazarus said, told of having arrived for work on the tragic day to find people fleeing the facility, some spotted with blood. According to Bellamy, Lazarus said, the man’s wife had slashed her husband’s throat with a knife before he tumbled over a balcony partition and onto movie viewers below.
Lazarus said she’s heard repeated stories of a possible haunting of The Saenger Theater, which is less than a half-block east of Community Theatre on West Second Avenue. She said The Saenger is supposedly occupied by the ghost of a young male worker who was electrocuted in the stage area a short time after the landmark structure opened in 1924.
It may have been The Saenger or Community Theatre or both that initiated the career of Pine Bluff’s contribution to the classic 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz.”
According to Internet Movie Database (IMDb), Helen Seamon (1919-2001) was born in Dermott and raised in Pine Bluff, where she was a child singer during children’s matinees at an unspecified movie house here. Her father — a railroad ticket agent — and mother dispatched her to Los Angeles so she could receive advanced dancing instruction.
Her role in “The Wizard of Oz” was uncredited but memorable, as Seamon portrayed the Emerald City resident holding a cat.
Seamon had roles in assorted motion pictures and television series. She appeared in a couple of episodes of one of the most popular TV shows of the 1950s — “The Lone Ranger.”