SHELBY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY HOMETOWN) —“We don’t know what we’re going to find down here.”
The marquee at the Rogers Theater in Shelby has been empty for a long time. Inside, the original curtains still hang above the stage, drawn and waiting for the show to begin.
“We had heard stories when we bought it because it came with a lot of paperwork,” said Montana Payne.
Montana is restoring the old theater. It was built in 1936 and famously welcomed thousands of people the day “Gone with the Wind” premiered in 1939.
“You can hear it acoustically pretty perfect[ly] and you will hear noises that are out of the norm,” said Montana.
But its most infamous character is one who never made it to the silver screen.
“You can definitely feel he’s down there,” said Montana. “In certain moments, it will feel like somebody’s watching you.”
Shelby is an old town, and so are the stories that have been told here.
“You’ve got the Webbley house, the Royster house, the Banker’s house,” said Montana. “They’ve existed much longer than this theater has.”
The yellow Banker’s House near uptown stands out on its own.
“I think any time you have a house this age, people naturally wonder about that sort of thing,” said April Shauf.
The Banker’s House was built in 1874, and it’s been home to several people since.
“It’s on the third floor,” said April.
April works with the nonprofit that runs the historical site.
“No, we’ve not had any hauntings,” said April.
“There is a coffin on the third floor,” said April.
Marked with the date, name, and location is a heavy wooden coffin. It was used to transport a young woman back to Shelby after she died of scarlet fever.
“I guess we don’t think in this modern day, you can’t imagine having someone’s body mailed to your house,” said April.
Back at the theater, below the stage is a wood-paneled room. No light can get in, but someone else can.
“Tex’s legacy has always been a thing; everyone has known that but if you turn and look at the wall back here,” Montana pointed out.
Tex was the theater manager from the late ’40s to the early ’60s. He’s made plenty of appearances over the years.
“My wife and I came in one day; the entire place smelled like white diamonds, old lady perfume,” remembered Montana. And so has a woman known as the “Captain’s wife.”
“Within 10 to 15 minutes, it had all completely dissipated,” said Montana.
There are three rooms below the stage, as well as an open-earth basement that spans the length of the building. It’s there where strange sounds and unexplained incidents have happened.
Recently, a film crew was there to shoot a commercial.
“They had 10 different cameras, all kinds of cameras, 10 different angles, all the lighting, lots of batteries,” said Montana. “All of a sudden it was gone; every battery drained; they couldn’t focus; they were like, ‘It’s time to go’.”
Tex lived and died at the theater. When we started asking when and how…
“It’s my understanding he died,” started Montana before being cut off. “I’m sorry?”
“Is it your battery?” asked reporter, Maureen Wurtz, to photojournalist Jack Anderson.
“[The microphone] just glitched out there,” said Jack. “We’re good now.”
“Ohhhh, I warned you!” laughed Montana.
Microphones can be tricky sometimes, so we could chalk it up to that.
“We don’t mind sharing it with them; they were here first,” said Montana.
But at what point does the unknown become understood?
And maybe, at the Rogers Theatre, the show is still going on.