History is coming back to life, maybe both figuratively and literally, inside one of the most iconic buildings in Salina.
The Salina Innovation Foundation is coming up on its one year anniversary in its location in a Salina landmark facility, the Masonic Center building. The foundation took over possession of the first four floors of the historic building last September.
Mary Landes is one of the founders of the Salina Innovation Foundation. Its vision is “to protect and endow the Masonic Center building, and infuse it with new spirit and life.” It is their mission to “preserve this incredible structure and put it to uses that will benefit the community. Our sustainability comes through offering community programs that focus on business incubation, and nurturing the mind, body, and spirit of Saline County through programs in culinary and performing arts, fine arts, and wellness.”
This historic space has been private, and a mystery to most Salinans for decades. The Masonic Center (formerly known as the Masonic Temple) was started in 1922 and completed in 1927. “The Landmark of the Valley” is widely famed for its Ionic columns and row of copper gargoyles along the roof line.
A year after the foundation was give possession of the building it isn’t quite as mysterious. The public has access to nearly all of the building, with the exception of the top two floors which are still used by the Masons. There have been multiple events held inside the facility.
Landes told KSAL News that while they expected to find many treasures inside the nearly century old building, they did not expect to find some of those people who used to use the facility still inside. And while their physical body may be long gone and buried, they may have not totally left the building. There are some who believe the facility is haunted.
Landes says the two most famous, or infamous residents of the building are “Top Hat Man” and “Zachary”.
“Top Hat Man” is sometimes seen and heard in the upper balconies of the theatre, while the mischievous “Zachary”, who is believed to be a 5-year-old boy, has been known to untie and sometimes even cut shoelaces.
Landes says that there have been numerous other unexplained things happen inside the building. Among other things doors open and close, voices and singing can be heard, and some have heard what appears to be the sound of an old-time AM radio frequency.
The back story of why the building might have visitors from beyond is really unclear. But a newly formed group has been busy collecting artifacts from inside the building, including photographs and documents that have been preserved, in an effort to fully understand and document its history.
Along with the paranormal legends, their are other urban legends Landes is researching. For instance, legend has it that John Phillips Sousa was a featured entertainer at the grand opening of the theatre in 1927.
According to Landes, a couple of different groups of paranormal investigators have conducted investigations over the past several years at the facility. She says each time they have found evidence of paranormal activity.
The Central Kansas Paranormal Society was in the building on Friday night for a preliminary investigation. They had a couple of encounters. The group will be back next week for a full investigation.
Landes says she is open to letting the the Central Kansas Paranormal Society conduct periodic investigations in the future, and offer ghost tours open to the public.
Calvin Arsenia from Kansas City practices in the theatre some believe is haunted. The nearly 100 year old stage has a wide variety of historic hand painted backdrops. This one dates back to 1895.