Laboratory Theater

Fort Myers, Florida | C.1923

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson

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While orchestrating the lights and sound of his first show at the Laboratory Theater, Technical Director Jonathan Johnson’s screen went dark (a nightmare for any seasoned theater tech.) Right before Johnson’s next cue, however, the system miraculously rebooted as he heard a disembodied giggle. This was just the beginning of the  paranormal experiences at 1634 Woodford Avenue. 

Constructed in 1923 for the growing congregation of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, the Mission Revival style building has been standing on the corner of 2nd and Woodford for almost one hundred years. By the late 1960s the community had outgrown its facilities and abandoned the space for a larger locale. The building fell into disrepair until housing the Kiwanis Club for a stint were they facilitated many of the organization’s programs. 

The Kiwanis Club would only use the space briefly, leaving the main hall opening for rentals. It was the perfect opportunity for a small Fort Myers theater troupe to find a forever home. Performing in and around the Fort Myers area since 2008 the Laboratory Theater Company was known for their provocative shows, entertaining musicals, and Southwest Florida premieres. By 2011, the cast and crew brought new life into the space when they began renting the all but abandoned hall from the Kiwanis Club.  Nine years later, the young theater would purchase the old church, finally having  a permanent address, with just a few unexpected occupants sticking around.

The paranormal occurrences in the space are a reminder that there is an unnamed ensemble attached to this theater. . The phantom cast includes a woman in a white dress who walks gingerly down the staircase. A long-dead caretaker of the building can be heard shuffling upstairs in the mezzanine. Staff members have reported having their clothing tugged by invisible forces. Actors have felt they’ve bumped into someone backstage, though they are alone. However, the resident spirits appear to be mostly appreciative of the theater’s work, best represented by reports of a large applause—when the doors to the empty theater are locked. 

Along with its many educational programs for the Fort Myers community, the Laboratory Theater has committed to rehabbing the historic space. Though the list of restoration work continues, the theater’s efforts have brought new life into a space haunted with history. 

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