Glendale's ghost buster

For years, audience members have felt their presence while watching films and live performances or walking around the Alex Theatre.

Board member Ron Bonk has been a volunteer with the Alex Film Society for 11 years and has heard tales from residents and employees about ghostly feelings or sightings. The history is certainly there: The former vaudeville movie palace opened in 1925.

In June, Michael J. Kouri, psychic-medium and parapsychological investigator, visited the theater to check its haunted pulse. He will tell the audience about his findings prior to two screenings of the 1963 horror classic “The Haunting” on Oct. 24.

The film has always been one of his favorites, Bonk said. In the film, a paranormal investigator comes in to prove that ghosts inhabit Hill House. A group of people gather to spend the weekend in the house.

“So we thought it would be a good idea to replicate that and bring a psychic-medium into the theater to investigate if the Alex is haunted,” Bonk said.

It’s the most frequently asked question on the tour, said Andrea Humberger, another board member.

“Maybe we’ll get that question answered once and for all,” she said. “I can’t answer that because I’m not in touch with that. I think people will have fun hearing what he has to say about it.”

Kouri, a 45-year-old Burbank native and graduate of Verdugo Hills High School said he has seen spirits since he was a child.

During his investigation, Kouri met the ghost of a little girl he believes was hit by a car in front of the theater in the 1930s. She was wearing a Shirley Temple-style dress, holding an ice cream cone, and standing near the balcony, he said. Another ghost was an usherette who pinches men on the derriere.

“She told me she loves working in this theater,” he said. “She doesn’t know she’s a ghost. Most ghosts don’t know they are dead.”

Kouri calls himself a spiritual translator. He observes them, finds out who they are and why they are still here, he said, then he relates the information to the owner and allows them to decide if they want the ghosts to stay of go.

“I’m like a spiritual counselor for humans and spirits and I help them make peace with the memories of their life experiences so then they can move on into the transition of death,” he said.

Kouri has appeared on “Oprah” and “The View” and has given lectures at the Burbank Public Library.

While visiting the Burbank Central Library, he said he met a ghost named Sister Catherine.

“I’ve spoken with her and she is very angry, as angry in spirit as in life,” he said. “She yells at people, ‘Get back in line.’ She does the things that she did when she was alive.”

Some of the librarians have heard it, Kouri said. They have gone to tell the person to be quiet, but never found anyone, he said.

“One retired librarian said she saw Sister Catherine walk through the wall and then she came up to her and shook her finger at her,” he said. “Another time, I was at the library, and I saw her walk through the wall of the church. She came up to me and asked ‘Can you see me?”

Kouri also has seen the ghosts of Leslie and Mary Louise Brand at Brand Library in Glendale, he said.

“I’ve met both,” he said. “They greet me like I’m an old friend.”

Kouri has written 37 books and will release his next one, “True Hauntings of Glendale and Beyond,” at the screening, he said. He is now working on “Haunted Houses of Hollywoodland” that will be released in 2010 and will have a chapter on Burbank ghosts.

After Kouri’s talk, the audience will see the MGM black and white film directed by Robert Wise and stars Russ Tamblyn, Claire Bloom, Julie Harris and Richard Johnson. It was filmed in Panavision widescreen, said Randy Carter, Alex Film Society president.

“‘The Haunting’ is a salute to doing horror and terror with sound, lighting and character,” he said. “There are no special effects like explosions, lightening bolts or monsters coming through walls. It’s done instead through the power of suggestion.”

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