The Set Is Gone. Is The Phantom Still There?
You ever find out something, and you’re sad about it, even though it happened some time ago? That’s just how I felt when I read about soundstage 28 on the Universal lot. Universal Studios (the real one, the one in California, not the theme park of the same name in Florida; Universal Studios in California comprise both the authentic movie studios and the original Universal Studios theme park.) tore down stage 28 a few years ago. Bastards. Stage 28 contained the set for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, the original silent classic filmed in 1925 and starring the inestimable Lon Chaney. I would have honestly assumed that the set had been demolished long ago. I kinda wish I’d gone on believing that, because now I’m sad. Universal CLAIMS that they preserved the set pieces and plan to put it back together again at some other location, but I wouldn’t advise holding your breath.
According to numerous sightings, the soundstage was haunted by a figure in a dark cape, often seen prowling the rafters of the preserved set. This led, naturally enough, to the identifying of the ghost as none other than Lon Chaney himself, still playing the part for which he is most famous. Whatever drab commercial such-and-such now stands on the lot where stage 28 once stood, I wonder if it remains haunted? Or does the mysterious Phantom now reside in whatever warehouse they’re storing the set pieces? If the set ever does end up in a museum somewhere, I hope the Phantom goes with it. Could it be that Lon was wont to drop by every once in a while to continue playing the role he immortalized? Or did the energy there result in the creation of a tulpa, as seemingly happened with The Shadow? (I would tend to go with the latter explanation. That, or it is a case of a “psychic photograph.”) Whichever is the case, the entity needs a space to haunt. Shame on Universal for depriving it, or him, of that, and for depriving us, too, of the chance to experience it.
By the way, parts of DRACULA were filmed on stage 28, too.