The History of Cohoes Music Hall
In 1874, two local businessmen, miller William Acheson and newspaper owner James Masten, financed the construction of a four story music hall for $60,000 in the bustling industrial city of Cohoes, New York. Built during the heyday of this growing mill town, what would come to be known as The Cohoes Music Hall, stood at the center of the City’s business district. The building was designed to house retail spaces on the first floor, offices on the second, and a 475 seat music hall on the third and fourth floors. The grand opening was held on November 23rd, 1874 with a performance of Dion Boucicault’s London Assurance.
Over the years, the Hall hosted a mixture of performers including; Buffalo Bill Cody, John Philip Sousa, P.T. Barnum’s baby elephant Hunky Punky, General Tom Thumb, Pat Rooney, and Cohoes native La Petite Adelaide. Eva Tanguay, who appeared in the Hall in Little Lord Fauntleroy at age 12, went on to become one of the most successful entertainers of her day and it is her ghost that is believed to still haunt the Hall to this day. In 1882, The National Bank of Cohoes began leasing the first floor of the building and took over complete ownership in 1905. After 31 years of financial struggles and multiple reopenings, the bank closed the Music Hall in 1905 when a roof truss gave way. No one would set foot in the theater for over 60 years.
In 1968, the bank ceded the building to the City of Cohoes for $1. Plans were developed to restore and reopen the space and the City was able to gather over a million dollars of funding for the project. It took over 5 years, but the theater was reopened with a performance of London Assurance on March 7, 1975, 100 years after the original opening. Since its reopening, it has been the home to various theater groups, comedy shows, and live concerts and it remains the 4th oldest operational music hall in the United States.
Our Vaudeville Ghost - Eva Tanguay
Eva Tanguay, “the girl who made vaudeville famous”, was an actress in the early 1900s known for her bizarre costumes, media frenzies, rocky relationships, and love affairs. She was born in 1878 and began performing at eight years old. She appeared in Cohoes Music Hall at age twelve while touring with the production Little Lord Fauntleroy. Several years later in her career as a vaudeville star, she returned to the capital region selling out shows.
Eva was the highest paid woman in vaudeville and the first singer to tour nationally on her own. Tanguay was not your typical woman of this time period -- she was eccentric, independent, and bold. Her most popular songs include “I Don’t Care”, “I Want Someone to Go Wild With Me”, and “Go As Far As You Like”. In 2011, Capital Region conductor, Brett Wery, compared Tanguay to Lady Gaga, referring to her outrageous outfits including a dress made of pennies and one that resembled the Eiffel Tower. She was constantly making headlines not only because of her career, but also due to her relationships that included multiple marriages, divorces, and affairs. She loved the publicity and even bought full-page ads.
Unfortunately, her publicity and popularity did not last forever. By the late 1920s, Eva was losing media coverage and her career began to fade. She also lost her fortune in the stock market crash in 1929 and retired from the show business in the 1930s. Toward the end of her life, she was losing her vision from cataracts and could no longer work. She spent her final years alone and bedridden and died at the age of sixty-nine in Hollywood, CA. The legacy of this wild, free-spirited star is very bittersweet, as her early years were filled with tremendous success and her last were of illness and loneliness.
It is believed that Eva returned to Cohoes Music Hall following her death and now resides here, sometimes making appearances. In the years she returned to perform in the area in the 1920s, one of her admirers was Cohoes Mayor Danny Cosgro. Cosgro was enamored by her and even wrote her a love poem that was published in the newspaper. Some theories are that this love affair could be a reason for her return to the hall after her death. Over the years many paranormal investigation groups have come into the space searching for evidence and have claimed to encounter Eva among other entities. Carol and Robert Rymanowski of the Cohoes Paranormal Society were intrigued by this Cohoes legend and decided to investigate. During their visit, they encountered multiple spirits and various forms of paranormal activity, including a flashlight turning itself on and off while Carol asked questions. Others who have come through the space have seen full apparitions, recorded EVPs and heard unexplained voices and sounds in the space. Even Music Hall staff have had their own encounters of missing/moving objects, ghostly visions and voices of a woman, and even pianos that have played themselves!
If you're interested in participating in your own paranormal experience within the hall please contact: Hannah Milkins @ 518-953-0630 or firstname.lastname@example.org