Shh! Speak easy.

There is a historic Broadway theater in the heart of Times Square where the ghost of a former star haunts. It has been shuttered since Prohibition ended. I recently discovered a hidden entrance at the back of a diner. Step through a secret portal and be transported back to 1920 at Florenz Ziegfeld’s extravaganza, The Midnight Frolic. 

You'll be given a passport, a role to play and an unforgettable experience. You'll watch a thrilling show featuring chanteuses, lavish showgirls, risqué burlesque and daring aerialists.  During "intermissions" you'll travel to Montmartre in Paris where you'll visit the infamous Cabaret du Néant (Cabaret of Nothingness) where you can sample drinks like "Black Death" and "Sweet Syphilis" and watch a beautiful maiden turn into a revolting corpse. You'll be staying first class at the Hotel Ritz where you can sleuth the mysterious death of Olive Thomas. You may even be invited to attend a champagne orgy with some of the hotel's celebrity guests.

Cheers, Cynthia von Buhler

Olive mysteriously died in 1920 by drinking Mercury Bichloride in Paris during her belated honeymoon.

Was it an accident, a murder or a suicide? Will we ever really know?

Olive Thomas, born poor in a small town in Pennsylvania, left the unsophisticated husband she married at 17, and moved to New York City in 1914 to improve her situation.  She began her career as a model and won a beauty contest becoming “the most beautiful girl in New York.” She joined the Ziegfeld Follies the following year. During her time as a Ziegfeld Girl, she also appeared as the star in his more risqué show, The Midnight Frolic, held on a smaller stage at the top of The New Amsterdam Theater. In 1916, Thomas, billed as “Everybody’s Sweetheart,” began a successful career in silent films and would appear in over twenty features over the course of her four-year film career. She married actor Jack Pickford, the younger brother, of silent film star Mary Pickford, in 1916. In 1920, on vacation with her husband in Paris, she died by drinking mercury bichloride. Although her death was ruled accidental in Paris, news of the incident was the subject of intense media speculation in America. Thomas' death was one of the first heavily publicized celebrity scandals. More recently, Thomas’ ghost has been sighted numerous times gliding across the stage and through the walls of The New Amsterdam Theater.

Playbill explains, “A phone rang in the bedroom of Dana Amendola, the man whom the Disney corporation had put in charge of its latest acquisition, the derelict New Amsterdam Theatre. Amendola squinted at the clock. Who could be calling at 2:30 a.m.? He picked up the phone. It was the security guard he's hired to patrol the New Amsterdam. The man was hysterical. During his rounds of the theatre, he was crossing the stage when his flashlight picked up a beautiful young woman who had absolutely no business being there at that hour. She had a green beaded dress, a beaded headpiece, a sash and was holding a blue bottle. He shouted at her and she left the stage - by walking right through the wall on the 41st Street side.”

The Liberty Theater’s secret door is on the other side of that wall.

The Midnight Frolic’s writer and director, Cynthia von Buhler believes she discovered The Liberty Theater by following that same ghost. She explains, “I had been researching Olive Thomas for an immersive play about her ghost haunting The New Amsterdam Theater. I had been in talks with Amendola for several months about staging my play there, but it turned out that the powers that be weren’t going to allow it. Shortly thereafter, I was walking by The New Amsterdam backdoor at midnight with one of my actors, Dana McDonald. As I started to tell her the story of how I couldn’t do my play there we discovered the former back doors of The Liberty Theater, which oddly hang up on the wall without steps. As we stared at these odd doors wondering where they led, we saw a man quickly exit another small door. The door strangely hovered open and we decided to go in. We were entirely unprepared for what we found  – an empty historic theater! I believe that we were led in there at midnight by Olive’s ghost so I could tell her story.”

The Liberty Theater was a Broadway theater from 1904 – 1933. The theater hasn’t been used for a theatrical production since then.