The Avo Playhouse Ghost or Avo Theater Ghost


303 Main St., Vista.

avo theater vista ghost
Avo Theater Vista Ghost

The Avo Theater is a standing testament to the vision of the late owners, Abrahiam Shelhoup who passed away August 1, 1981 and Clell Mcelroy (January 25, 2000). The design and contruction methods employed during the 1940’s for the Avo theater remain unique and special today. Thousands of 2 x 8 timbers were shipped in from Los Angeles and bolted together to form free standing diamond shaped walls – a sort of geosesic dome. In an article from the San Diego Union dated March 14, 1982, contractors Tony and Luz Duran said: “Here’s this web, just sticking out into the air. It was like the big circus had come to town. People used to drive from all over to see this dome going up. They used to say, ‘Dont stand too close, it might blow over’.”
To choose a name for the 700 seat theater, a contest was held by Vista residents. Avo is a derivative of the word avocado, which the surrounding area of Vista was heavily comprised of. The Avo opened on December 11, 1948 with the movie “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” staring Edward G. Robinson.
The owner of the Avo, Mr. Abrahiam Shelhoup, passed away August 1, 1981. After decades as a movie house, with the death of Shelsoup the Avo was closed. The location remained dormant until Moonlight Stage Productions took over the theater and renovated the cinema for its live theatrical presentations.
While there is not a lot of information regarding hauntings at The Avo Theater, there is at least one written account of alleged paranormal activity. In an article titled North County’s Most Haunted Spots (October 20, 2016), Pam Grier interviewed paranormalist Nicole Strickland of The San Diego Paranormal Research Society about what activity she and others had reportedly seen:
“City staff, janitors and volunteers have reported many ghostly occurrences there since the 1990s, including apparitions, mysterious footsteps and cold drafts. Many have reported seeing and hearing a man sitting in the audience, gliding along the balcony rail and laughing in the old projection booth upstairs. Strickland said she saw a man dressed as a farmer materialize in the seating area. Some say the ghost could be the spirit of the avocado grower or that of Earl Willis, who owned the cinema before it closed.”
Whether or not the theater is indeed haunted will inevitably be answered by future paranormal investigations.