|Location||423 Central Avenue NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico|
|Architect||Boller Brothers; Carl Boller|
|Architectural style||Pueblo Deco|
|NRHP Reference #||77000920 |
|Added to NRHP||May 2, 1977|
|Designated NMSRCP||July 30, 1976|
The KiMo Theatre is a theatre located at 423 Central Avenue NW in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico and it is probably the city's best-known landmark. It was built in 1927 in the extravagant Art Deco-Pueblo Revival Style architecture, which is a blend of adobe building styles (rounded corners and edges), decorative motifs from indigenous cultures, and the soaring lines and linear repetition found in American Art Deco architecture.
The KiMo was conceived by entrepreneur Oreste Bachechi and designed for him by Carl Boller of the Boller Brothers architecture firm, who conducted an extensive investigation into the cultures and building styles of the Southwest before submitting his design. The theater is a three-story stucco building with the stepped massing characteristic of native pueblo architecture, as well as the recessed spandrels and strong vertical thrust of Art Deco skyscrapers. Both the exterior and interior of the building incorporate a variety of indigenous motifs, like the row of terra cotta shields above the third-floor windows.
The name "KiMo" (literally translated as "mountain lion" in Tewa, and sometimes loosely translated as "king of its kind") was supplied by Isleta Pueblo Governor Pablo Abeita, who won $50 for his suggestion.
By 1977, the theater had fallen into disrepair but was saved from the wrecking ball when voters approved a plan for the City of Albuquerque to purchase the structure. It has undergone several phases of continuing restoration to return it to its former glory and is once again open to the public for performances. The most recent preservation was completed in 2000 with the installation of new seating and carpet, main stage curtain, new tech booth, lighting positions hid between and behind "vigas" on the ceiling, and a re-creation of the KiMo's original proscenium arch. The auditorium seating capacity was 650 at completion of the restoration.
The KiMo Theatre is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Robbie Darnall, a six-year-old boy killed when a water heater in the theater's lobby exploded in 1951. The theater staff maintains a space in a backstage stairwell for gifts and offerings in an attempt to "appease the spirit."
Paranormal investigator, Benjamin Radford conducted many interviews of theater staff as well as studied the primary sources from the explosion. As reported in his book Mysterious New Mexico, he found that the history of ghost stories has ebbed and flowed with changing accounts. One account from Christmas in 1974 has electrical cables flying around, lights popping and the cast forgetting to show up for the performance. The play was A Christmas Carol and hundreds were in the audience. Radford conducted many interviews of people who say they were there. He writes "the KiMo ghost story seems pretty solid. It's only on closer inspections that one realize that things are not always as they appear." Radford and researcher Mike Smith used newspaper archives to prove that in 1974 the KiMo was an adult theater and showing a film called Teenage Fantasies at that time. After more investigation through the archives, Radford and Smith found that A Christmas Carol was performed at the KiMo in December 1986. They interviewed an actor who played Bob Cratchit and also the play's director about what they remembered of the disturbance. Both had no idea what they were talking about, there was no disturbance "'I don't recall anything supernatural or out of the ordinary happening'". The newspaper reviews were positive and nothing mentioned any kind of occurrence. The drama critic when interviewed remembers nothing odd happening. There were no mentions in the newspapers that anything out of the ordinary happened, which seems odd if hundreds were in the audience that night. Radford and Smith's conclusion "All the evidence points to on inescapable conclusion: the ruination of the play - the very genesis of the KiMo Theater ghost story - simply did not occur; it is but folklore and fiction."
Further investigations into other ghost sightings at the KiMo have proved to not stand up to scrutiny when evidence is asked for. Eyewitness accounts fall apart when looked at closely. Ghost hunters finding "something" when orbs and EMF are all they find. The best "piece of apparently compelling evidence" was shown in a KRQE-TV Halloween show. Using an EMF detector, the ghost hunter became very excited when in the middle of the room it began to flash and beep. She is no where near the walls of the building and it seemed mysterious. Until Radford explains that the detector was picking up the "large television camera she's being filmed with, only about two feet away." Radford contacted Robbie Darnall's siblings who stated that they feel "exploited by the story and do not appreciate the claims that their beloved brother is continuing to eat stale doughnuts and ruin performances at the KiMo Theater". Radford concludes that the ghost story is "overactive imaginations, factual errors... standard ghost lore... misguided ghostbusters.. [with the] story ... [being] told and retold ... each iteration adding or omitting details without anyone bothering to check the facts".
KiMo technician Dennis Potter shows investigator Benjamin Radford the site of a 1951 explosion which spurred a ghost story.
- National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- "New Mexico State and National Registers". New Mexico Historic Preservation Commission. Retrieved 2013-03-13.
- For examples of this style of building, see Marcus Whiffen, Pueblo Deco: The Art Deco Architecture of the Southwest (ISBN 0-8263-0676-4).
- Breeze, Carla, Pueblo Deco, New York: Rizzoli, 1990, p. 54
- Hudnall, Ken & Sharon (2005). Spirits Of The Border IV: The History And Mystery Of New Mexico. Omega Press. p. 68.
- Radford, Ben (2014). "Chapter 1 Phantom Performances at the Haunted KiMo Theater". Mysterious New Mexico. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. pp. 5–30. ISBN 978-0-8263-5450-1.
- Ghosts, Doughnuts, and A Christmas Carol: Investigating New Mexico’s ‘Haunted’ KiMo Theater by Ben Radford on csicop.org
- Radford, Ben. Mysterious New Mexico: Miracles, Magic, and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment. University of New Mexico Press. pp. 5–30. ISBN 978-0-8263-5450-1.
Media related to KiMo Theater at Wikimedia Commons