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Investigating a Playhouse Ghost:
What is the Sound of One Ghost Clapping?

The story behind a real-life theatre mystery.

This month’s five-act installment of Prime Stage Mystery Theatre picks up where our previous story left off, with mysterious sounds emanating from somewhere in a theatre building.

But before diving into this new mystery, I had the chance to meet with writer and martial arts enthusiast Michael Brendan and his father (also Michael Brendan) to talk about an encounter with the Pittsburgh Playhouse ghost known as John Johns.

Above: An actor portrays the ghost of John Johns in a still from Point Park University’s mini-documentary Ghost Stories of the Pittsburgh Playhouse.

Michael the Elder’s firsthand accounts of meeting the ghost provide a nice transition from our previous mystery “In the Ghost Light’s Glow” to our new fantasy-based story “The Ælf in the Wardrobe.” Moreover, by engaging in some detective work of their own, the elder Michael and his genealogist wife were able to uncover some surprising details about the mysterious Mr. Johns.

You can learn more about the ghosts of the Pittsburgh Playhouse by checking out some of our previous blog posts, which you will find here and here. And you can listen to our conversation with the Brendans in a special Mystery Theatre supplement here or by clicking the player at the bottom of this page. The following is a transcript of the intro to that interview.

Investigating a Playhouse Ghost

Hello theatre lovers and ghost story fans, and welcome to this special supplement to Prime Stage Mystery Theatre, in which we’ll be discussing a first-hand paranormal encounter at the old Pittsburgh Playhouse and an investigation into the true identity of the ghost known as John Johns.

I’m Lawrence Connolly, writer of Prime Stage Mystery Theatre, and if you found your way here before catching the first installment of our latest mystery, I hope you’ll take a moment to seek it out and add Prime Stage Mystery Theatre to your podcast queue. You’ll find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Libsyn, and others. Or you can also check us out at, where you can learn all about the show and help support the series by becoming a Prime Stage sponsor.

If you’ve already listened to the March 2nd installment of Mystery Theatre, you know it continues an investigation into some mysterious tapping sounds that were introduced in our previous episodes. And you also know that our November mystery “In the Ghost Light’s Glow” included discussions of haunted theatres—most notably the old Pittsburgh Playhouse on Craft Avenue and Hamlet Street.

You can read more about those ghosts at, and it was in response to one of my posts there that fellow writer Michael Brendan submitted an account of a ghost encounter told to him by his father. And since that experience involved a ghost that communicated through tapping and knocking sounds—a form of communication featured in our current mystery—we wanted to hear more.

But first, some introductions.

Michael Brendan the Younger is an IT administrator, martial arts enthusiast, and fantasy writer who earned an MFA from Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction Program—where I had the pleasure of working with him while serving as one of the program’s residency writers. Among Michael’s current projects is a fantasy novel and a martial arts book for writers who want to craft more realistic fighting scenes.

His father, also Michael the Elder, worked as props master at the Pittsburgh Playhouse shortly after it was acquired by Point Park College and served for many years as a voluntary TD at Norwin High School. His wife Donna Jordan is an expert in genealogy, and with her help, he conducted a successful investigation to uncover the true history behind one of the most famous Pittsburgh Playhouse ghosts.

I connected with the Brendans over Zoom in a session which—like many Zoom get-togethers–began rather like a séance, with each of us saying things like “Are you there?” “I hear you now?” “Yes, I think I see you, now.” You know the meme. You’ve seen it before

<<< A version of the Zoom-séance meme from

Fortunately, we managed to establish a connection. Here, then, is that conversation ….

Click here to read the full, edited transcript of my interview with the Brendans, or use the player below and listen to the audio. Either way … I’ll meet you there!

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  1. The cinematography alone draws me in. Thanks for the heads-up on this one, Larry. And best of luck as your…