INSIDE STAGE 28
Built in 1924 for use in 1925’s “The Phantom of the Opera” with Lon Chaney, Stage 28 on the Universal lot has had a role in many films, including “Dracula,” “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” “Torn Curtain,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie” — and 1943’s “Phantom of the Opera.”
The "Phantom stage" as it's so affectionately called, is in my opinion Universal Studios most hallowed ground. It was inside this sound stage that Lon Chaney's Erik terrorized the crowd at the Paris Opera House in the 1925 Universal film "Phantom Of The Opera". What's more remarkable to me than Chaney's performance, is that this sound stage is still standing with most of it's Opera House facade still intact! The infamous chandelier is long gone, with some of it's crystals being distributed among lucky collectors, but you will notice in the following pics that most of the Opera House interior is still very much alive.
One can only dream of Chaney's ghost still haunting the catacombs that lie beneath the Opera House floor. Okay .. maybe there weren't any actual catacombs beneath the sound stage, but this locale is still prime real estate for ghostly apparitions! And what I would give to be able to spend just one night alone inside this sound stage!
Thanks to a good friend who works at Universal Studios, in spring of 2006, I would come close to living this dream. While I wasn't invited to experience an actual sleep over at Stage 28, I was still given a personal tour (sans tourists) inside this remarkable structure of Hollywood history!
The first thing that I noticed was something not too hard to miss, that is unless you are colorblind. The entire Opera House facade had been painted a rusty-color red! Let's call it "crimson red" just like the chilling Masque Of Red Death scene from the 1925 Phantom film!
And finally, and most importantly, my personal tour inside the Phantom Opera House wouldn't be complete without taking home a souvenir. And I ain't talkin' about no t-shirt or coffee mug here! Yes .. that's right, I would dare to anger Erik by taking home with me an actual piece of the Paris Opera House! Yes, go ahead and call the cops on me, but this opportunity only comes around once. I took the hammer out of my duffel bag and started chipping away at the facade like a woodpecker chips on wood! Now before you scream out sacrilege, let me tell you that it didn't happen that way at all. Actually, a small piece of the Opera House facade was dangling by a thread at knee level and I "conveniently" brushed up against it thereby knocking the dime-sized piece to the ground. Like a good steward, I picked up after my mess and off I went feeling as if I had just acquired a piece of Noah's Ark. That small little piece of cinematic history now resides here at Castle Famous, and if you listen in the wee hours of the morning, you can faintly hear the haunting sound of a bellowing pipe organ being played by a deranged composer who hides his face all while seeking revenge for vandalism.