Myths, Urban Legends, and the Truth

The Atlanta Fox, by its nature, is a fantasy world come to life. Along with the visual history, the Fox has also rumors and myths surrounding it.

Myth - The Fox cost over ten million dollars to build. 

Because of the various people and organizations that owned the Fox over the years, plus the circumstances that surround its construction, we will never know the exact figure of what it cost in the twenties to build it. The best estimates however put that figure around two to three million dollars as they were valued back in the 1920s. In 2013, it has been estimated it would cost over 200 million dollars to rebuild the structure. 

True - The Fox has catacombs

Because of its immense size, the lower levels of the building have been referred to as catacombs. In the traditional sense, they are not true catacombs, but the hallways and service ways are such that it wasn't out of the norm for people who were at the Fox that were not staff, did get "lost", some o fthem for hours! When the Metropolitan Opera visited the Fox, names of New York streets were written on the walls so opera members could navigate more easily. However, because of the overall themes of the Fox harkening back to antiiquity, the lower levels are humorously referred to as the catacombs. 

Myth - There is a secret passageway from the Fox to the Georgian Terrace located across Peachtree Street from the Fox that allow stars and celebrities to get from one building to the other underground. 

While there are openings for pipes with very little wiggle room so a person could crawl in for repairs or inspection that lead under Peachtree Street, there is no passageway or tunnel that connects the two buildings.

True - During performances of the New York Metropolitan Opera at the Fox. a red carpet was laid across Peachtree Street to the Georgian Terrace where people could enjoy alcoholic beverages during intermissions.

While I do not know exactly when it was done, a red carpet was rolled out over Peachtree Street during the week-long engagements of the New York Metropolitan Opera that were an annual rite of Atlanta's Society Elite between 1947 and 1968. Prior to the Fox being owned by Atlanta Landmarks, the Fox did not have a liquor license, so it could not serve nor allow "spirited beverges" in the premises. These types of drinks had to be bought elsewhere and the most fitting location was at the bar directly across the street in the Georgian Terrace. Amazingly, patrons were allowed to leave the building and return, at during intermission.

Myth - There is stolen "treasure" still in catacombs of the Fox. 

The legend has it that in the fifties, a local jewelry store was held up and the robber made his escape to the basement of the Fox. He gained access by the only window on the lower level located near the Ponce side of the building on the rear wall. The story claims the robber got lost in the bowels of the theatre and was discovered a week after the robbery. The story continues to say when the thief was caught inside the Fox, he did not have the jewels on him and they were never found. 

Fudged Truth - There has been talk of both a bowling alley and a pistol range downstairs in the Fox. 

This is both true and false. Just off of the room that holds the Fox's massive furnaces, there is a long passageway that leads to a secondary room. It is my understanding that originally, the room was used to hold coal for furnaces. When the furnaces were eventually converted to use natural gas and coal was no longer needed. The room is now used as a plasterwork shop. This hallway that connects the two rooms was long and has been used as a bowling lane. On the facing wall of that room, there was a painted shooting target on the wall and there are marks on the wall from where I presume that bullets impacted and chipped the brickwork. Both these activities were done for fun at some point in time and there are no purpose-built rooms for either sport.

True - Someone is interred at the Fox. 

As remarkable as this may sound, this is something that happened in recent times! When long time Fox Theatre patron and house organist of over 25 years, Bob Van Camp died, he was crematated. His ashes were brought to the Fox where Joe Patten and Bob Foreman, both longtime friends of Mr. Van Camp, scattered his ashes in the ceiling above and between the organ chambers.

True - Someone died in the Fox. 

Looking at archived reports, one of the managers of the Fox during the 1940s, when the Fox was only showing movies, the theater manager lived in the building on the 4th floor of the dressing room area with a girlfriend. One day, she was found dead where they lived. It was determined she died of either natural causes or by accident, it was not ruled a murder.

True - The Fox is haunted

It is said that since the death of manager's girlfriend, the backstage elevator can unexpectedly and unexplainably develops a mind of its own and will often take its occupants to the 4th floor instead of the floor they wanted to go to. There are also a number of accounts of visions of aparitions and odd paranormal experiences in the complex. The most common being lights suddenly turning on and off by themselves.

True -
People mistake the auditorium ceiling as the real sky.

The outdoor night time effect in the auditorium is so realistic that an orchestra conductor, appearing at the Fox for the first time, looked up briefly from his podium and thought he was performing in an amphitheatre.

True - The stars depict actual constellations.

While no one has pointed out actual constellations in the ceiling, I am told the stars are in a "correct alignment" if you were in the Middel East region of the world in the 1920s. Of course the Earth as well as our Solar System are in constant motion, so I would imagine that alignment has changed over the years. 

True - The clouds move and the stars twinkle. 

The stars are fixed in the ceiling. There are small cut-outs in the ceiling where a small crystal is inserted. A lamp is positioned over the crystal on the other side of the ceiling that contains a ten watt light bulb. On some of the star's lights, a coin-sized insert is placed between the bulb and its light fixture that originally was designed for Christmas lights. It heats up and once it gets to a set temperature, the connection to power is cut and the light turns off. When the device cools, the connection is re-established and the light comes back on. For this use, it comes on and off rather quickly, in a matter of seconds. 

The clouds are painted on a reflected disc, the original was made of Mica. This is placed in a projection device called Brenograph Junior and projected from above the large tent canopy over the balcony onto the blue sky. I am told it takes 90 minutes for the round disc to complete one rotation.

Fudged Truth - The Fox Theatre was going to be rennovated, the auditorium divided into multiple sections, and made into a multi-plex cinema. 

It has never been seriously considered to cut the Fox's auditorium up into multiple movie auditoriums like other movie houses were in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There was some thought given to opening a second "mini" theater downstairs in the first level of the basement. 

At the time the Fox was designed and construction started, talking pictures had yet to appear and silent movies ruled. There is an area that was designated to be a small screening room located below the main auditorium on the Ponce deLeon side of the building. The room was to be used by the organist and/or an orchestra to be able to practice to new films without requiring the use of the main auditorium. It was insulated enough from the main room that practice could take place while performances were in progress upstairs. It also had a projection room, but equipment was never installed in it, complete with the needed holes in the wall for the projectors to throw an image to the other side of the room.

During the sixties, it was briefly thought that the room was big enough for a small theater that could seat 100-200 people. An entrance would have been installed on the Ponce side of the building that would have lead down to the room. It was finally decided that the estimated construction cost would be more than any revenue the mini theater would make.  The screening room was used as a staging area for all the furniture restoration work. In the 1980s, The projection room housed the theatre's popcorn machines where tons of popcorn was been made prior to events.

There was a planned project to perform a major renovation to the auditorium area in the 1940s, but it was never attempted due to lack of funding. In 1953, the auditorium was revised with new seats in the orchestra level, multi-channel speakers, and a large CinemaScope projection screen.

Myth - There is breakfast cereal in the plaster of the auditorium. 

This was long time myth that got even me as I repeatedly told it for decades! The story is that the plasterworkers used Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes to add texture to the plaster to make it look different in places. I felt I had found places in the plaster that resembled whole corn flakes in the 70s, but each one was eventually chipped off the wall by people for some reason or another. Restoration Director Rick Flinn talks about this in his on-camera interview in "The Fabulous Fox" and say that during his time there and extensive research, he can't find any evidence of breakfast cereals being used in the plaster.

True - Buttermilk was used to paint the sky ceiling in the Fox.

In the 1920s, it was a time before latex paint had been invented, The painters used fresh buttermilk as a binding agent along with ultramarine pigment to paint the blue sky of the auditorium. Each morning, someone would stop by Atlanta Dairies on the way to the Fox to buy a couple bottles of buttermilk for the day's work.

True - There is a fully equipped hospital at the Fox. 

At the time the Fox was constructed, the medical station at the Fox was termed a hospital. It is located off the staircase that leads down to the main lounges. For the day, it was pretty well outfitted with relatively modern medical technology. It was manned by a registered medical nurse and what could be done in the hospital compared favorably to a hospital emergency room of that era. At that time, there were no hospitals in close proximity to the Fox and people who were in need had to be stabilized in order to make the trip to a real hospital. It did not have X-ray equipment nor what it needed to make casts for broken bones, but I do believe while it has not been documented it is contended that it easily cared for a woman that was in childbirth. The baby was delivered and both it and its mother were then transferred to a hospital. 

As we have made great advances in medical technology, the hospital station today compares more like a modern first-aid station.  Now with Emory Midtown (Crawford Long) Hospital just few blocks away from the Fox and the advent of mobile paramedics, the hospital was shut down. Today it is used as a storage closet although the door still bears the hospital wording. 

Myth - The gold on the decorative molding is 14-karat leaf.

While a lot of ornate decorations adorn the building, no precious metals such as gold or silver were used on any of the wall appointments. Master craftsmen used cheap metal leaf to cover plaster, and then coated the leaf in a tint that gives it the look of real gold or silver. In the same vein, all the wooden appointments are also plaster. The wooden ceiling beams were cast on the floor in molds and once they were dry, they were lifted into position and then painted to look like real wood.

True - The rugs that are in place hanging over the proscenium arch are there to conceal holes that were used for speakers.
Originally, there were no speakers located in or on the proscenium arch. When a new audio system was installed in the Fox during the late 1990s, a pair were installed on the walls of the archway. Old middle eastern looking rugs were hung on the arch to conceal the speakers and additional rugs were added to give the appearance of many rugs being hung out to be cleaned since this was a common practice in the middle east. 

I remember reading in the Atlanta Journal about this in order to improve the acoustics of the auditorium, but John McCall told me that is not true either. To my surprise, John told me that this was replicating what William Fox's wife, Eve Leo Fox, did as part of her personal direction of the appointments and interior decoration of the building. This surprised me because of discovering from Rick Flinn that Eve Fox's involvement with the Fox's interior was a myth. Nevertheless, John claims to have photographs dating back to 1929 of the auditorium with carpets in the same location that I ahve not seen. 

True - There is a broadcasting studio and a recording studio inside the Fox. 
Over the years, a lot of shows were broadcast from the Fox Theatre. There is a single room on the top seventh floor above the dressing rooms that was used for both broadcast and recording. . In the later part of the 20th Century, the broadcast and recording equipment became totally outdated and was removed from the room before Atlanta Landmarks aquired the Fox. Today the room has a large glass window that looks down on the sixth floor rehearsal area. 

True - There are people that live at the Fox.
in the 1940s, a Black man that was called Roosevelt took up residence in the lower regions of the Fox where there are over 60 rooms that are largely unused. He set up one of those rooms as an apartment and he lived there until he died in the 1990s. In 1980, Joe Patten, who was respeonsible for restoring the Fox's Moller Organ and was the Technical Director for Atlanta Landmarks and the Fox was living in College Park. Because he was spending so much time at the Fox, he began to look to move closer to the Fox. The Fox's Insurer said that if there was someone in the building 24/7, that would give the Fox a reduced insurance fee. Atlanta Landmarks, largely because of Joe's love of the Fox and to help get the lower insurance cost, offered Joe the old Potentate and Recorder's office located next to the Grand Salon for a lifetime residence. The only stipulation was that Joe bear the cost of its conversion. Joe accepted and spent over $50,000 to create his apartment that he still lives in today. 

I have also heard tales of people that lived in the unused dressing rooms in the 1940s and I have friend that says she lived in Bay Nine with her boyfriend in the late 1960s/early 1970s. These stories appear to be true.

Myth - A child was decapitated when the organ was lowered. 

This is the lates myth I have heard. There is no record of anyone, much less a child being decapitated when the organ was lowered . One the auditorium facing portion of the organ's lift, there is a hard  valence that extends below the partition that separated the auditorium from the orchsetra pit. The only exposed portions of the organ lift where someone could potentially  get under the life would be on its stage facing side should it be risen up that hig (which is very rare) and on the orchestra pit side when the pit is positioned lower than the organ. These areas are off-limits to patrons. While there have been deaths at the Fox due to natural causes, there have never been any accidents so terrible it took a life. 

Things I have heard that are simply not true

In researching the information I present on this website, I have come across several items that dispute the information I have been told about the Fox, going all the way back to 1976. In October 2004, I returned to the Fox to photograph the Fox using my digital camera. While on the tour, the Atlanta Preservation Center tour guide presented several items as fact that I from my experiences questioned or knew from first-hand knowledge they were inaccurate. This section of this page is where I will present the inaccuracies I know are inaccurate and yet for some reason, they continue to be told as truth. 

Eve Fox's  Grand Middle-Eastern Shopping Spree.
This is a myth that probably goes back to before the Atlanta Fox opened and was a part of a big promotional campaign to make the Fox appear even more spectacular. The myth is Eve Fox, who had an interest in Interior Decorating, took personal charge of decorating the interior of the Atlanta Fox. She reportedly traveled to the Middle East to get design inspiration by collecting sketches, fabric samples, and photographs. Upon her return to the United States, she went to Chicago to a big furniture maker where the appointments for the Fox were custom made for the theater. 

According to the Atlanta Fox's Restoration Director, Rick Flinn, there was absolutely no truth to the rumor. The truth is the majority of the furnishings for the Fox came out of a catalog from a big theater supply chain. Even the grand wall reliefs of an Egyptian Pharoh and his Queen in the anti-chamber of the Mezzanine Women's Lounge came out of a catalog. The proof of this is  that there are many furnishings in the Atlanta, St. Louis, and Detriot Fox Theatres that are identical to each other. The only difference is the type of upholstery used which made the furniture unique. Even the chandeliers in the Atlanta Fox's auditorium are similar as the ones used in the Detroit Fox.

Furthermore, there is nothing in the historical record that notes that William or Eve Fox ever visited Atlanta to see the theater that bears his name. William Fox was a multi-millionaire in control of a massive empire. Had he come to Atlanta, it would have been a huge bit of news for the social scene of the local rich and famous. The same would have been true had Eve Fox come to Atlanta on her own. The one thing I will say could have been possible was that Eve may have visited the middle east and gave input to the furniture maker as to how to upholster some of the items that went to the Atlanta Fox.

One final tidbit to consider is that the entire building was furnished at one time. This includes the Yaarab Temple Mosque areas. I highly doubt that an Atlanta men's club would allow the wife of a movie mogul to decorate their Mosque.

The Grand Salon once had wood paneling installed and a drop ceiling put in place under the faux wood beams when it was used as the corporate offices of the Georgia Theatre Company.
This type of make-over never happened in the Grand Salon although the room was used as the offices for the Georgia Theater Company along with the Spanish Room on the other side of the Arcade. John McCall verifies my remembrance that the paneling was only installed in one place, along with a drop-ceiling and cheap carpeting. That location was the entranceway of the Spanish Room. I know about that installation very well as I was the one that used a back hoe to scrape the glue and foam backing of that terribly cheap carpeting off the tile floor of that area. I worked in that area for many hours as it was very hard work!

It is true the original chandeliers and the stained-glass skylight were removed in an effort to make the room more utilitarian in nature. The chandeliers were lost, but the skylight is the original item. 

The original seats in the balcony have been replaced.
Replacing seats is a big expensive ordeal and the original balcony seats have never been replaced. In 1953, the orchestra level seats were replaced with much larger, wider seats that reduced the seating capacity by 500. Because of the steep incline of the balcony, it would have been too expensive to replace with similar seats.

When the larger seats were replaced in the 1980s with exact replicas of the originals. I was in the Fox several times while the building was closed for a month's time to the public while the orchestra level seats were replaced. All of the replacment work was done on the orchestra level. The floor had to be partially removed and reformed so the seats would be in the correct position on the floor, which is why the Fox was shut down for so long. I do remember the upstairs seats were reupholstered and new padding installed to match the new appearance of the new seats. I watched some of the work that was done as people would work on one section of seats at a time, dismantling the seat bottom and backs, removing the old fabric and padding, then fitting the new material to the seat. Because it was very labor intensive, it took quite some time to replace the upholstry on every seat.

In 1978, the Fox purchased some rows of seating from the Loew's Grand prior to its demolition. 52 seats were added to the very rear of the Gallery seating and can easily be distinguished from the original seats by their location and their non-ornate steel end caps instead of the ornate cast iron end caps used on all the other seats in the Fox. Since that time, more seats were added to further expand the Fox's seating compliment. There seat could readily be identified by their plain metal sides.

The pattern on the upholstery of the auditorium seats had to be carefully researched for it to match the original pattern. Fortunately, pieces of the original material survived in fragments inside the balcony seats that was sufficient to replicate the pattern.
This is utterly false as the balcony seats still had their 1929 upholstery on them, albeit in rough condition and in need of replacement. 

With that said, other pieces of furniture in the Fox has been reupholstered over the years and the preservation staff of the Fox has had to do extensive research in order to return the furniture to a condition as close to its 1929 state as possible. This was done with the aid of black and white photos taken just prior to the opening of the building. Some of this furniture had been previously reupholstered over the years.  When it was take apart after the Fox was saved, fragments of the original upholstery was found inside some of the furniture. Other deductions about upholstery were based on the other items in the same room such as other furniture, wall paint, and carpeting. 

Over the years the Fox has gained a few furniture pieces that were originally in other Atlanta theaters. When those items were restored, the environment they were going to be put in along with any existing upholstered furninture for that area influenced how the piece was restored. 

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