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Cinefamily Accountability
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Harkhams’ Haunted Hall of Harassment

Once in a while, the ol’ Google Alert delivers a real gem, like Ethan and Bethanie Newman’s recent podcast about the Silent Movie Theater (starts at 13:15).  After listening to the 20-minute segment, Cinefamily Accountability reached out to the Newmans.  The following has been edited for space and clarity.

You seem to cover a lot of ground—the paranormal, parenting, finance. What’s the elevator pitch for your podcast?

We are just a married couple who enjoy talking.  We do have a few areas of interest, [and] we are specializing in the paranormal because we have had a lot of fun with it thus far.  Bethanie's brother is the founder of 765 Paranormal - which has done numerous investigations at many different locations. We are simply podcasting as a hobby because we have fun with it!


How did you come across the story of the Silent Movie Theater, and what interested you about it?

We are located in Tennessee, and Bethanie and I participated in a paranormal investigation at the Fowler Movie Theater in Fowler, IN.  We wanted to do some research on haunted locations and put together a podcast so we figured, why not look into other movie theaters?  Bethanie had her heart set on the Birdcage Theater in Tombstone. I decided on the Silent Movie Theatre because there was so much to look into, past, present, and future. The story on a man essentially dying because of his love for his hobby - then a man dying at the "third-party" hands of his business partner - and now the theater being shut down to a scandal.


Your “not-so-peaceful history” involves the premature and/or violent deaths of former owners of the Silent Movie Theater.  How did you research the issue?  Did you reach out to the Harkhams?

The power of Google has tremendously helped.  I spent hours researching, trying to find multiple sources "confirming" the stories online.  (Your documentation made your website a reliable source - so a huge thanks on making that part easy.)  Before I knew it, on your site, I was reading and researching more on the scandal than the paranormal, LOL.  I did not reach out to the Harkhams just yet as we were just getting our feet wet with our first paranormal episode, and I intend on doing a follow up-- a much more in-depth episode with testimonials, witnesses, etc.


You suggested the Cinefamily scandal might be traced to the longstanding “bad juju” at the Silent Movie Theater.  Walk us through the connection?

I am actually a very big skeptic, but Bethanie and I agree the “bad juju” associated with the theater could be a potential influencer of recent events, primarily [owing to] the murder that took place. [Former owner] Lawrence Austin is believed to be haunting the movie theater's lobby.  [Austin was murdered in the lobby in 1999.] In the paranormal field, the belief is that Austin’s regular routine caused something called residual energy, which could be strong enough to cause “manifestations.”  Some believe Austin also haunts the projection room—also a plausible occurrence, as his killer was hired by the projectionist. However, this particular energy can be a negative energy—a vengeful spirit.

Also, the negative energy could subconsciously influence someone’s actions: if a negative energy is influencing you, it could lead to you doing something wrong.  However, this is not to justify anyone's actions: even when I am in a bad mood, I still do not mistreat my employees. There is still a strong will involved, and if you are naturally a good person, you typically shouldn't have to worry about negative energy turning you into a bad person... although I believe it could influence an already slightly corrupt person.  If someone is already on the edge of doing wrong, this negative energy could be the final push.


If there is a paranormal connection, what could that mean for the Harkhams’ project to rebrand the Silent Movie Theater?

Regardless of the rebranding, the energy will still be there. If there are indeed spirits there, they will still be there after the rebranding. In our opinion, remodeling and renovating the building will potentially stir up these spirits/energy. If there is an angry spirit, this could lead to mischievous activity - like lights not working, or a hammer being mysteriously misplaced, or equipment not working correctly. Do we think that someone will be harmed because of these drastic changes? Probably not.


Do you have a message for any fellow travelers in the paranormal here in L.A.?

Paranormal groups need to respect the privacy of the theater.  We are very big on respect.  If you are trying to do an investigation, be sure you approach it in the most respectful manner.  As far as the general public, we would recommend going based on the history of the theater - so long as the business owners are doing the right thing.  If anyone has witnessed or experienced any paranormal activity, we recommend folks go to our Facebook page and send us a message.


What informed your conclusion that the Harkhams are “trying to… rebrand themselves [so that] when you look them up, [the Cinefamily scandal is] not the first thing you come across”?  What’s your take on these folks?

I highly believe that they are rebranding due to the scandal.  I've seen it in the past, you google somewhere and there is a HUGE red flag that turns people away instantly.  We have not reached out to them at this time, however.  I hate that they are rebranding it because of the history of the name - as well as the renovation.  We love seeing history preserved.  As far as opinions of Dan or Sammy, we don't want to comment on our opinions.  All we can say is that we hope they are doing the right thing and doing it for the right reasons.