The operatic spirit really existed. He was not, as has long been believed, a creature of the imagination of the artists, the superstition of the managers, or a product of the absurd and impressionable minds of the young ballet ladies, their mothers, the box attendants, the cloakroom attendants, or the concierge. Yes, he existed in flesh and blood, though he took on the full appearance of a real phantom; that is, from a devious theater technician.
The phantom of the fox lurked in Atlanta’s Fox Theater for decades. But this phantom did not kidnap virgins or play its roaring melodies like a tail into the night; he just repaired organs. Organ enthusiast Joe Patten, born three years before it opened, became the savior of the Fox Theater by repairing his Mighty Mo, the world’s second largest organ, which had been broken for 15 years. After that, he became a staple of the theater, spending all of his free time servicing his massive instruments, moving like a ghost through the labyrinthine corridors, and often terrifying people by appearing from abbreviations known only to him.
In return, the fox finally made Patten his technical director and let him live there rent-free since he “spent 16 hours a day in the theater anyway”. The Phantom chose a row of abandoned offices for its hiding place, which it converted into a 3,000-square-foot luxury apartment. Through a gate with a hidden lock that only a password could open, several winding steps led just Patten to a Moorish Rococo residence that would have fit perfectly into a Gaston Leroux novel. (This blog has a wonderful photo gallery the apartment in all its theatrical splendor). There was even a swivel bookcase that led to a secret closet – in case he ever needed a place to store billowing cloaks and sinister half masks.