For Bob Kupczyk, it started with a mission to stay overnight at a place he was pretty sure was haunted: the Lancaster Opera House.
So he invited filmmaker Thomas LaChiusa to bring his camera along. They'd been talking about the possibility of a documentary on tales of haunted theaters in Western New York, and what better time to start?
Thomas and his brother Matthew's previous documentary, about the differences between Niagara Falls, N.Y., and its Ontario neighbor, had impressed Kupczyk. So the three joined forces for "Ghostlights: Folklore, Skepticism and Belief," which premieres at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster St., North Tonawanda.
Spirits will be in attendance, guaranteed: There will be a cash bar happy hour prior to the screening.
Theaters included in the film include Shea's Performing Arts Center, the Allendale Theatre, the Town Ballroom, the Lancaster Opera House, and in North Tonawanda, the Riviera Theatre and Ghostlight Theatre, a former church.
"There are a lot of great ghost stories," Kupczyk said.
The film follows teams of explorers looking for signs of the ghosts reputed to lodge in the timeworn spaces.
"We have the one group that centers on psychic impressions," Kupczyk said. "The other group is more of a hard evidence group, looking for footage or electronic voiceprints."
It's isn't a one-sided film, Kupczyk said. Skeptic Joe Nickell from the Center for Inquiry throws a bucket of cold water on the ghost stories by calling them a product of fertile imaginations.
Kupczyk said the film doesn't include ghosts caught on tape, though "they did have a pretty cool experience at the Riviera Theatre," included in the film, he said.
"I don't think we're trying to convert anybody," Kupczyk said. "Actually, the film kind of questions what people believe. It's a thinking-person's film more than a ghost-hunter's film."