Lens on Detroit: Exploring the old Theatre Bizarre site

Theatre Bizarre

Note: Some of the Theatre Bizarre remains are on private property, and you must gain permission to enter. 

Before the Halloween masquerade Theatre Bizarre was held at the Masonic Temple, more than 2,000 people converged on a swath of vacant lots, contiguous alleys and the backyards of houses just south of the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit for the annual “underground” bash.

That was until the city shut down the 11-year-old event for alleged ordinance violations in October 2010.

Many of the Theatre Bizarre’s carnival-like remains are still on the blighted block. It’s a creepily fitting setting since the masquerade was a replica of an abandoned amusement park.

The Theatre Bizarre is scheduled for Oct. 16 and 17 this year.

Theatre Bizarre
All photos by Steve Neavling

Theatre Bizarre

Theatre Bizarre

Theatre Bizarre

Theatre Bizarre

Theatre Bizarre

Theatre Bizarre

Theatre Bizarre

Theatre Bizarre

Theatre Bizarre

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • bebow

    Is New Detroit planning to gentrify the area and whatnot? It seems the colonials are on a mission.

    • Grey Ghost

      It’s too close to the future Applebee’s for New Detroit to care about.

      • bebow

        LOL

  • Tara Anna

    This silly because you needed write an artical about an abandon property, yet in actuality your making an ass out of yourself Steve because your claims are untrue. I haven’t had the pleasure to be around when theater bizzare was on the grounds. But I do know for a fact that people still live there, and I know you probably wouldn’t like if people came onto your property to take pictures and write an article about stuff they think is true about the property. You’ve obviously made people feel uncomfortable, and seriously if u to be a good journalist, and claim your title to be true. Id prepare my story a lot better than how you pieced this together.. you believe everything you read on internet, and this how you write a story? Sorry but I cant say this story is uncovering the corruption its showing yours. What is your motive? You comitted an illegal act and your gonna put yourself on blast like this, lol.. good luck with all that.

    • muckraker_steve

      I didn’t put a carnival in vacant and city-owned lots. Nor did I ever invite 2,500 people to “trespass” while charging them money.

  • JoshMc

    So this guy’s business model seems to be create drama where there is none. Even if it means risking the safety of people be it the people who live there and the people who try to visit without permission (wandering into other backyards is bad idea and if the dogs are out it is a real bad idea). So I would suggest rather than trying to talk sense into him – block him, block this site, IT folks blacklist it at your works, and suggest others do to because Detroit doesn’t need made up drama. Let the dollar for ad of this click bait dry up. If you want to visit the ground there is many great people that would love to share it history and maybe a tour if you ask.

  • JOHN b

    “Most of it is either getting foreclosed or is owned by the taxpayers.”

    Please – cite actual proof of these claims. I can clearly see in the background of your photos 3 separate currently occupied residences for which I know the title is owned free and clear and the property taxes are up to date. I call bullshit.

    Count yourself lucky that you were not arrested for trespassing. Then again, it’s not too late for one of the residents to file a police report, since you’ve provided more than adequate proof.
    *hint* *hint*

  • Casey Miller

    I hear there is some really interesting stuff in this guys backyard. Let’s all go there.

    • JOHN b

      Just in case anyone wants to go visit HIS backyard, since he’s so keen on giving directions to other people’s backyards:

      http://www.zabasearch.com/people/steve+m+neavling/detroit+mi/1500864530

      • muckraker_steve

        You are only two houses behind my current one. Keep trying.

    • Diabolical Focker

      This sounds like a great event. Let’s do that, and then be all snotty when he tries to act like he has superior rights to everyone else.

      • muckraker_steve

        Stop on over.

    • Shatner

      isnt that exactly what hipsters do at the packard every single day?

  • A Owen Layne

    As someone who has done many offsite shoots, you don’t go and encroach someone’s personal property like this without permission. You’re engaging in a public blog article as if you had their ok, or didn’t even need it. It is not an elephant graveyard for anyone to enter and document. It’s a private set of residences. If you knew the TB people and how communal and approachable they are, then perhaps you would’ve made a friend or two who would’ve got you in the proper way.

  • Anny

    This area isn’t abandoned, there are many people who live in these houses, and you just trespassed in their private backyard. Not cool.

  • I had the honor & delight of performing on the old Theatre Bizarre stage in 2006, when it WAS still an active performance space…although it is no longer “open” as a showplace NOW, it IS STILL HOME to several wonderful people; it is NOT ABANDONED. Please do not “visit” the property without PERMISSION from the RESIDENTS. <3

  • Casey Miller

    to all of our camera friends that wonder why we are so strict, i give you exhibit Q40.

  • Casey Miller

    don’t go there…ever.

  • 7milesurprise

    You call yourself a journalist? Who did zero research before trespassing in peoples backyards? How are you improving life in the D again? By reporting Dan Gilbert’s cameras, fires and calling a beautiful art installation that was owned and curated by world renowned artists “abandoned”?! You’re trash, and should take a little more precaution before creeping around people’s property in your ruin porn filled existence.

    • muckraker_steve

      Ironic statement since my research shows most of this property is owned by taxpayers or is getting foreclosed this year. This is just another silly statement.

      • ogre

        “This year” not “last year.” This difference is huge.

  • Binthed

    While the interest is always appreciated, this is our private property & our friends reside here. Please respect that. If you would like to stop by or take any photos in the future, please contact Ken Poirier beforehand. Thank you again & we hope you enjoy the most spectacular party there is, also known as Theatre Bizarre, at the Masonic Temple this year!

    • muckraker_steve

      Most of that property is not yours. It is getting foreclosed and much of it is owned by the city. I love when people just claim property in Detroit.

      • ogre

        “Most… much…” (along with apparently and might) these are the words people use when trying to be truthful to themselves; justifying a lie or half truth.

        • ogre

          I also really like that binthed was trying to give you a way to do this again but better, and you just come off as a giant asshole.

          • Shatner

            Ogre, steve would appear not to give any fucks about your opinion, and why do you read his stuff anyhow if you dont like it? Strange.

      • Fontzepontze

        Well, I guess you just committed a “little” and “some” illegal trespassing by your brilliant admission of guilt, I mean, argument.

        Perhaps if you were “a little shot” in “some” of your ass all parties could have walked away justified with this hypothetical little transaction.

      • 16seconds

        Why are you being such an ass? I usually respect you and lot and feel you contribute well to the information sphere but your just being extremelly defensive today. He was basically inviting you to come back and do it properly.

        • Daniel David

          He stepped out of line on this article, apparently, and is getting attacked by everyone.

  • skywench

    This is not abandoned! Please dont trespass. This is a network of backyards of neighbors. Its private property. Steve you were walking around in peoples yards. Its obvious when your there.The homes are right there. Boo on this article and your shoddy uninformed stories.

    • muckraker_steve

      Trespass? Most of the property is either getting foreclosed or is owned by the city. Nice try.

      • ogre

        “Most” not “All.” The difference is huge. Nice click-grab, your high school journalism teacher must have given you an B.

        The pics are nice though.

        And that Ford truck you took a picture of is obviously someone’s. Is that getting foreclosed on?

        • muckraker_steve

          You got a comma splice there.

          • ogre

            You come back with a grammar attack? Really? Ok, cool.
            Here, let me help with your photography. I’ve some constructive criticism for you.
            This work is trite. You got trite from T.B. grounds. How? The only way this is possible, is to not give any fucks. It seems everyone’s feeling the same way about your investigative journalism.

            Moral of this story, give fucks and fucks will be given.

          • bebow

            Everyone isn’t feeling the same way about Steve’s investigative journalism, just you and your colonial friends, who all work, buzz, and boost together.

          • ogre

            Colonial? You must not know us.

          • bebow

            Yes, colonial.

      • Fontzepontze

        I personally know people who live on these properties. Rightfully. Lawfully. You’d be well served to knock before you jump a fence, you might get what rightfully, and lawfully, happens to trespassers.

        I usually enjoy your posts, Stee, but you’re being ignorant and arrogant.

        • muckraker_steve

          Let me get this straight. Someone erects an illegal carnival across vacant lots and city-owned property and I’m the arrogant one? If you don’t want people near your house, pick up the illegal debris.

          • Shatner

            these complainers are babies, I have never seen such passion over something so petty. Oh maybe this internet dress color thing.

  • Rena L. Hopkins

    Ummm…these are on private property in people’s yards. This is a blighted area, but it isn’t uninhabited. I wouldn’t go exploring in someone’s back yard without prior permission. It’s called trespassing, and generally unappreciated.

  • John Golembiewski

    Where exactly are these buildings?

    • muckraker_steve

      Bauman and Adeline.

      • John Golembiewski

        Steve, TXS that’s right on the corner but Google maps show very little there anymore. My brother tells me it used to be a hoot. Also advises stay out of area:)

        • ogre

          John, if you go, go knock on one of the houses. These people are awesome, let them show you around.

          • John Golembiewski

            Are these displays spread through several yards? It’s hard to imagine that there are new homes just blocks down the street but, they are there.

      • ogre

        … I just realized your screen name speaks bounds about you.

      • Casey Miller

        why are you telling people to come to my backyard?

        • muckraker_steve

          Your backyard? You sound like the Heidelberg people. You can’t illegal scatter decaying debris across Detroit like you own it and then claim the land. There are parcels that are owned by the public. I will draw a map so people can understand that you don’t own most of this property.

          • Casey Miller

            I rent a space here as do several other people. The houses that are inhabited are all bought and paid for. You took pictures from my porch. Why is it hard for you to understand that we don’t want random people wondering through our yards?

          • muckraker_steve

            I don’t find it hard to understand your concerns when you speak in a less offensive way. If you are capable of doing that, let’s have a conversation. The wording has been changed in the story and headline to address your concerns. But for whatever reason, this clique seems bent on threatening me with violence. I will deal with that before the issue of trespassing. Also, this is where a bulk of the debris is: https://whydontweownthis.com/sc/mi/wayne/detroit/25823. It’s public property. And are you aware of the irony of threatening someone for trespassing while at one time charging people to trespass for an overpriced event?

          • Casey Miller

            I don’t see what I said that was offensive. Also, that address that isn’t owned is maybe 1/10th of the grounds are contains not a single thing that you shot for your piece. That said, I don’t feel like continuing a conversation with you about this.

          • Casey Miller

            also, out of all of the sub-cultures in this city to piss off….

      • JOHN b

        In case anyone wants to go visit HIS backyard, since he’s so keen on giving directions to other people’s backyards:

        http://www.zabasearch.com/people/steve+m+neavling/detroit+mi/1500864530

  • nolimitdetroiter

    Isn’t it so strange what “ordinances” our city government chooses to enforce.
    the sidewalks aren’t shoveled, the buses have no schedules, nothing much works as it should. And yet, they find time to shut something like this down.

    • RedVagOfCourage

      Its all about who you know. Ford Field could be demo’d tomorrow on your word if you had the right connections in this town.

      Problem is, to get the trash picked up, the cops to show up, and the abandoned property next to you demo’d,. it takes the same level of connections.

      • Harry Palmer

        The rumor I heard was that the party got a little too “above ground”, with local press coverage and everything. the club owners in Detroit cried “foul” being they have to pay big $$$ licensing fees to run their clubs, and that’s why the city was forced to come down on TB. Sounds very likely to me. When I first saw the place I was amazed by it, it was in the middle of a (albeit spotty) neighborhood,but that wouldn’t have lasted 15 minutes in the ‘burbs

  • Harry Palmer

    Glad I was able to see this place before it was shuttered, if you missed it, you missed a unique, “very Detroit” experience…

    • marshall

      Where is it? I would love to shoot some black and white film of the site before it goes away.

      • gault_timothy

        Adjacent to the old Michigan State Fairgrounds.

        • disqus_GxFSMhn70a

          Between State Fair and Adeline by Bauman.

      • Harry Palmer

        yes, State Fair east of Woodward. Don’t know how much is left standing, but may be worth checking into.

      • Dvs

        Ask permission from the property owners that still live there first.

        • muckraker_steve

          Most of it is either getting foreclosed or is owned by the taxpayers.

          • Dvs

            Please correct me if I am wrong, but is there not a major legal difference between “is getting” and actually foreclosed? And even if foreclosed, is it not still trespassing? I ask because I’d hate to see the salivating novice ruin pornographers here run into a legal or life threatening situation.

          • Matthew Gantz

            You keep reiterating the same factless statement expecting people to believe your word as truth. You have consistently shown your credbility as a journalist is worthless. You own the title of “muckracker” a name describing politicians covered by yellow journalust that led to oppression and death. Nice name. I hear by rename you Motor City Douchebag.

          • ogre

            Lol you’re like good with debating stuff or something. Mostly “or something.”

          • Fontzepontze

            You’d better retract these statements lest you get fucking punched in your smug little face, Steve.

      • JoshMc

        I would suggest you contact somebody at Theatre Bizarre that might be able to help you.