Richard Toles - Projectionist Dies in Fire

The case of Richard Toles raises almost as many questions today as it did when he died at the beginning of 1949.  The January 22, Niagara Falls Gazette (as it was called back then) describes the situation this way:






Autopsy Reveals Projectionist's

Death Caused By

Shock Due to Burns


Burned on the hands, face and neck last night in a fire in the projection booth at the Capitol Theater, Niagara Street. Richard Toles, 34, of 223 Eighty-fourth street, died at 3:15 a. m. today In Mt. St. Mary's hospital, where he was taken after the fire.

An autopsy, performed this morning, revealed that death was caused by shock due to extensive second and third degree burns 'to face and hands. Coroner Heary said.

Toles, a motion picture operator at the theater, was in the projection booth with another operator. Cecil Tittle, at the time of the fire. Tittle was rewinding a film on a rewinding table when the film suddenly burst into flame.

Administer Oxygen

Tittle pushed the burning film to the floor and ran out of the booth, expecting Toles to follow him. When Toles failed to leave the booth.  Tittle returned and led him outside. Fire department inhalator crew administered oxygen for 25 minutes before Toles was taken to the hospital.

In the meantime, the fire, of undetermined origin, was extinguished by theater employees with a chemical extinguisher after damage of $150 was done.

Funeral Services Planned

The evening performance at the theater had not yet started at the time and the patrons left in an orderly manner. Charles Gulp, manager of the theater, said that the evening performance was cancelled after the fire.

Mr. Toles has resided here approximately 30 years, coming here from his native Hornell, when he was six years old. He was graduated from Niagara Falls high school. During the war he was with the radio division of the Bell Aircraft Corporation.

Surviving are his wife, Ruth; a daughter, Barbara Ann; a son. Richard G, Jr.: a brother, Robert, Buffalo;

His father, David. of Alfred, and an aunt, Mrs. Edwin Barling, this city.

Funeral services will be held at the Cornell and Daggett chapel Monday at 2 p. m. The Rev. Charles C Berryhlll will officiate. Interment will be in the mausoleum at Oakwood cemetery.


Mr Toles was brought to Oakwood, but only temporarily.  He was transferred to his hometown of Hornell, NY a few months after the bizarre incident.  

Richard's story was brought to us by a contractor who had bought the old Capitol Theater and had heard the building was visited by Richard's spirit.  He wanted to allow Richard to have some peace and closure, and tell him it's ok to move on.  The contractor later sold the building, so we never found out if Richard still visits the old theater or not.  Since then, several relatives have turned up seeking out information.  Along with the story, the contractor and family inquiries, Richard Toles makes an interesting Oakwood resident, even though he just visited us for a few months in 1949.