Ghost Stories from our Haunted Theatres
Since theatre began, staff working at theatre venues have unwillingly witnessed a disturbing amount of weird paranormal activity. We take a look at ghost stories from some of our most haunted theatres, from Brighton's Theatre Royal, Bromley's Churchill Theatre, Glasgow's King's Theatre, The Liverpool Empire, Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre, Oxford's New Theatre, Stoke's Victoria Hall, Richmond Theatre, and The Edinburgh Playhouse to New Wimbledon Theatre - just click on the links to whizz down to that theatre's ghost story and find out spooky secrets you never knew. Light a candle, grab a cuppa and be prepared for the fright of your life!
Theatre Royal Brighton's ghost story
One dark and spooky night at the Theatre Royal Brighton, a dear member of the technical team was doing his usual evening lockup around the dimmed backstage area. As he finished his checks near the stage he glanced over his shoulder towards the ramp leading to the darkened stage and saw the figure of a young girl. He called to her to inform her that the theatre was closed and she had to leave. She grimmaced at the technician, giggled softly and ran into the darkness of the stage. Our technician chased after her but she was never found. Sometimes that soft giggle is still heard high above in the rafters.
Churchill Theatre Bromley's ghost story
In 1979 the theatre's photographer was commissioned to take some photos of the auditorium. He arrived early and unlocked the auditorium himself and turned on some lights. Some of the front seats had been removed to make space for BBC television cameras. When he developed his film he found a ghostly figure of a man who appeared to be shining a torch where the empty seats were (roughly around seats B7-8).
A past theatre critic, who reviewed shows while the theatre was still called New Theatre, also reported that on several occasions he had also seen a figure of a man standing in front of seat B8, but that this unknown man disappeared when he turned to get a better view of him. Does the New Theatre's ghost still tread the boards of the new Churchill Theatre that stands in the New Theatre's stead?
King's Theatre Glasgow's ghost story
The Dressing room corridor on the top floor is said to be haunted by the Grey Lady. Another ghost is said to tip seats up and down in the Gallery! If you hear the rattling of seats being upturned, then run for the Scottish Highlands!
Liverpool Empire's ghost stories
A little girl with blond hair aged between 8-12 years old, in Victorian dress has been seen many times at the back of the stalls or in the stalls bar. She is often crying, but if approached or spoken to she disappears. Sometimes she is seen being taken away by a tall man with dark glasses or no eyes. Both disappear when they are approached. They are usually seen late at night after the show has ended, as the theatre being locked up. Legend has it that the little girl died falling from the circle to the stalls, but there is no documentary evidence to prove that.
In the old dressing room S (stage right), a number of people reported seeing a black shape or phantom in the mirror when the door was opened. However, when you turned around to look, there was nothing there. The Black Phantom has had a very sinister presence, and lots of people used to refuse to go up there alone. However, dressing room S is now part of the large wardrobe on stage right and the Phantom has not been seen since the refurbishment.
New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham's ghost story
Former Manger Derek Salberg, who died in his office at the theatre, is said to haunt the theatre. Strange occurrences such as knocking on the door and print being knocked over have happened in the Salberg Suite, which was his office.
The ghost of a cleaning lady has often been seen sitting in the grand circle and walking up and down the stairs and in the auditorium.
New Theatre Oxford's ghost story
A ghostly figure has been seen in the backstage Dressing Room corridor, and members of staff have heard their names called in the auditorium when there has been no-one else in the building...
Given that the dressing rooms at The Victoria Hall used to be police cells, ghost stories are rife in the venue. Rumour has it that one of the dressing rooms is haunted by the ghost of a little girl. The funny thing is, every psychic medium that has been to the venue (including some famous names) have reported seeing something, or feeling a presence - in the same dressing room, every time...
Richmond Theatre's ghost story
The following story has been investigated by our Press & Marketing Assistant, Jack Stanley.
Richmond Theatre has a long and terrifying history of ghosts, probably more so than in any other ATG venue. But there is one story that haunts the memory of Richmond staff more than most.
Several people, including Richmond's current General Manager Kate Wrightson, have felt someone walking behind them when going up the stairs that lead to the oldest parts of the original theatre. It is here, where the print stores are currently found, that a plaque remains for a man who died at the theatre many decades ago.
Little is known about what caused his death, but reports of related disturbances and strange occurrences here and in the sub-stage have been documented as far back as the 1960s. Staff have come down to the two print stores to find that boxes of flyers and other materials have been switched between the two rooms, even though the doors had been locked up and the keys returned to the box office for the evening. Actors in the dressing rooms above the sub-stage area would claim doors were being slammed post-performances as the theatre was locked up, although no member of staff was in the print store area at the time. One box office assistant spoke of reaching the bottom of the same stairs, only to hear them creaking and groaning with the weight of a person who was simply not there. When the last step had creaked - at the point where the assistant stood - they then felt a sharp chill run down their body as if something was passing through them.
These small incidents have naturally unnerved those working at the theatre, but they didn't see them as connected until a particularly disturbing incident one autumn evening in the late 80s.
One of the theatre administrators was covering stage door while the theatre was dark. Being one of the only members of staff left in the building, they were just packing up to leave when a scratching could be heard on the tannoy.
Assuming this was nothing more than interference with the tannoy system, the staff member left it and the scratching soon stopped. A few minutes later, as the staff member was about to leave out through stage door, the scratching started again but this time the sound was more purposeful, as if someone was running their nails down a piece of wood.
The staff member decided to check back on stage to see what it was, but as they walked through the corridor towards the stage left entrance, they heard the scratching again. This time, however, the sound was coming from a different source - the bottom of the stairs that lead to the sub-stage.
Investigating further, they walked down into the corridor with the print stores and saw a door was open. Walking inside, the staff member turned on the light - to hear the sound of a box being scratched, the sight of nail marks being made on the cardboard, but no one there to make them. The light bulb was then said to have blown and in that moment, the scratching gave way to the sound of the cardboard tearing and through the darkness, the staff member could just about make out a man with his extended arm pulling at the boxes on the top shelf. The terrified staff member ran out just as one of those boxes fell, spilling its contents all over the print store floor behind them.
The next day, the staff member reported what had happened but refused to go back down to recreate what they saw. One of the box office staff ventured down instead, and found the door open. Inside was the box of flyers spilt over the floor, and what could just be made out as two footprints in the dust of one corner. It turned out the man who the plaque had been dedicated to had suffered fatal head injuries after a storage unit of boxes had collapsed on him back in the early 1930s - in that very room.
Edinburgh Playhouse's ghost story
The building is said to be haunted by a ghost called Albert, a man in a grey coat who appears on level six accompanied by a sudden chill in the air. He is variously said to have been either a stagehand who was killed in an accident or a night-watchman who committed suicide.
Albert has made his presence known on various occasions. When police and their sniffer dogs were checking out the building prior to the Heads of the Commonwealth visit in 1997 they were surprised to find that the dogs would not enter level 6. Somebody joked that the dogs must be afraid of Albert. The police were happy with this explanation and borrowed some dogs from Edinburgh castle. These dogs - which it was explained were used to all sorts of spooks around the castle - had no problem with checking out level 6 and the building was given the all clear.
Staff at the Playhouse have various stories of hearing footsteps, keys being jangled, and doors slamming when there is nobody else in that part of the building. The sound of a key turning in doors that are now fitted with modern yale locks has also been heard.
Albert seems to love the Playhouse and is happy to
patrol his corridors and continue making sure the building is secure without
interfering with its current workers. The one exception to this was one day
when the maintenance team were working on stage and playing some heavy metal
music on a portable tape deck. Suddenly the music stopped, the tape door opened
and the cassette was *thrown* across the stage! Albert was clearly not a fan.
Albert's Bar, located on the foyer level, is named in his honour.
New Wimbledon Theatre's ghost story
These stories are from Marq
Paranormal Investigator and author of Paranormal
Surrey, and Stage Door Keeper at the New Wimbledon Theatre.
Many theatres across the country lay claim to
paranormal activity within their venues and Wimbledon is no exception.
Back when the theatre was new, part of a set collapsed and allegedly killed an actress. On countless different occasions, people have felt a strong female presence within the theatre that is said to be her. The theatre's archivist Maurice Wareing told me that he was conducting a tour of the building with members of the public a few years ago and a lady was almost knocked back by the force of what she described as an incredibly powerful strong female energy. A few years ago in the upper circle, an usher was clearing away after a performance and heard a woman whistling from the ladies lavatory. Thinking a patron was still in the building, she called out that the theatre was closing - only to find when entering the toilet that no one was there. A past General Manager, Mike Lyas, who had worked at the theatre for years and determinedly didn't believe in the ghosts, was working late one evening when a woman in what seemed to be Victorian or Edwardian clothing stood there in front of him. He only saw her once but said she was very beautiful.
On another occasion, the theatre's sprinkler system was activated for no apparent reason. Back in 1980, the venue was undergoing a £3 million refurbishment and the fire brigade had been checking the valve system that operates the sprinkler. All equipment had been checked and they were satisfied it was operating correctly. At about 2am in the morning, the manager was awoken to the sound of the alarm bell and rushed down to the auditorium to find the sprinkler system drenching the stage. Incredibly the set which was on stage at the time escaped with very minimal damage and the valve handling unit was found to be still working properly - the fire brigade upon investigating also could find no fault with the machinery.
A psychic reading of the venue by Alan Barnett (the resident medium with my team at Spiral Paranormal) revealed some further interesting information. A very strong female presence was picked up on at the front of the stage area and moves around the stalls auditorium. Alan described her as an Edwardian Lady with a full length dress and fair hair and seems very much interested in the care of the theatre; could this be the same lady who affected the woman on the tour? On the stairway leading to the Upper Circle, Alan had the sensation of a fire or flames, which could be from the old Manor House but we can't find any reports of any blaze from the archives - it may have been where the old house had its chimney? In what is now the Ticket Call Centre, there used to be the theatre's living quarters and in the late 1970's, the Manageress staying there was awoken to see an elderly lady standing over her, who then elevated up through the ceiling and disappeared.
Alan also sensed a man dressed in smart evening wear wandering through the corridor and entering the auditorium where he sits in the Dress Circle to watch the shows (in seat B27 to be precise) - could this be the spirit of JB Mulholland who still keeps a watchful eye over his favourite theatre? And if Mulholland is still wandering around, then might an apparition seen in 2004 by the Theatre Manager be the man himself?
Having worked at the venue for a number of years, I recently conducted a Ghost Tour of the theatre as part of the Centenary Celebrations in 2010. As well as mentioning the above stories and reports I conducted a seance on the stage with both members of the public and staff. Medium Alan Barnett sensed the Edwardian Lady moving about the circle with a sense of curiosity at what we were doing (which I'm sure must have looked peculiar to say the least).
Two of my colleagues Joe and Paul told me that they were backstage in the crew room and were the only people in the building. They were suddenly alerted by the sound of the lift's automated voice saying 'Ground Floor!' and the doors opening and closing. Whether this was a fault with the lift or not, this has never happened before when no one had been in operation of the elevator.
I shall end with one last little tale that happened to me one Sunday. I was backstage in the crew room when a hardhat that had been on a high shelf for many weeks literally flipped up in the air and fell to the floor, which naturally startled me somewhat. I felt the only thing I could do in my astonished state was say 'Thanks'. Pity there was no reply back!