If you haven’t been scared enough by a visit to see The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre then here’s some seriously terrifying advice on where to find the most haunted theatres in London. From actor-managers stabbed to death at the stage door to floating heads, mysterious men in grey, spooks in the Stalls and strange backstage noises. London theatres are some of the oldest and most historic buildings in Britain with centuries of murder and darkness both on and off stage. Here we discover where the ghosts of London theatre are to be found.
Theatre Royal Drury Lane Ghosts
Given that there has been a theatre on the site of the current Theatre Royal Drury Lane for over 350 years, there are bound to be a few ghostly stories to tell. These include the most famous ghost, the Man in Grey, dressed in a powered wig, grey cloak and three-cornered hat. He tends to appear during the day, often crossing from one side of the upper circle to the other and then melting in to the wall. Whole casts of actors have been said to see him. Who the man is remains a mystery although when the theatre was renovated in the 1870’s builders are said to have broken into a secret room behind the wall that the ghost always disappears through. There was a skeleton inside that had been stabbed to death and surrounded by grey cloth. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, the Man in Grey is said to herald a successful run at the theatre, so producers are usually pleased to see him. Other ghosts include Joseph Grimaldi, the father of the modern clown and the whole tradition of British pantomime, who is long associated with the theatre and is said to give a comedy kick to actors and staff at the theatre. He also wished to be buried with his head severed from his body, which would also account for sightings of a clown-white face floating in the wings of the theatre. Other ghosts said to haunt Drury Lane include comedian and pantomime dame Dan Leno.
Lyceum Theatre Ghosts
In the 1880’s when Henry Irving and Ellen Terry dominated the stage of the Lyceum Theatre, one night a couple were sat in the balcony and saw the severed head of a man starring up at them from a lady’s lap in the stalls below. Who the man is remains a mystery but he is believed to be part of a family that once owned the land on which the Lyceum stands and was beheaded for treason!
Aldephi Theatre Ghost
Jealousy is an evil beast and none more so than between actors. Actor-manager William Terris was enjoying a run of success in Secret Service, a play at the Adelphi Theatre in 1897. One evening as he arrived at the stage door of the Adelphi in Maiden Lane he was rushed by a minor actor and stabbed. Comforted by his leading lady Jessica Milward his dying last words were, “I will be back”. Sightings in Maiden Lane, strange events and knockings, have all since been recorded at the Adelphi, attributed to Mr Terris.
Garrick Theatre Ghosts
The Garrick Theatre is said to be haunted by the ghost of former manager Arthur Bourchier who reigned at the theatre in the early 1900’s. The theatre is said to possess a Phantom Staircase on which his ghost can be seen.
Theatre Royal Haymarket Ghost
The ghost of actor, comedian and manager John Baldwin Buckstone is said to haunt the theatre. A friend of Dickens, Buckstone led the theatre in the mid 1800’s and after his death has been seen and heard by numerous actors and staff of the theatre.
MORE HAUNTED THEATRES
- London Coliseum Ghost: The ghost of a soldier was said to haunt the theatre after he attened a play and was then killed in action. St. Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4ES Website
- Duke of York’s Theatre Ghosts: The ghost of manager Violet Melnotte is said to haunt the theatre and is often be seen mingling with first night audiences. Also a bolero-style jacket worn in The Queen Came By in the late 1940’s was said to attempt to strangle any actress who wore it! St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4BG Website
- Noel Coward Theatre Ghost: The Noel Coward Theatre, formerly the Albery Theatre, is said to be haunted by the ghost of the theatre’s architect Charles Wyndham. St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4AA Website
- London Palladium Ghost: A lady is said to haunt the theatre, especially the Crimson Staircase at the back of the Royal Circle. Argyll Street, London, W1F 7TF Website