For most of us a ghostly apparition is a pretty terrifying prospect, but to the majority of actors, seeing a theatre’s ghost is considered good luck!
Not surprisingly then, virtually all West End theatres have a famous resident spectre but did you know about these? Here are 8 West End ghosts you didn’t know existed.
1. The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is reputed to be the most haunted theatre in the world. Perhaps its most famous resident ghost is the Man In Grey. Frequently seen in daylight the young man wears a powdered wig, grey riding cloak and a tricorn hat. He usually materialises on one side of the Upper Circle and crosses to the other side where he disappears through the wall.
During the mid-1800s the theatre was renovated and workmen discovered a hidden room behind the wall where the Man In Grey usually vanishes. A skeleton, with a dagger sticking out of the rib cage, was discovered in the room. Though no one has been able to identify the body it is believed to be that of the famous resident ghost who is thought to have met his grisly end at the hands of the leading lady’s actor lover in a peak of jealous rage.
Casts and audience members have all claimed to see him but he is generally considered a welcome ghost as he seems to only appear at the beginning of successful runs in the theatre, most notably, The King and I, Oklahoma, Miss Saigon and South Pacific.
2. The Adelphi Theatre
The Adelphi Theatre on the Strand is believed to be haunted by actor William Terriss. Famous for performing Shakespeare and contemporary works Terris was well-known, generally liked and highly respected. However, his death appears to have brought out the worst in him – perhaps perpetuated by the brutal act of his murder.
Stabbed at Stage Door by a former friend and out of work actor, Richard Archer Prince, Terris died in the arms of Jessica Millward his actress lover and his last words were reported ‘I’ll be back’.
Terris is often seen and heard wandering backstage and has even been sited haunting the nearby Covent Garden Tube. Generally sounding and appearing very angry this resident ghost is reported to have attacked a young actress named June in 1928 who was reportedly in the same dressing room as Millward had previously occupied.
3. The Palace Theatre
The Palace Theatre, Cambridge Circus has a whole host of ghosts including the world-famous ballerina, Anna Pavlova.
It is also suspected that Ivor Novello’s ghost has been watching performances from the back of the Dress Circle since his death in 1951.
Up until the opening of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, two seats were kept permanently bolted open for any of the theatre ghosts to sit in but this tradition has sadly fallen by the wayside.
4. The Dominion Theatre,
The Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road is haunted by several ghouls killed in the Great Beer Flood of 1814. Eleanor Cooper a local barmaid and only 14 years old at the time of her death is the theatre’s most spotted ghost.
Theatre staff often report unexplained crashes and bangs and childish laughter.
During a production of We Will Rock You a young couple took a selfie before the show began. The following day when looking back through their photos they appear to have caught Eleanor’s image. She seems to be sitting directly behind them and looking less than happy.
5. Duke of York’s Theatre,
The Duke of Your’s Theatre, St Martin’s Lane built by Violet Melnotte is now believed to be haunted by her ghost.
Violet was famous for watching all performances from her own personal box but since her death in 1935 it has been widely reported by theatre staff and audience members that a presence can be felt and heard in the Box even when no one else is visible.
Cast members have reported sighting Violet’s ghostly apparition in the Green Room since 1967.
6. The Theatre Royal, Haymarket
The Theatre Royal, Haymarket is haunted by John Baldwin Bustone, the actor-manager of the theatre until the mid-19th Century.
The theatre is the oldest London playhouse still in use and dates back to 1720. Many actors have reported seeing John’s ghost backstage, perhaps the famous of which is Patrick Stewart who is convinced he saw the manager’s ghost while performing in Waiting for Godot with Sir Ian McKellen.
Theatre staff and cast members claim to have heard John’s ghost rehearsing his lines backstage although he has not seen there.
7. Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket was built in 1897 for Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, an actor-manager who played several leading roles in his time. His favourite place to watch productions was the top Box and it is reported that his ghost chooses to reappear here most frequently.
Audience members have complained about sudden drops in temperature, cold areas and the door flying open and slamming closed when no one else is anywhere near. During a performance of Cause Celebre during the 1970s, the whole cast agreed they had watched Sir Herbert’s ghost walk along the back of the stalls.
It does seem somewhat fitting that the theatre that premiered The Phantom of the Opera should have its own theatre ghost.
8. The Peacock Theatre
The Peacock Theatre, Dean Street is perhaps one of the most obscure ghost stories of them all.
Previously haunted by the Fading Lady, a woman dressed in a Queen Anne outfit was reputed to walk down a staircase and slowly disappear before reaching the bottom step. A short, sharp scream was said to signify her total disappearance.
However, in recent times there have been fewer and fewer sightings of the Fading Lady but there have been increasing reports of the sound of a phantom dolphin which, had been kept in a tank under the stage during the 1930s.