Most Haunted Theatres in Britain – Part 2

Who is the ghostly figure seen by countless stars at Theatre Royal Haymarket? Why did a night-watchman never want to return to Bristol’s Old Vic? When did the sight of a ghostly child cause a show to stop mid-performance? Join us for the second part of the Most Haunted Theatres in Britain as we reveal why some theatres are not places you’d want to spend a night alone:

Bristol Old Vic

Bristol's Theatre Royal, one of the oldest theatres in the UK
Bristol’s Theatre Royal, one of the oldest theatres in the UK

The beautiful old 18th century Theatre Royal is reputedly haunted by the shadowy figure of a woman who is often seen crossing the upper gallery. Another ghost, that of the actress Sarah Siddons is also said to haunt the building. One night, the night-watchman reported his Alsatian barking madly at the wall at the back of the foyer where a portrait of the actress had once hung. Wallpaper was removed and upon further investigation, a door was found. Inside, a funny little office was discovered, hidden away – an office Siddons had once occupied in her days at the theatre.

Apollo Victoria, London

The Apollo Victoria is built on one of London's hidden rivers
The Apollo Victoria is built on one of London’s hidden rivers

Cathy, a former head-cleaner at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre often sensed the feeling that somebody was behind her and of being followed when crossing beneath the stage. She reports that once, during the run of Starlight Express, a little girl was seen to cross the set mid-show. The show had to be stopped but the girl could not be found. Staff from both stage door and the box office have also reported the figure of a man sitting in row Q of the stalls. The figure is seen to stand and walk to the back of the auditorium, then simply disappear – much to the alarm of the night security staff.

Starlight Express (c) RUG Ltd. The auditorium contained an area known as "The Paddock"
Starlight Express (c) RUG Ltd. The auditorium contained an area known as “The Paddock”

Jonathan Tucker also worked at the theatre at the time:

“I was coming down from the top of the building through the dress circle when I saw a man dressed in a long brown military style coat walking up the aisle of the stalls ‘paddock’. It was at the time of Starlight Express and the paddock was an area of the seating surrounded by track. He went down the stairs to exit the paddock but never came up the other side. I called stage door security to come and check and kept my eyes fixed on the exit from the paddock.  When they arrived and checked, there was no one there. There was only one exit so there was no way he could have gone anywhere else.”

Another of Victoria’s theatres, The Victoria Palace, was the location for a strange event witnessed by comedian Brian Connelly. Brian was on-stage playing Al Jolson when he noticed two blue lights floating in mid-air at the back of the auditorium. He didn’t think any more of it – until years later he read an interview with fellow actress Sally Ann Triplet who also told a story of strange lights floating in the auditorium.

Palace Theatre, Westcliff

The Palace Theatre, Westcliff - a fly-man fell to his death during the theatre's construction
The Palace Theatre, Westcliff – a fly-man fell to his death during the theatre’s construction

During a nationwide tour of Charles Dickens’ The Signalman and M R James’ Oh Whistle, and I’ll Come To You, a technical error on opening night meant that the show had to be stopped mid-performance. To fill in, Jack Shepherd asked the audience if anyone had a ghost story they could share: A man stood up and said “I do. I can tell you about George. He fell from the fly tower here during the building’s construction and died from his injuries. He haunts the place.” The rest of the run was blighted by technical problems – lamps not working etc until Terry Hardiman, on his wife’s advice, simply asked George to stop, telling him “We don’t want any more of this”. From that moment, every performance passed off peacefully.

Theatre Royal Haymarket, London

The beautiful Theatre Royal Haymarket: the current building dates from the Regency period.
The beautiful Theatre Royal Haymarket: the current building dates from the Regency period.

Many household names have reported supernatural encounters at this beautiful Regency theatre, which dates in its current form from 1821. Dame Judi Dench and Sir Donald Sinden have both, separately, seen a male figure in Victorian dress in backstage corridors, only for him to vanish into thin air. A master-carpenter, Tony, reported that when taking the house tabs out one night, he turned around and saw a man in an old cloak and top hat. “I knew everybody had left the building…I thought it was an actor from another theatre”. For sheer number of paranormal sightings, it’s the Haymarket’s Theatre Royal Haymarket, and not its Drury Lane namesake that surely marks it out as the most haunted theatre in Britain.

The Peacock Theatre
We don’t want you to have sleepless nights – so we’ve saved one of our favourite ghosts for last: That of flipper the dolphin, said to haunt London’s Peacock Theatre where backstage, staff have heard a strange series of squeaks and clicks and have even found small pools of water in corridors. Perhaps less a case of haunting and more a case of dodgy plumbing?

Don’t have sleepless nights! Come with us and enjoy one of the West End’s spookiest shows this Halloween – you’re guaranteed not to be watching alone:

The Woman In Black – the chilling original at the Fortune
Dead Funny – returns to the haunted Vaudeville
Wicked – where witches fly and you may see a ghost in row Q
Thriller Live – the perfect thrill for Halloween zombies
Matilda The Musical – no spooks but plenty of telekinesis!
The Mousetrap – spook yourself with a halloween whodunnit?
Phantom of the Opera – the world’s most haunting love story

Sources:
Haunted West End Theatres by Shillito and Walsh
BBC Radio 4’s Ghost Stories from Theatreland
The Brighton Argus
JCI Leeds

With special thanks to:
Jayne Hardy, Jonathan Tucker, Karl Dean, David Scarr, Nichola Lindsay Doe, Fiona Holland, Mark Collier and everyone at the Shaftesbury Theatre

Know a haunted theatre that we haven’t mentioned? We’d love to know about it – leave a comment or email niallrpalmer@outlook.com