Theatre Ghosts

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Does anyone have any links or info about ghosts and hauntings in theatres for some research I'm doing. I'm mainly interested in british cases but stuff from anywhere in the world would be helpful. Drinks on me in the TH for anyone who helps.
 
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You could do worse than South Hill Park Arts Centre in Berkshire. I worked there for a bunch of years, both in the (17th Century) mansion and the more modern theatre and have heard numerous stories about its various hauntings (despite being open daily throughout the year, it once closed for a day -- allegedly so an exorcism could take place).

When I worked in the theatre I was always nominated to turn out the lights before leaving as I was the only one who didn't freak out, but I did have a few inexplicable things happen to me a few times. I've posted about them on this forum and shall provide links if I find them.

In the meantime, there are some accounts of the mansion's haunted reputation here , here, and here.

Hope that's of some help!
 

phi23

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The Manchester Library Theatre is situated in the basement of the Manchester Central Library which was built of the site of St. Peter's church (of Perterloo Massacre fame). St. Peter's church had extensive crypts and tunnels beneath it and when the Library was built the foundations were simple dug into these crypts and the tunnels walled up rather than being filled. Ever since the basement has been used as a theatre, actors and audiences have reported shadowy figures passing through and strange sounds and chilling breezes have been known to eminate from the barely walled up tunnels some of which are reputedly still accessible. If you get permission to take a look as part of you research I'd love to come along!
 

rynner2

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Using 'theatre ghost' in this MB Search facility turns up 16 or so results... :rolleyes:

[How many times do I have to tell 'em? mutter, mutter]
 
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rynner said:
Using 'theatre ghost' in this MB Search facility turns up 16 or so results... :rolleyes:

[How many times do I have to tell 'em? mutter, mutter]
Ooh, hark at him!!!!!:D

Actually I'd already done that Rynner, I just wanted to see if anything new came up.

Cheers Orbyn and Pi23.
 

liveinabin

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pi23 said:
The Manchester Library Theatre is situated in the basement of the Manchester Central Library which was built of the site of St. Peter's church (of Perterloo Massacre fame). St. Peter's church had extensive crypts and tunnels beneath it and when the Library was built the foundations were simple dug into these crypts and the tunnels walled up rather than being filled. Ever since the basement has been used as a theatre, actors and audiences have reported shadowy figures passing through and strange sounds and chilling breezes have been known to eminate from the barely walled up tunnels some of which are reputedly still accessible. If you get permission to take a look as part of you research I'd love to come along!
I worked for the Library theatre for about two years in a number of jobs. First I was Front of House, then I worked as an Assistant stage Manager. So I know the building quite well. I have to say that in all the time I was there I never saw anything strange, except some of the plays. The whole floor that the theatre is on consists of tunnels. There is one large circular corridor that goes round the whole floor. (the building is round and the same is true of all floors) With tunnel like corridors leading off it.

Well worth a visit to the library as a whole it is a very beautiful building.



When I was working for the Stephen Joseph in Scarbrorough, a friend did see, or thought she saw, a ghost in the McArthy theatre. You enter that theatre at the back of the seats. When my friend walked in she saw a man in a white suit sitting in the seats. She took this to be Alan Ayckbourn who tended to favour a white suit. She said hello but got no response. She walked along the back of the seats to get to the door to the lighting box. during which time the person had vanished. The room was empty and there was no where they could have gone in that time. A couple other people have reported seeing this figure as well.
 

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Haunted theatre on Broadway. Begins:
Yesterday would have been the 149th birthday of the producer they called "The Bishop of Broadway," for his white collar and dark suits, but those who've worked at his 44th Street theater - now home to "Enchanted April" - says he's still around.

They've been spooked by odd odors, strange sightings, footsteps and laughter - especially from Belasco's private apartment at the top of the theater.

The stagehand who worked the follow-spots for "Follies" won't forget the time she saw the outline of a man in a black suit - and what looked like a white collar.

"I finished my cue and ran up to the second box, but there was no one there," she tells The Post. "And there's no way out of the box except down the stairs I came in on."

The smell of cigar smoke and flowers and misplaced props bedeviled the cast and crew of "Frankie & Johnny" when it played the Belasco last year.

"We'd close the kitchen door, then the curtain would rise and the door would be open," says a production stage manager named (aptly) Spook Testani.

"Joey [Pantoliano] swore he saw a big, aura-like blue light in the center of the balcony."

Testani has ghost stories to share from other productions at the Belasco:

"The woman who played Gertrude in 'Hamlet' had a death scene every night when she'd die in a chair, center stage, looking up," she says.

"Every night, she'd see a woman in a blue dress in the balcony walk up the center aisle and leave."

The Belasco's balcony doesn't have a center aisle.
 

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Do you think the ghosts are currently wondering where everyone is?

What if the emotions of the theatre charge them up? Could ghosts be lost?

Did you know they leave a ghost light on on the stage when the theatre is closed?
Interesting superstitions for the ghost light (it has practical implications too).
 

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The earliest references to theater "ghost lights" date back to the time when theaters were lit by gas. Dim pilot lamps burned continuously to prevent over-pressurization of the gas valves and lines.

Ghost lights are also known as "Equity lights" or "Equity lamps" in the USA - ostensibly because they were originally mandated by Actors' Equity (union) contracts for safety reasons once theaters switched over from gas to electric lighting.

It's unclear whether - or to what extent - the allusions to placating ghosts pre-dated either of these practical reasons for the light(s).
 

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The earliest references to theater "ghost lights" date back to the time when theaters were lit by gas. Dim pilot lamps burned continuously to prevent over-pressurization of the gas valves and lines.

Ghost lights are also known as "Equity lights" or "Equity lamps" in the USA - ostensibly because they were originally mandated by Actors' Equity (union) contracts for safety reasons once theaters switched over from gas to electric lighting.

It's unclear whether - or to what extent - the allusions to placating ghosts pre-dated either of these practical reasons for the light(s).
Actually they have always been safety items, not related to theatre ghosts. It's easy enough to walk off a stage with all the lights on, too dangerous to leave the place pitch black, someone might have to get to the stage from the front. The article is charming, but not related to reality.
 

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Actually they have always been safety items, not related to theatre ghosts. It's easy enough to walk off a stage with all the lights on, too dangerous to leave the place pitch black, someone might have to get to the stage from the front. The article is charming, but not related to reality.
Yes because theatre people don’t tend to be superstitious at all.

If you had to get to the stage from the front wouldn’t you get the auditorium lights put on. Surely you’ve tripped over several chairs before you even get to the stage.
 

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...Did you know they leave a ghost light on on the stage when the theatre is closed?
That's odd. I've worked in theatre - on and off - since I was 14 (at my local theatre, when I was at school), and since then have worked inside most West End venues, and the majority of provincial UK theatres. I've heard plenty of related ghost lore - deliberately hunted it down in fact - but I've never seen or even heard of a 'ghost light' in the form of a light on a stand left in the middle of a stage in the way it is shown in that photograph. It may just be something that's simply passed under my radar - but I'd be surprised.

I suspect it's a US thing, possibly something left on stage to provide light to nightwatchmen or the like - or a tradition which originated with that. Theatres tend to be very dusty and desiccated places, full of potentially flammable materials and dried out by the excessive heat of large lighting rigs - if anything, theatre managements and technicians are, in my experience, much more worried by the threat of fire than they are of tripping over shit in the dark; leaving higher wattage bulbs burning overnight in empty theatres would probably inspire more sleepless nights than bumping into an actual phantom ever would.

In the UK the minimal lighting used on stage and in the wings during shows are known as 'workers' or 'working lights'. These can be permanent fittings at strategic points around the wings, or individual lights from the rig that are left on at low level to assist with changes of scenery. The auditorium will have its own separate systems including 'house lights' and emergency lighting.
 

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That's odd. I've worked in theatre - on and off - since I was 14 (at my local theatre, when I was at school), and since then have worked inside most West End venues, and the majority of provincial UK theatres. I've heard plenty of related ghost lore - deliberately hunted it down in fact - but I've never seen or even heard of a 'ghost light' in the form of a light on a stand left in the middle of a stage in the way it is shown in that photograph. It may just be something that's simply passed under my radar - but I'd be surprised.

I suspect it's a US thing, possibly something left on stage to provide light to nightwatchmen or the like - or a tradition which originated with that. Theatres tend to be very dusty and desiccated places, full of potentially flammable materials and dried out by the excessive heat of large lighting rigs - if anything, theatre managements and technicians are, in my experience, much more worried by the threat of fire than they are of tripping over shit in the dark; leaving higher wattage bulbs burning overnight in empty theatres would probably inspire more sleepless nights than bumping into an actual phantom ever would.

In the UK the minimal lighting used on stage and in the wings during shows are known as 'workers' or 'working lights'. These can be permanent fittings at strategic points around the wings, or individual lights from the rig that are left on at low level to assist with changes of scenery. The auditorium will have its own separate systems including 'house lights' and emergency lighting.
It does seem to be a UK thing (the spelling of theatre is a clue on websites)
https://www.itv.com/news/calendar/2020-04-06/ghost-lights-burn-at-theatres-across-our-region/

It’s odd you’ve never heard of it. Were they maybe not in hibernation when you were about? I would have thought a low wattage bulb these days would be ok but I hate to think of earlier times.
 

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That's odd. I've worked in theatre - on and off - since I was 14 (at my local theatre, when I was at school), and since then have worked inside most West End venues, and the majority of provincial UK theatres. I've heard plenty of related ghost lore - deliberately hunted it down in fact - but I've never seen or even heard of a 'ghost light' in the form of a light on a stand left in the middle of a stage in the way it is shown in that photograph. It may just be something that's simply passed under my radar - but I'd be surprised.

I suspect it's a US thing, possibly something left on stage to provide light to nightwatchmen or the like - or a tradition which originated with that. Theatres tend to be very dusty and desiccated places, full of potentially flammable materials and dried out by the excessive heat of large lighting rigs - if anything, theatre managements and technicians are, in my experience, much more worried by the threat of fire than they are of tripping over shit in the dark; leaving higher wattage bulbs burning overnight in empty theatres would probably inspire more sleepless nights than bumping into an actual phantom ever would.

In the UK the minimal lighting used on stage and in the wings during shows are known as 'workers' or 'working lights'. These can be permanent fittings at strategic points around the wings, or individual lights from the rig that are left on at low level to assist with changes of scenery. The auditorium will have its own separate systems including 'house lights' and emergency lighting.
Have you got any spooky goings on to tell us about?

I read that the Palace Theatre in London keeps two chairs nailed down to keep the ghosts happy. But do they prefer Les Mis or Harry Potter?
 

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...It’s odd you’ve never heard of it. Were they maybe not in hibernation when you were about? I would have thought a low wattage bulb these days would be ok but I hate to think of earlier times.
Ah, there's a bit of a clue in that article: 'an age-old tradition from the dim and distant past has re-surfaced'.
 

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Have you got any spooky goings on to tell us about?...
Here's one from the Your Scariest ghost? thread.

This (allegedly) happened to a friend of mine. Admittedly at the time he was a rigger working in rock and roll and not unfamiliar with nasally installed stimulants, which combined with a stressful job, very long hours and a suicidal lifestyle could throw doubt on the origins of anything strange he might witness. Still, he genuinely believes he saw this and it’s exactly the kind of happening I wouldn’t want happening to me.

He was working in a venue in Birmingham - not a rock and roll venue but a traditional theatre - so probably the Alex or the Hippodrome. In the early hours of the morning while de-rigging some front-of-house speaker positions he glanced into the box opposite the one he was working in and did a very rapid double-take. He describes seeing a woman dressed in black with a very pale face holding a baby in one arm. She was staring directly at him with an air of extreme hostility and malevolence and as he registered what he thought he was seeing she gradually raised her free arm and pointed across the empty auditorium directly at him and started to laugh. There was no sound but he says he could tell from her facial expression that this was what she was doing.

He genuinely believes this happened. I know people who were working with him at the time who, although they didn't witness the thing, admit to having become extremely nervous because of the obvious fear he exuded. One guy describes him as virtually throwing himself onto the stage from overhead in order to get away from what he thought he'd seen.

Why so scary? Well, for me it’s the fact that although this was very late at night / early in the morning there would have been plenty of people around and lots of noise, so not your traditional atmosphere for ghostly happenings. Then there’s the presence of the baby which always adds a bit of a frisson, probably because children are supposed to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from dead. But mostly I think it’s the way the thing appears to consciously pick him out - this is no “recording”, this is something interacting with things around it.

Very probably the result of too much whisky and cocaine but of all the stories I’ve been told by those who claim to have experienced them this is the one I really wouldn’t have wanted to go through.
And a snippet from this thread:

The stories associated with places like the Liverpool Empire (a faceless gentleman who hovered around front of house and had allegedly scared the living shite out of a guy I knew back then) and Bath (the haunted butterfly - associated with a piece of scenery that hung in the grid and could never be moved, on pain of much horribleness) were well known on the circuit, probably even to those who had never been to the places...
I'll try and elaborate on the latter stories at some point.
 

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The New Amsterdam Theater in New York is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of silent film actress, Olive Thomas. Thomas played the theater in her early days with the Ziegfeld Follies. She apparently returned and took-up residence after her tragic death in 1920 due to what appears to have been accidental poisoning.

https://www.playbill.com/article/did-you-know-broadways-new-amsterdam-theatre-has-a-ghost

Thomas was married to Jack Pickford, the ne'er-do-well brother of silent film megastar Mary Pickford. By all accounts, the pair were serious partiers and the marriage was tempestuous. She died in Paris while the two were on a second honeymoon. By most reliable accounts, she accidentally ingested a highly-corrosive cleaning agent, mistaking it for a sleeping aid. Despite the best efforts of doctors, she died a rather unpleasant death at age 25.

One of her best known films, The Flapper, came out in 1920 and still survives. You can find it here:

 

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Yes because theatre people don’t tend to be superstitious at all.

If you had to get to the stage from the front wouldn’t you get the auditorium lights put on. Surely you’ve tripped over several chairs before you even get to the stage.
Nope. I worked in theaters for 40 years (US). They all used ghost lights and it's the electrics dept responsibility. If you have access thru the front you frequently use it, you're used to the house. So you know the aisles, you know the passdoor, and since no windows ever you're pitchblack to backstage. I've seen people fall front and back off stages in lights and in blackouts and it's one of the most frightening experiences I've had. They are superstitious, but I have to say I've never heard a peep about the ghost light. Yes much about ghosts. I worked in one older theater with a very active ghost. Even with the light on (and it can be a 40-watt bulb for a huge theatre) it's very spooky above and to the sides of the stage, and equipment sways constantly in the drafts. Of course newer theatres have lots of mandated safety lights on all the time wherever people may walk.
 

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I'll try and elaborate on the latter stories at some point.
Many theatres have butterfly ghost stories - generally inspired by the tendency of butterflies to appear randomly out of season, wakened from their torpor by the heat of lighting rigs. Quite often this happens during shows, and on stage - and it's easy to read the conscious movements into the random flutterings, if you are so inclined. As a schoolboy stagehand, during a performance of the play Duet for One, I actually once saw a butterfly fly gracefully around the set for several minutes before finally settling on the lead actresses left breast - in exactly the position you might wear a brooch - where it remained for the rest of the act.

The one at Bath is a bit different - it's an actual piece of scenery that hangs permanently from the grid and is never moved. (I should maybe say that I have not been to the Theatre Royal Bath since the early noughties, and maybe things have changed since then.)

It is, as far as I know, decades old and although I don't know the precise backstory attached to it, or indeed if anyone else really does, I do know that act of moving or touching it was always treated with extreme care...dread, even. A friend of mine, who had been a flyman at the theatre in the 80's and early 90's made the mistake of smacking the piece quite severely with another flying bar. He apparently spent his entire lunchbreak on the fly gallery 'apologising' to the butterfly (I'm not sure if this was in some sort of meditative way, or if he actually went up and chatted to it for an hour!) Basically the story was that bad shit happened if you were not careful with the butterfly. Although I asked, I'm pretty sure no-one was really sure of the provenance - but I do know that at the time I knew the place, the subject was treated seriously by the stage crew. There is an official tale that it was some kind of good-luck symbol associated with a change in fortunes after a particularly disaster ridden pantomime production from the 1940's - but my impression was that some people felt there was more to it than that.

There are possibly also stories associated with a small vestibule area that connected the stage to the auditorium, I think on stage left/auditorium right. I don't know how universal this was, but when I worked overnight once with the friend mentioned above (by this time my friend no longer worked at the building, but we were both working in installation work for major shows) he absolutely refused to pass through the room. That said, we were working alone in the building and did love to shit each other up with spooky stories.

A couple of warnings regarding theatre ghosts:

Theatre managements - at least in the UK - love them, and will be on the least of stories for a bit of publicity like a rat up a pipe. This has a tendency to turn one or two particular tales into what becomes, in effect, the official line, tends to change or solidify them in the process of making them palatable to the readers of websites and promotional literature, and often has little to do with anything that might actually be being experienced within the building.

Secondly. You'll hear many stories from actors, because, of course, we automatically associate actors with theatres. However actors spend a fraction of the time inside those buildings that technicians do. If you really want to know what's going on in a theatre, you're better off talking to the stage crew or the stage doorman (who, at least in the old days, would know everything), not the turns.
 
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Spookdaddy

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...Secondly. You'll hear many stories from actors, because, of course, we associate actors automatically with theatres. However actors spend a fraction of the time inside those buildings that technicians do - if you really want to know what's going on in a theatre, you're better off talking to the stage crew or the stage doorman (who, at least in the old days, would know everything), not the turns.
On that note, there's quite an entertaining blog post about the Edinburgh Playhouse here. This mentions 'Albert' - of whom I remember talk, but not much in the way of detail.

I put several shows into the Edinburgh Playhouse - a big barn of a place, not your typical picturesquely haunted Edwardian pile - and at one time knew both Skeggsy and Smeeks, although it's over twenty years ago and I doubt they'd remember me now. (I also met a partner of several subsequent years there).

It's actually a really good piece - gives you an idea about the ghost, but also the camaraderie of backstage life, which is nowhere near as posh as all the other things we associate with theatre (Smeeks, for instance, played with The Exploited). Back in the day it could be a bit wild - as I've said recently on another thread:

...Ah, those were the days. Backstage theatre was as close as you could get to running away to sea without getting your feet wet.
 
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