Unusual Occurrences At My Local Theatre

CuriousIdent

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#1
For the past 15+ years I have been involved on and off with a local amateur theatre group, complete with late 1960s purpose built theatre. I say on and off because I was away for a decade between work commitments and cancer treatment. I’m back now.

My other half has recently started working as a volunteer stage manager, there. Whilst I've returned as a punter a few times, like I say, it's been a decade since I last trod the boards there, and since she's started becoming more involved and responsible for the place (opening/locking up etc) she's started noticing a few creepy things which in truth I'd kind of forgotten about in my years away.

It's always been inferred that the place is haunted. And while admittedly it is difficult to give absolute credence to such notions in an environment which is, after all, prone to drama and histrionics there still remains a level of common believability in so many people having experienced something vaguely creepy over a number of years.

Purpose built theatres are (in my opinion) inherently creepy places.


Mostly without any form of natural light.

Often somewhat jerry-rigged electrically.

Full of audible hums and other odd noises in the background, largely because of that.

Places where sound often echoes and travels in unusual ways.

And of course places designed to create fakery as part of their very remit.


And I mean a theatre ghost just sounds such a brilliant notion doesn't it? All part of the drama, the history, the folklore of the place.

But there does seem to be enough people I've spoken to across the years who have experienced something. Felt, heard or seen *something* they couldn’t explain. Enough to make me consider that there might at least be something in it.


Common experiences have included the following:


1) The women's toilets for audience members is located downstairs, near the foyer and entrance to the theatre. The door to these loos is on a pneumatic hinge. A common customer complaint is that it's actually quite heavy to open if you happen to be elderly (and many of our regulars are). But from time to time that door has a habit of randomly flinging itself open.

Multiple theatre managers have had it looked at. The whole mechanism has been replaced more than once. But this seems to persist.

Sometimes it springs open. Sometimes it slams shut.

The taps in these loos also have a habit of turning themselves on of their own accord and cubicle toilets flushing of their own accord as well. As a result every once in a while you get a small amount of flooding in there, which has to be sorted out.

Now, to be fair, this is the Victorian/Edwardian end of town. The current building is from the 60s, with the site having been renovated twice from fire damage in the 1950s and 1960s. But the plumbing and sewers in this end of town are kind of ancient. Much of this could plausibly be explained by random water pressure fluctuations from ageing infrastructure.

That said on more than one occasion that I know of in the past 15+ years a cast member has used those toilets during a Sunday afternoon or a late evening rehearsal, when nobody else is on that floor of the theatre and while using a cubicle heard the door open and somebody open the cubicle next door. Including being certain that they’ve heard the latch being used. Certainly enough for them to believe that somebody had come in, and tried to and strike up a conversation.

They've started talking away, assuming it to be another cast member, only to get no answer. And upon exiting the cubicle they find the stall next door to be completely empty as they go to wash their hands.

Couple that with lights that have a tendency to go out *while* you're using the cubicle (again, I cannot claim that our electrics are *great* but they are serviced relatively regularly) and some of our number just won't use those toilets unless they absolutely have to.
 
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CuriousIdent

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#2
2) Towards the rear of the building there is a relatively large workshop space, with a mezzanine level above. That mezz is connected to an upstairs rehearsal room via a door on the upper level, and the lower level of the workshop connects to the green room via a door to a small corridor.

The workshop is used for constructing and storing flats - the type we use for creating walls and scenery for the sets on-stage. You also have to pass through the workshop in order to get to the entrance for Stage Right. Because there is no other way of doing that without going out into the auditorium.

As a result, during performances, the workshop light *must* be off. As otherwise small parts could become visible across the stage from parts of the auditorium.

It's creepy. It's dark. If you're rushing through you can collide with people if you’re not looking where you're going. Believe you me, I have done that.

Now, I can remember doing a show in the early 2000s and standing here waiting to go on. It was a running start across to the stage left. I needed to take a run up. I can recall one night having been waiting there and heard somebody chuckling.


A deep throaty chuckle.


Now this was no comedy. This was a production of Shakespeare’s Scottish one. And yes, I know this now sounds cheesy as hell in telling you that, but let’s be honest a chuckle was not going to have come from the audience.

The sound definitely felt like it had come from behind me. But I was absolutely alone in there.

Logically I therefore assumed that the green room door had got wedged/stuck open (something you want to avoid because sound travelling from the green room can be heard on stage). So I went to check, but the door was tight shut.

Sound really does travel in strange ways in theatres. So it’s hardly impossible for this to have come from somewhere else and just briefly echoed to where I was standing. It just seemed very incongruous to the play. There shouldn’t have been chuckling there.

It’s not just me though. I can think of at least two other actors who have heard something similar whilst passing through that workshop. It’s not the only thing I’ve experienced myself, either.

A couple of years later I found myself waiting in a similar spot during waiting to come on at stage right for a scene. And I became vaguely aware that I could hear what sounded like somebody crying. Somebody sobbing as of they were trying to hide it. And again, audibly enough that I was concerned the sound might travel onto the stage.

Again I was absolutely certain that I was alone in the dark, the green room door was closed, so I could only assume somebody was up on the mezzanine.

I crept over to the stairs and walked up there. The sobbing was still audible, but nobody was up there. I tried the rehearsal room door, but the room was dark inside. Nobody in there. And that was when I realised that the sobbing had stopped.

I didn't have time to think about it because I had to go on stage, but I can recall mentioning it to other cast members. Nobody had been up there rehearsing on that night. Our rehearsal nights are Monday, Wednesday and Fridays for the next show in production. But this was a Thursday night. The second night of the run which had started on the Wednesday. It proper wigged me out.

Now I haven't thought about that in years. Seriously. The last show I did in that theatre was 2007, and I've only recently started auditioning for parts again. One night last week I came to collect the other half from a rehearsal, as usual. As a stage manager she has keys. She locks up and sets the alarm.

As she got in the car she said 'Sorry I'm a bit late. I'm a little freaked out. I went to stack the chairs up on the mezz outside the rehearsal room, and I could swear I heard somebody crying'.

And I just froze. She's like 'what?'. I've never told her that story. Like I say, I'd largely forgotten about it. And to be honest, if I had remembered it, I certainly wouldn't have told her about it even if I'd remember it. She's easily spooked by such things, and it would have seriously freaked her out.

Apparently she had the bar manager go into the workshop with her, put all the lights on and check there was nobody in there. It had never occurred to her that something spooky was going on, she just thought somebody had snuck in, or something.

They hadn't. Thankfully. If there had been they’d have tripped the alarm at some point during the night, once they started moving about.

That one’s creeped the two of us out. Especially as the nights are starting to get dark at the time when rehearsals are finishing, now.
 

CuriousIdent

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#3
3) A very small number of actors and members of the technical crew have both claimed to have seen some kind of figure standing in either the lighting and sound booth at the rear of the auditorium or in the perch above the stage while standing at the side of it.

By all accounts this is the creepiest. People claiming to have seen silhouettes of figures in places we know that there shouldn't be anybody at that time.

I've never seen anything myself, but others have claimed to have seen *something*. They’re not sure what, and the sceptics amongst us will note that these were experiences which occurred only while they were alone. But whatever happened it was enough to scare the bejesus out of them.

To the point that there are places which some actors won’t even look in the direction of while on stage. Heck one of our costume ladies will not even go into the auditorium on her own because of something she experienced a few years back, which she refuses to share with the rest of us. A normally supremely level-headed woman, who suffers no fools either gladly or under any other set of circumstances, who having left her handbag in the auditorium one night after the place was locked up would not even contemplate going back in there unless a party of others joined her.

The technical crew have arguably had more of these experiences than the actors. Stage managers have seen figures up in the booth from the stage, gone upstairs to see who's in there, only to find the door locked up and nobody in there. The eyes can of course play tricks, but it's certainly convinced quite a fair few people over the years. It is a creepy thing.


4) A while back the theatre staged a production of a play from the 1970s, which involved an exorcism as its central theme. Now I know that immediately rings those pantomimic alarm bells. But since this particular production the theatre has shied away from doing something of a similar tone or content to this, after two specifically unusual occurrences happened during its the course of its run.

Firstly whilst trying to give post-show notes to the cast one night, sat out in the auditorium, several nights into the run, the director found himself competing for volume with a loud sound which certainly appeared to be coming from the perch, above.

Now I’m told that this was really quite loud. Loud enough that he was struggling to actually be heard at times, and getting pretty hacked off with that. It was assumed that some member of the crew had gone up there and was messing about, trying to scare the cast. Only nobody was up there. Everybody directly involved with the show was sitting in the auditorium by this time. It was checked by the stage manager and a couple of the crew. There was nobody up in the Perch.

The noise was described as an audible growl. No source for where the noise had come from was ever conclusively decided upon. It didn’t seem to be coming off any of the lighting up there or similar. Nobody could work out what the hell it was. But as I understand it, it only began as the notes were being dished out. I’m not sure how or when it ceased.


Another freaky event happened a couple of nights later – between the locking up the previous night and unlocking of the theatre following evening. The Stage Manager arrived at the side of the stage to find that large parts of the furniture for the play had been pushed up against the back wall. In some cases right up against the cyclorama at the back of the stage.

They walked out on stage and tried to work out if there had been a reason for that. The theatre does have a technical manager. Sometimes they are in doing maintenance during the daytime. Had a light fallen or needed repairing? Had there been some other problem which had necessitated the set dressing being moved?

At this point they called up the technical manager to ask just that - *had* something necessitated this? They claimed to have no idea what they were talking about - that they hadn't been into the theatre at all that day. To their knowledge nobody had.

As I understand it the alarm had been on the entire time the theatre was locked up. I believe they may have even gone about reviewing the CCTV footage for outside the building, to see if somebody had come in or gotten in who shouldn't have access. Because some of the objects did look as if somebody might have thrown them, and there had recently been a problem with homeless guys hanging around the stage door hoping to doss down overnight.

It's standard to set the stage for starting positions for the following night before leaving from the previous one. The furniture had been set in its normal starting positions. If nobody had been in that day how the hell had the set moved?

It's exactly the kind of thing which you would do with a cast and crew to fuck with them, of course. But nobody has ever claimed responsibility for it. If there's one thing theatre people love to do it's wind each other up. To play jokes on one on other. But it’s only a joke if you let on you’ve fooled somebody. Something like this? It’s too good to have kept to yourself if you’d conned the whole cast. :)


So yes. These kind of things. It’s not what you’d consider a ye olde style building, having been built in the 60s. The site was rebuilt upon after the original structure was destroyed by fire in the 1960s. But there has been a theatre on the site since the 1940s. I've put this under ghosts, because I guess that's what members and volunteers think we're talking about here.

I know it's hard to believe in a theatre environment. I know it would be easy to fake something, and a fair bit of the above is certainly third hand information. But I thought I'd share it with you, all the same. See if interested anybody to know.

One important note is that much of what I described has been noted by different people over a number of years. Some seasons can go by with nobody mentioning experiencing anything. Then somebody will mention offhand that they heard X or experienced Y and others will comment on having experienced something similar.
 
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CuriousIdent

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#5
Enjoyed reading that - some great accounts there!

You realise of course that the most effective way of stopping any genuine supernatural activity occurring at any given location is to invite the Most Haunted team in to do a vigil?

Yeah. If ever you want literally nothing to happen on camera, they're your guys.

Though our combination of stage lighting and dust would give them some pretty wicked 'orbs'. ;)
 

EnolaGaia

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#6
...Sound really does travel in strange ways in theatres. So it’s hardly impossible for this to have come from somewhere else and just briefly echoed to where I was standing. ...
This is an important point with respect to the audial weirdness. Unlike most structures, theatres are designed with attention to facilitating (and sometimes attenuating) acoustics in the context of a particular usage scenario.

The acoustics are intended to provide good listening of the stage from the audience's location. However, the same tactics used to optimize hearing the stage out in the seats usually involve configurations and / or acoustics-influencing materials that have odd side effects.

These side-effects can be every bit as 'pathological' for listeners positioned elsewhere than the seats (and sound sources positioned elsewhere than the stage) as they are helpful for sounds generated and received in the intended locations / positions. If anything, my experience has indicated the more precisely the theatre space is configured (etc.) with respect to acoustics, the more odd and extreme such audial side-effects will be.
 

escargot

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#7
What a brilliant theatre! I'd love to be haunted there. You are very lucky. :wink2:

There was a famous theatre manager in Margate called Sarah Thorne who was so attached to her theatre, it was said, that she stayed and haunted it after her death. Read about it as a kid and scared myself witless. Soon afterwards I joined a local theatre club and loved spending time in the building when it was quiet, longing to see the obligatory ghost. Failed miserably.
 

CuriousIdent

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#9
This is an important point with respect to the audial weirdness. Unlike most structures, theatres are designed with attention to facilitating (and sometimes attenuating) acoustics in the context of a particular usage scenario.

The acoustics are intended to provide good listening of the stage from the audience's location. However, the same tactics used to optimize hearing the stage out in the seats usually involve configurations and / or acoustics-influencing materials that have odd side effects.

These side-effects can be every bit as 'pathological' for listeners positioned elsewhere than the seats (and sound sources positioned elsewhere than the stage) as they are helpful for sounds generated and received in the intended locations / positions. If anything, my experience has indicated the more precisely the theatre space is configured (etc.) with respect to acoustics, the more odd and extreme such audial side-effects will be.

Absolutely. We're talking about spaces which not only have to direct sound optimally from stage to audience but also to avoid allowing too much sound to leave the building - becoming more audible to the neighbours. :)

That can throw up all sorts of weird sounds in places where you wouldn't expect them.
 

CuriousIdent

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#10
Cool story. Have any ghost hunter teams ever visited the theatre?

Not to my knowledge. I can think of another theatre in a neighbouring town which did that once. Nothing suspicious occurred, mind you.

It's not uncommon to pull all-nighters in that space for the purposes of show building or after-show partying. I do know a couple of people who have actually slept there overnight. They found it eerie as hell, but I don't believe they encountered anything specific.

It would be interesting for somebody to look into it.
 
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CuriousIdent

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#11
So, here's a thing...

Since my last post on the subject I have started performing again at this theatre. I've been in two shows this year, alongside Mrs Ident for one of them, and her stage managing the other.

A couple of things to update on.

Firstly in relation to the crying heard in the workshop/mezz. An amendment. At my time of posting I had been under the impression that my other half had heard this crying, in the area of the workshop and the mezz. I misunderstood this. It wasn't the crying, but the aforementioned chuckling (same spot) which she had heard that night while locking up.

Whatever causes this it is known affectionately amongst those at theatre simply as 'the chuckler'. :) I've been through that workshop a number of times this year (including using it for my own personal vocal warm-ups). I've not heard anything unusual.

Secondly, the theatre has since staged another halloween event. This year we did our first Haunt at the venue. A proper Haunted House experience built within the environs of the theatre. To my knowledge, however, nothing unplanned occurred or was experienced.

But now the weird one...

So, as I said, Mrs Ident has been stage managing for the last show I was in. We finished on Saturday night, just gone.

On Wednesday something unusual happened.

She unlocked the Theatre as usual at just after 6pm. I went straight to the green room to check I still had the right personal props set up in the pockets in my costume. She went to switch the auditorium lights on, and start the pre-show checks.

She swept the stage. So far so normal.

She came back to the wings of Stage left, to put the broom back. Said 'Hi' to Adrian, her deputy stage manager, at the SM Desk. When Adrian didn't reply she looked up.

To find that it wasn't Adrian.

It was a woman of thin build, sitting at the SM desk, looking at The Book (the cue book - a version of the script with notations for set changes, lighting and sound cues).

My wife says the woman quickly looked up at her, registered what felt like a brief look of surprise, 'turned silver' and then vanished.

She came back into the green room after this and told me about it. She wasn't scared by it. She hadn't felt threatened by it. It was just something weird that had just happened. Over in the blink of an eye.

Mrs Ident didn't mention it to the rest of the cast that night, in-case it freaked anybody out. But she did post about it later on Facebook. One of the other stage managers immediately responded with "The silver lady!". As she had seen her too. She apparently used to walk past the desk sometimes, while they were doing a show the previous year.

She added "She doesn't go on stage and likes the prop desk too. I think she's friendly".

The other half couldn't go into much detail over what she looked like exactly, as it was all over very quickly. But she was of slim build, and estimated somewhere between middle age and older. And that she felt like she had startled the woman, if anything. Almost like she'd scared her away.

The other SM did also mention more about whatever causes the toilet doors to open and close.

"there is another that goes between the ladies toilets, the box office, and the lobby to the wardrobe corridor. Not a figure but some "movement". "

I do wonder if we might pick something relating to that up on the CCTV cameras. We have a camera pointing at the foyer, focusing on the box office, all the time. You wouldn't see any of the doors themselves from the angle its positioned in (which focuses on the till, for obvious reasons) but it does have a motion sensor on it. So if *something* was moving through the foyer you'd expect that to trigger.
 
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Frideswide

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#12
Since my last post on the subject I have started performing again at this theatre. I've been in two shows this year, alongside Mrs Ident for one of them, and her stage managing the other.
this is a FABULOUS post! How wonderful!

Can I ask what your costume is? and is it always the same?

And my good wishes to Mrs Ident!
 

CuriousIdent

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#13
this is a FABULOUS post! How wonderful!

Can I ask what your costume is? and is it always the same?

And my good wishes to Mrs Ident!

On this occasion my costume was a black velvet jacket, trilby hat and pair of garishly red trousers.

Noting supernatural about these though, sadly.
 

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#14
So, here's a thing...

Since my last post on the subject I have started performing again at this theatre. I've been in two shows this year, alongside Mrs Ident for one of them, and her stage managing the other.

A couple of things to update on.

Firstly in relation to the crying heard in the workshop/mezz. An amendment. At my time of posting I had been under the impression that my other half had heard this crying, in the area of the workshop and the mezz. I misunderstood this. It wasn't the crying, but the aforementioned chuckling (same spot) which she had heard that night while locking up.

Whatever causes this it is known affectionately amongst those at theatre simply as 'the chuckler'. :) I've been through that workshop a number of times this year (including using it for my own personal vocal warm-ups). I've not heard anything unusual.

Secondly, the theatre has since staged another halloween event. This year we did our first Haunt at the venue. A proper Haunted House experience built within the environs of the theatre. To my knowledge, however, nothing unplanned occurred or was experienced.

But now the weird one...

So, as I said, Mrs Ident has been stage managing for the last show I was in. We finished on Saturday night, just gone.

On Wednesday something unusual happened.

She unlocked the Theatre as usual at just after 6pm. I went straight to the green room to check I still had the right personal props set up in the pockets in my costume. She went to switch the auditorium lights on, and start the pre-show checks.

She swept the stage. So far so normal.

She came back to the wings of Stage left, to put the broom back. Said 'Hi' to Adrian, her deputy stage manager, at the SM Desk. When Adrian didn't reply she looked up.

To find that it wasn't Adrian.

It was a woman of thin build, sitting at the SM desk, looking at The Book (the cue book - a version of the script with notations for set changes, lighting and sound cues).

My wife says the woman quickly looked up at her, registered what felt like a brief look of surprise, 'turned silver' and then vanished.

She came back into the green room after this and told me about it. She wasn't scared by it. She hadn't felt threatened by it. It was just something weird that had just happened. Over in the blink of an eye.

Mrs Ident didn't mention it to the rest of the cast that night, in-case it freaked anybody out. But she did post about it later on Facebook. One of the other stage managers immediately responded with "The silver lady!". As she had seen her too. She apparently used to walk past the desk sometimes, while they were doing a show the previous year.

She added "She doesn't go on stage and likes the prop desk too. I think she's friendly".

The other half couldn't go into much detail over what she looked like exactly, as it was all over very quickly. But she was of slim build, and estimated somewhere between middle age and older. And that she felt like she had startled the woman, if anything. Almost like she'd scared her away.

The other SM did also mention more about whatever causes the toilet doors to open and close.

"there is another that goes between the ladies toilets, the box office, and the lobby to the wardrobe corridor. Not a figure but some "movement". "

I do wonder if we might pick something relating to that up on the CCTV cameras. We have a camera pointing at the foyer, focusing on the box office, all the time. You wouldn't see any of the doors themselves from the angle its positioned in (which focuses on the till, for obvious reasons) but it does have a motion sensor on it. So if *something* was moving through the foyer you'd expect that to trigger.
Do you have the CCTV on recording when there's nobody there?
 

CuriousIdent

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#15
I'm not 100% certain that the current system does record. It's certainly a live feed. It's set up to set off warning bulletins if motion is detected, and the technical manager has remote access to view the cameras when that happens. It also has a full alarm system.

I'm not going to be back in the theatre until February now. I will try to remember to ask, the next time I am.
 

escargot

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#16
I'm not 100% certain that the current system does record. It's certainly a live feed. It's set up to set off warning bulletins if motion is detected, and the technical manager has remote access to view the cameras when that happens. It also has a full alarm system.

I'm not going to be back in the theatre until February now. I will try to remember to ask, the next time I am.
So.... any news? :bananas:
 

Ibis

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#19
For the past 15+ years I have been involved on and off with a local amateur theatre group, complete with late 1960s purpose built theatre. I say on and off because I was away for a decade between work commitments and cancer treatment. I’m back now.
I missed your original post -- I'm very glad you got through your cancer treatments and are back onstage! Good health to you going forward!

Thank you very much for posting and for all the great details. Haunted theater stories are among my favorites!
 

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#20
"there is another that goes between the ladies toilets, the box office, and the lobby to the wardrobe corridor. Not a figure but some "movement". "
Pardon if this is a dweeby question -- would it be possible to set up a thermal motion detector camera to record the "movement"? My brother calls them "critter cams," and they are used to watch wildlife under different lighting conditions. I assume they're used by ghost hunter types, too, but am not well informed on that.
 
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