Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published May 26th 2014
Stories Beyond The Stage
While a place full of torture, misery, and squalor, such as The Tower of London is bound to have some dissatisfied souls haunting the halls, I have to wonder, what is it about London's theatres that make them such a hub of ghostly activity. Is there even one historic theatre in the capital that does not claim to be haunted? There are definitely far too many to name, but here is a list of my top five.
I have a bit of a soft spot for the Lyceum Theatre; this is because it is where I saw my first and favourite West End musical, The Lion King. On stage, I got to see the starry spirit of Mufasa looking down on his son; his benevolent presence is both comforting and awe inspiring. But one audience member had a not so pleasant encounter. It is one thing to see the ghost head of a fictional lion on stage, it is quite another to a severed head sitting in your lap. Whether the woman whose lap it was in saw the manifestation is unknown, but it was certainly a shock to the couple peering down from the balcony above. This encounter from the 1880s is the only documented ghost sighting at the Lyceum. No one knows exactly who the head belonged to, but I have heard two theories. The first is that it was Madam Tussaud, who held a waxworks exhibition there in 1802. I find this unlikely, as other than for the fact she was once at the Lyceum, there is nothing to connect her to the theatre. And why would it only be her head? The second theory is that it belonged to a man who once owned the land before the Lyceum was built. I find this plausible, because he was beheaded for treason.
2. Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Image from en.wikipedia.org
My second favourite, is Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which is believed to be the most haunted theatre in Britain. My first visit here was on a school trip, in which our class was given a behind the scenes tour. We were told about all sorts of things, but the only one I remember from the trip is the story of Dan Leno. Dan Leno was an actor and comedian, who appeared in many pantomimes, including Babes in the Wood at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Although a great performer, he suffered from the unfortunate condition of incontinence. To mask the smell, he used to spray himself with lavender. Clearly and embarrassing ailment, it might have led to his later alcoholism, which made him erratic and violent towards his fellow cast members. He had a mental break down later died in 1904. It is said that when his ghost is roaming, you can catch a scent of in the air.
3. Victoria Palace Theatre
Image from en.wikipedia.org
Third, purely because of its seer lunacy is the Victoria Palace Theatre. Although no ghostly figures have actually been seen, the theatre, people poltergeist reside there because there have been numerous reports of wigs flying around in the air. One of the dressing room doors also mysteriously locks an unlocks all by itself. I wonder if anyone has ever been locked out. Or worse, locked in. The theatre has recently been bought by Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who plans to redevelop it. Will the door still exist afterwards? Will it continue to lock by itself?
4. Aldephi Theatre
Image from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Adelphi_Theatre_-_27th_August_2011.JPG
An Arnie quote piqued my interest here, and got the Aldephi Theatre to fourth place. William Teriss was a successful actor; one day in 1897, his understudy recounted a dream he had, saying that he saw Teriss lying by dressing room covered in blood. The next night, another fellow actor stabbed him by the stage door. Teriss's dying words were 'I'll be back', which indeed he was, for many have reported to have seen him haunting the theatre, wearing a grey suit and white gloves.
Image from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Queen%27s_Theatre_London_2011_1.jpg
Can ghosts be charged for sexual harassment? Many members of male staff have reported that they felt as if they were being watched when changing into their uniforms. Although, this might just be one of those 'funny feelings' you sometimes get, what is more difficult to explain is how an invisible presence pinched their bottoms.