Britain's Haunted Theaters - Pt. 2

Image by creatifrankenstein from Pixabay 

My last post covered Bath’s infamous haunted theater, the Theatre Royal. Today, with Halloween just a few days away, I’m going to recount more stories about ghosts who like to haunt theaters, especially other Theatre Royals. So, grab a cup of hot apple cider, light a candle and settle in for some chilling tales of ghostly apparitions! 

Sarah Bernhardt as Cleopatra in 1900
Theatre Royal, Brighton

This theater reportedly boasts not one but four ghosts, according to one newspaper account. There’s a Grey Lady, naturally, which is apparently a must-have apparition for old theaters in Britain.

This particular Grey Lady is assumed to be the ghost of Mrs. Nye Chart, who ran the theater for 22 years from 1876 to 1892. Actors, stage technicians and crew claim to have seen her. 

The ghosts of a man and two children are also apparently roaming around the halls. 

But the most famous ghost associated with the Theatre Royal, Brighton, is that of Sarah Bernhardt. 

The legendary French actress damaged her knee during a performance at the theater in 1894, an injury which may have led to the amputation of her leg in 1915.  

That sounds like a good reason for her to haunt the place!

York Theatre Royal

The York Theatre Royal has the distinction of being built on the site of a medieval hospital that was run by an order of nuns, so naturally one would it expect nuns to haunt the theater as well. 

And apparently that's the case. Actors and others have seen a ghostly apparition in a soft grey habit with a white veil in the auditorium. 

This Lady in Grey has a reputation as a benevolent spirit, however. Seeing her appear in the dress circle on the night of a performance is a good sign; it means the show will be a success.

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and Theatre Royal Haymarket

Now we come to a couple of London's haunted Theatre Royals, including one that has been described as the most haunted theater on Earth — the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. 

At over 350 years old, this theater has witnessed thousands of performances, which translates to lots of opportunities for ghost legends to develop. Since 1663, the theater has been rebuilt four times on the same site, with the “modern” building standing today erected in 1812.

Joseph Grimaldi
One ghost, known as the Man in Grey, wears the 18th century garb of a cloak (grey of course), a wig, and a tricorne hat. Witnesses say they’ve seen him walking around the theater’s upper circle before vanishing into a wall.  

No one knows for sure who the Man in Grey might have been, but some think he’s associated with the skeleton that was found in a secret room at the theater that was discovered by builders in the 1870s.

The ghost of Joseph Grimaldi, famous comedian and pantomime clown during the Regency period, also haunts the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, while over at the Haymarket the 19th century actor, theater manager and playwright John Baldwin Buckstone appears.

The shades of Grimaldi and Buckstone are joined by the many other restless spirits who have accumulated in the haunted theaters over the centuries.

Performers and crew who have worked at London's two Theatre Royals have many stories about witnessing ghost sightings and other paranormal events. For example, actors Patrick Stewart and Judi Dench, along with a long list of others, claim to have seen Buckstone’s ghost at the Haymarket. 

Other London theater ghosts

The murder of William Terriss
Of course, these two Theatre Royals aren't the only haunted theaters in London. 

There is the terrifying severed head that appears at the Lyceum Theatre. A story goes that in the 1880s some theater patrons watching a performance from the balcony looked down over the auditorium below and saw the head sitting on a woman's lap. 

I don't know if the woman whose lap was being haunted was aware of the grisly apparition. I imagine she would have put up quite a fuss if she had seen it.

Over at the Adelphi Theatre, 19th century actor William Terriss is blamed for all sorts of poltergeist activity. Terriss was stabbed to death by an extra at the theater's stage door in 1897, which would be enough to make anyone carry a grudge into the afterlife. 

Besides haunting the Adelphi, Terriss has also been seen at the London Underground's Covent Garden station, which was built after his death. Perhaps he just wants a bigger audience for his ghostly appearances.

Finally, there's Arthur Bourchier, an actor who died in 1927 and has reportedly stuck around ever since as a ghost. A popular actor especially noted for his Shakespeare roles, for many years he also managed the Garrick Theater. Now he haunts it.

Sudden door slamming, electrical faults, knocking, unexplained television channel changes, floral scents associated with long-dead performers wafting through the air – these are examples of the  paranormal events reported at the theaters.

Not too scary, perhaps, but enough to make most people reluctant to be in an old London theater alone at night. 

So maybe this Halloween it would be wise to avoid wandering by yourself through the dark passages and empty rows of seats at any Theatre Royal in England. Unless, of course, you’re looking for a good scare!


Image by Please Don't sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay 

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 Sources for this post include:

"Inside the world's most haunted theatre," by Andrew Dickson, The Guardian, October 29, 2015

"The chilling stories of the 5 most haunted theatres in London," by Andrew Walker, January 30, 2021, My London.

"La divine Sarah," by Suzanne Hinton, French Brighton blog, March 25, 2018

"Ghosts," The Argus, February 2007

"Grey Lady," The York Ghost Merchants

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Images provided by Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

1 comment:

  1. Well, as much as I am skeptical about belief in ghosts, there must be something more than conspiracy or a hoax to all the accounts multiple people have given for their experiences of apparitions and paranormal events. So, NO, I wouldn't spend a night alone in a haunted house. If I were to encounter a ghost I'd simply ask him or her to go away and leave life to us mortals who occupy own dimensions of time and space bound to this earth.

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