Haunted Theatres in London

With some dating back to the 17th century, London’s theatres have had plenty of time to accumulate ghostly guests. Here are some terrifying tales of the city’s most haunted theatres.

Part of the Act

The Woman in Black has been haunting the Fortune Theatre for over two decades, and sometimes in quite a literal sense. During a performance, actor Sebastian Harcourte reported seeing two women standing in the wings where no living person had been standing. Several box office employees have seen a woman dressed in black lurking in the bar area, and perhaps most disturbingly, an actress playing the woman in black has felt and heard a presence following her onto the stage.

Charles Macklin

A Deadly Wig

The Fortune Theatre is just one of many London theatres where supernatural events have been reported. Right across the street, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane is reputedly the most haunted theatre in the world. There has been a playhouse on the site since 1663, making it London’s oldest theatre. The ghost of actor Charles Macklin is said to wander the halls, perhaps in remorse for killing a fellow actor at the theatre in 1735 in an argument over a wig. In 1848, during renovations at the theatre, a skeleton was found with a sword skewered between his ribs, contributing to the legend of the theatre’s most infamous spirit, the Man in Grey. An 18th century nobleman who haunts the theatre only during the daytime and particularly enjoys watching rehearsals. His appearance is seen as a good omen for a production, and he was seen by the casts of several of Rodgers and Hammerstein long-running musicals including Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and The King and I. No word on whether he’s appeared during Shrek the Musical…

Another Hair-Raising Experience

Hopefully the child stars of Billy Elliot the Musical haven’t been too frightened by paranormal activity. Not only do the doors of the Victoria Palace Theatre’s costume shop doors open, shut, and lock themselves, but members of the wardrobe team have seen wigs flying through the air unaided on several occasions. Perhaps these sightings were caused by the removal of a statue of Anna Pavlova, a ballerina so superstitious she refused to see images of herself on the posters outside the theatre and insisted on using a separate entrance. The statue was put away for safekeeping during World War II and was never seen again.

William Terriss

Mobbed at the Stage Door

Actor William Terriss met an unfortunate end in 1897 when he was stabbed to death leaving the Stage Door at the Adelphi Theatre by his former protégé, struggling actor Richard Arthur Prince. The case caused a frenzy in the press, and Prince’s sentencing to an asylum was seen as too lenient by many in the theatre community. Terriss hasn’t let his demise put an end to his stage career though, and he is frequently sighted on the stage of the Adelphi as well as in Covent Garden tube station.

The Patron Waiting for an Encore

Most of the ghosts who haunt London theatres seem to be actors or producers, but one audience member seems to be unable to leave her seat in the balcony of the Lyceum Theatre. Staff members have reported seeing an elderly woman clutching what appears to be someone’s severed head on her lap. Madame Tussaud may have something to do with the mysterious woman and her incomplete companion, as her first London waxwork exhibit took place in the theatre in 1802.

Date Opened Haunted Since Ghostly Happenings Fear Factor
Adelphi Theatre 1806 1897 Murdered actor plays in a nightly revival
Dominion Theatre 1928 1928? An apparation from the site’s previous life as a brewery appears from time to time. Freddie Mercury might have joined him too.
Fortune Theatre 1922 1989 Fiction and reality are blurred by the appearance of a woman in black.
Her Majesty’s Theatre 1705 1897 Former theatre manager lurks in one of the boxes, causing it to become cold.
Lyceum Theatre 1765 1802 Elderly ghost with human head on her lap.
Piccadilly Theatre 1928 1990’s The ghost of a minor actress wreaked havoc when her picture was removed from the theatre. All has been quiet since it was put back.
Queen’s Theatre 1907 2000 A gay ghost spies on male staff members and pinches their bottoms in the hallway.
Theatre Royal Drury Lane 1663 1797 Murderers, clowns, and panto dames haunt regularly and seem to have an impact on ticket sales.
Theatre Royal Haymarket 1720 1879 Dame Judi Dench had a visit in her dressing room from the theatre’s former manager, John Buckstone, despite him being dead for over a century.
Victoria Palace Theatre 1832 1939 Doors that lock themselves and flying hairpieces.

Have you had a ghostly run-in at a theatre? Tell us about your spooky experience.

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Haunted Theatres in London

  1. Becca says:

    I have worked at the London Palladium Theatre as an Usher since 2010. When I first started the other theatre Ushers used to tease me about the theatre being haunted. Up until recently I have been having none of it, but over the past 9 or so months I have noticed a few strange goings on in my theatre!

    Basically – it is an unwritten rule that you DO NOT want to be left alone in the staff girls changing rooms. It’s right at the top of the building and, aside from lights turning on and off unexpectedly, it’s an extremely creepy place to be!

    However, my main chilling experience at the Palladium happened to me last summer. I had drawn the short straw and was working as an Usher in the Upper Circle that day! I was selling programmes and was standing holding the door between the corridor and auditorium. The Auditorium itself is carpeted so no matter what inappropriate shoes those brave enough to climb the many stairs to their seats are wearing, no steps can be heard. However the corridor directly outside is a red plastic linum (perhaps the height of theatrical fashion in the 80’s?!). So there I was standing between the two areas and all of a sudden I feel someone brush past me and fast footsteps on the plastic floor. I immediately looked down the long corridor and nobody was there……

    Palladium ghost! ooo.

  2. Juliet says:

    I was trying to google today to find out if there’s any ghost record for the Playhouse at London Embankment, but I haven’t found any until I came to this web page.

    Basically, last night I went to the Playhouse to see the show ‘Speed the Plow’ played by Lindsay Lohen. I was sitting on the first floor circle, the first line, where the circle’s bar is just 20cm from me.

    The first act was normal and I was even talking to my next seat girl during the interval. However when the 2nd act started, after 10-15mins I started to feel some VERY very strange feeling came to my heart. For the first time in my life I had an very weird idea, that what IF I cross the bar and jump into the hall?

    Then from that on, such very weird and strange but very strong feeling obsessed me and my whole body, that I had such a strong motivation and wanted sooooo much to do so: cross the circle bar and jump out, even at the same time the play was still playing on the stage and the theater was Full of audience, plus my left and my right side are all full of audience, still, it just cannot stop me keep on thinking and even physically so keen to try to do this: jump to the floor, from the circle.

    I definitely felt this very strong and uncontrolable feeling and I was so panic, on the one hand in my heart and in my mind I was so keen to jump out, on the other hand I was trying my best to control my body physically. I was sooo struggling and it was really, really, really difficult to control that terrible attempt in my mind. I felt sick, and my body was trembling. I am not joking or trying to make up story here, honestly I was totally controlled by some unknown strong feeling and was so scared in the following whole hour during the play.

    I had a thought that maybe, there was someone, who used to jumped out and died in this theater, and now it’s his/her ghost was trying to drag me down. I felt so sick and something in my mind was seducing me: just jump out and you’ll be fine. Don’t you want to do that?

    Seriously, at the end I was worrying so much that I may lose my control, so I even find the seat’s armrest, and hold them very, very tightly. Still this cannot stop my mind’s struggling of willing to jump cross the bar, to the ground floor.

    That was a damn torture. I had to wait the whole play ended as I worry if other people would think I was insane. And more, I was more worried if I left the seat to leave right now, then my body would completely lose control and being pulled to jump out, by that unknown one.

    So I waited the end of the play, and carefully following others to leave the circle, and even that few seconds I was still so terrified and trembling. After I finally went out and walked on the street, I still felt so scary for a long time, worrying if the ghost was still following me..So I choose to take a bus to go home, because there are more people and I felt safer.

    I went to theater almost more than 10 years already but it NEVER happened to me before. For the first time in my life, I experienced such terrified moment. Guess I will never seat on the circle again and even will never go to the Playhouse theater.

    I am sorry, but is there anyone can tell me if there was someone jumped from circle and died in that theater, before?

    Many thanks. And thanks God.

  3. Sandra says:

    Whilst sitting in the royal circle at Her majesty’s theatre (row B, seat 2) during the 1st part of the performance, I felt someone nudge my right shoulder. This happened again within 1 minute, it was a distinct nudge whilst the phantom was talking / singing.
    There was no-one sitting behind me, due to the seating arrangement at the theatre. I would not have thought too much of it, until my neighbour (sitting in B3) commented that someone had given him 2 nudges in his left shoulder.
    Has anyone experienced anything similar? Is there a ghost who haunts this theatre?

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