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.

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