Haunted Theatres in London

With some London theatres dating back to the 17th century, the West End is a hotspot of ghostly guests who refuse to leave the theatricals behind. Here are the terrifying tales behind London’s most haunted theatres.

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Adelphi Theatre

Date opened: 1806
Haunted since: 1897

London’s Adelphi Theatre is haunted by the wandering spook William Terriss, a former actor who was murdered at the Stage Door in 1897 and died in the arms of his lover. Terriss mostly stays on the streets and has even been sighted at Covent Garden Tube Station, although he makes his rounds in the dressing rooms of the Adelphi, often pausing to knock at the door of his former lover. In 1928, it was said that the ghost of Terriss attacked a girl who was inhabiting his lover’s former dressing room.

Fear Factor: star-rating-2.0Chilled to the bone. We think we’ll be using Leicester Square Tube Station from now on!

Dominion Theatre

Date opened: 1928
Haunted since: 1928

The Dominion Theatre opened on the site of a former brewery, which experienced a deadly disaster in 1814 when a vat of beer exploded and drowned eight people in what became known as the London Beer Flood. One of those drowned was 14 year-old Eleanor Cooper, who is regularly reported to have been seen sitting and giggling in the Dominion Theatre auditorium.

Fear Factor: star-rating-1.0A chilly breeze. Yikes! Luckily we’ve never seen her ourselves…

Duke of York’s Theatre

Date opened: 1892
Haunted since: 1940’s

In the 1940’s, the Duke of York’s Theatre became infamous for a possessed Victorian jacket that mysteriously attempted to strangle every actress who wore it. A séance revealed that it was once owned by a woman who drowned! Additionally, the spook of former theatre manager Violet Melnotte has been spotted mingling with first night audiences.

Fear Factor: star-rating-3.0Grimly ghoulish. The jacket sounds terrifying, as does the thought of potentially brushing shoulders with a ghost!

Fortune Theatre

Date opened: 1922
Haunted since: 1989

Home to the scary thriller The Woman in Black, the Fortune Theatre is known for housing the real version of the ghoul. During a performance, actor Sebastian Harcourte reported seeing two women lurking in the wings, one being the actress and the other being an unexplained apparition. Several box office employees have also seen a woman dressed in black loitering at the theatre bar, whilst the actresses who don the black veil often report feeling a presence with them on stage.

Fear Factor: star-rating-5.0Get me outta here! We’re already frightened by the play itself without knowing that we may have spotted the real spook!

Garrick Theatre

Date opened: 1889
Haunted since: 1903

A haunted staircase is said to be in place at the Garrick Theatre, where former manager from the 1900’s Arthur Bourchier regularly traipses up and down. In the 1990’s, builders renovating the theatre claimed to have seen him watching over them.

Fear Factor: star-rating-1.0A chilly breeze. Well, we’d want to know the people building our beloved theatre were doing a good job too!

Her Majesty’s Theatre

Date opened: 1705
Haunted since: 1897

Actor-manager Sir Beerbohm Tree made several appearances on stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre and he continues to ensure that others are doing the same. Often, the ghoul is said to watch shows from the stage right top box. Occupants of the box have complained that it becomes cold and that the door opens and closes of its own accord. During the 1970’s the company of Cause Celebre saw the ghost walk across the theatre.

Fear Factor: star-rating-1.0A chilly breeze. It’s nice to know that the theatre is being looked after…

London Coliseum

Date opened: 1904
Haunted since: 1918

For a decade after WWI, the London Coliseum was haunted by the ghost of a soldier killed in action. He spent his last night of leave at a Coliseum performance before he died!

Fear Factor: star-rating-1.0A chilly breeze. There have been no reports of him since, so we think you may be safe!

London Palladium

Date opened: 1910
Haunted since: Unknown

A staircase leading to London Palladium’s Royal Circle is believed to have once been connected to Argyll House. A lady ascending the stairs in a crinoline dress is regularly spotted, and she is believed to have been the mistress of the 18th-century Duke of Argyll.

Fear Factor: star-rating-2.0Chilled to the bone. We wouldn’t want to bump into her on the stairs…

Lyceum Theatre

Date opened: 1834
Haunted since: 1880’s

In the late 1880’s, a couple sat in the balcony peered over and saw a severed head of a man sitting in a woman’s lap in the stalls below. After the show they were unable to find the woman, but did discover that a man who once owned the land the Lyceum Theatre stands on was beheaded for treason.

Fear Factor: star-rating-3.0Grimly ghoulish. There’s nothing worse than attending the theatre and accidentally seeing a severed head!

Noel Coward Theatre

Date opened: 1903
Haunted since: Unknown

Situated behind Wyndham’s Theatre, the Noel Coward is said to be haunted by the theatre’s architect, Charles Wyndham. His grey-haired ghoul is said to glide past the dressing rooms.

Fear Factor: star-rating-2.0Chilled to the bone. We’re glad that he lurks backstage!

Piccadilly Theatre

Date opened: 1928
Haunted since: 1990’s

Piccadilly Theatre is said to house the spook of an actress Evelyn Laye, who starred in the theatre’s opening production in 1928. Her photograph hung in the theatre offices, but when it was taken down there seemed to be chaos within the theatre! Once it was hung back up, everything became quiet…

Fear Factor: star-rating-2.0Chilled to the bone. Being the most recent ghost in Theatreland, we’re just hoping the producers keep the picture up!

Old Vic Theatre

Date opened: 1818
Haunted since: Unknown

A grisly ghost lurks in the Old Vic and has been spotted with blood-stained hands that clutch her chest. It is thought that the blood is merely make-up and that she is continuing to act out her final dramatic scene.

Fear Factor: star-rating-4.0Spooktacular. Any ghouls that have blood on them are surely ones to keep away from…

Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Date opened: 1663 (current building opened since 1812)
Haunted since: 1797

Said to be not only the most haunted theatre in the world, but one of the most haunted buildings in the world, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane as we know it now is the fourth venue to open up on the site. Haunted by three distinct ghostly figures, audiences have been seeing apparitions for hundreds of years. A ghost of pantomime dame Dan Leno is said to wander round the theatre, eager to remain in the spotlight. Whilst he hasn’t been seen, you can smell his presence when a distinctive lavender scent fills the air. A slightly scarier spook has been sighted in the form of Joseph Grimaldi, a clown figure who asked to be decapitated before his burial. Consequently, his disembodied head floats around the theatre, with his invisible body kicking any actor whose performance is not up to scratch. Next is the legendary Man in Grey, who has been spotted multiple times by casts, crew and audience members. Traipsing across the Upper Circle, the shadowy figure disappears into the wall and is said to only appear when a show is going to be a hit. In 1870, renovations revealed a bricked-up room behind said wall, containing a skeleton with a dagger through the ribcage. So far, the Man in Grey has appeared for South Pacific, The King and I, Oklahoma and Miss Saigon.

Fear Factor: star-rating-4.0Spooktacular. That’s a lot of ghosts…

Theatre Royal Haymarket

Date opened: 1720
Haunted since: 1879

Several famous actors, including the likes of Judi Dench, have reported spotting the spook of the theatre’s manager from the 1800’s, John Buckstone. However, he is said to be a friendly ghost and is often seen climbing the stairwells and perching in the Royal Box.

Fear Factor: star-rating-1.0A chilly breeze. If Dame Judi wasn’t scared, then neither are we!

Victoria Palace Theatre

Date opened: 1832
Haunted since: 1939

It is said that the doors of the Victoria Palace Theatre’s costume cupboard open and shut of their own accord, locking themselves at crucial moments. Dressers have often reported wigs flying through the air and important props going missing. It is suggested that this was all caused by the removal a statue of Anna Pavlova, a ballerina so superstitious that she refused to see images of herself on the posters outside the theatre and insisted on using a separate entrance. After the statue was put in storage during World War II, it was never seen again.

Fear Factor: star-rating-3.0Grimly ghoulish. Just remember to duck if something comes flying through the air!

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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