Alongside New York’s Broadway, the West-End in London is renowned for producing the best in commercial theatre. Head to the West-End and you’ll see historic, grade-listed theatres on every corner. These theatres are steeped in history, some dating back as far as the 17th century. With a theatre district full of old buildings with long histories, there are bound to be some ghost and ghouls lurking in the dressing rooms at night.
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Theatre Royal on Drury Lane is the oldest working theatre in London with the first theatre on the site founded in 1663. The theatre is reported as the most haunted theatre in the world home to several ghosts including two clowns and the theatre’s most famous ghost, the mysterious ‘Man in Grey’. The ‘Man in Grey’ has been seen countless times in the Upper Circle and eyewitnesses have reported the man to be wearing a tri-cornered hat. The mysterious past of this man is still unknown, however during renovations to the theatre in 1870, a skeleton with a dagger through the ribcage was uncovered in the same wall that the ghost is believed to disappear through.
The ghost said to haunt the Adelphi Theatre is William Terriss, a great actor of his time who performed heroic roles in Shakespearian plays. In 1897, Terriss was tragically murdered at the stage door by a former friend and deranged bit-part actor Richard Archer Prince in a jealous rage. Terriss died in his lover’s arms and promised her that she would see him again once more. He kept to his promise – Terris reportedly knocks on the dressing room door which previously belonged to ex-lover Jessica Millward.
Built on the site of a former brewery, many audience members have reported seeing a young girl who is said to be 14 year old brewery worker, Eleanor Cooper. She was working at the brewery at the time of the London Beer Flood where eight people drowned due to a ruptured vat containing millions of pints of beer. There are also reports of a child giggling and poltergeist activity. Could that be 14 year old Eleanor Cooper playing tricks on us?
Her Majesty’s Theatre
Actor-manager Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree made severally appearances during his time at Her Majesty’s Theatre. His favourite place to watch performances was in the top box. Audience members in the box have reportedly complained of cold spots and the door to the box suddenly opening. Ironically, the theatre hosted the first performance of The Phantom of the Opera. Were the producers hoping for a cameo performance from Sir Beerbohm Tree we wonder?
Theatre Royal Haymarket
Known as a friendly ghost, actor-manager John Buckstone has been seen many times in the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. British legend, Dami Judi Dench reportedly spotted the ghost of John Buckstone in the theatre’s backstage stairwells. And even backstage staff have heard him reciting lines in Dressing Room, the royal box and even once on stage during a performance!
On our Famous Ghosts and Infamous Murders Walking Tour, we will bring to light more ghosts and ghouls who are still know to haunt the streets of London’s West End. Looking for a bit more blood and gore? Book onto our Death and Debauchery Walking Tour, and learn about some of London’s most horrid, grotesque and chilling stories.