London’s West End is one of the most famous Tourist Destinations in London. An unrivalled number of Plays and Musicals attract countless visitors and Londoners alike, and the area is always buzzing. But there is more than meets the eye….as the days get shorter and the nights get longer, the Ghosts of Theatre Land awake…
As London Baby is unfortunately not specialised in Ghosts and Theatreland as such, we have teamed up with the ticketing website www.fromtheboxoffice.com . To be honest, I have not personally used them yet to buy tickets (I have been so busy running around discovering new places that there was no time for theatre :)) but I love their blog – rather than being a bland sales channel, one can really tell that they have a passion for theatre land- bringing not only the latest news on shows, but also tell background and historical facts about plays, theatre land and much more.
So enjoy their guest post, where they take you into haunted theatre land and give you a rundown of the best shows going on at the moment! If you feel like heading to one of the shows, you can always check their website for tickets. I do want to clarify that I have not received any benefits, commission or anything for posting this, but I am happy that in this way, I can bring some different than usual tips and stories for you!
Theatreland’s Greatest Ghosts
As the nights draw in, few buildings evoke a sense of the supernatural more thrillingly than London’s historic West End theatres. Paranormal investigators and even some famous sceptics believe that buildings can retain and record memories of fear, betrayal, love and loathing. Small wonder then that theatres, where complex human emotions are played out night after night, should retain and sometimes even replay those memories.
Poltergeists are often said to feed on human energy and even the most rational front of house manager occasionally reports the hairs on the back of their neck standing up as they walk through a deserted auditorium or empty corridor late at night.
The most haunted of London’s theatres, Drury Lane’s Theatre Royal, is famously possessed of a mysterious Man in Grey whose skeleton was found in 1848 immured within a little used side passage. The man, believed to be a nobleman, had been stabbed and often appears in the clothes in which he fell – a tricorne hat, a cloak and riding boots. A sighting of the Man in Grey is said to bring good luck to a production – although sheer terror to the witness.
The ghosts of a clown, Grimaldi, and the murderous actor Charles Macklin are also reported to infest the theatre – along with the resident mice who are a fixture of most West End houses.
A more bizarre animal presence is said to float in mid-air in the modern Peacock Theatre: the tragic ghost of a neglected dolphin. The unfortunate flipper allegedly expired in its tank whilst being used in an adult-themed show – the mind boggles! Some claim that the whole story is a fabrication, but anyone wandering the backstage corridors alone at night might do well to keep walking if they hear a strange clicking or catch a whiff of the sea behind them.
Further east, Tottenham Court Road’s Dominion Theatre echoes to the sound of a child’s laughter with poltergeist activity and several sightings of a ghostly cellar worker from a brewery that once stood on the site.
Dressing Room 1 of the Theatre Royal Haymarket, one of London’s oldest theatres, is frequently visited by the spirit of actor-manager John Buckstone. When performing there, Judi Dench and Donald Sinden would attest to an unsettling experience even worse than first night nerves – a visit from beyond the grave.
We’ve only scratched the surface of the ghostly goings-on in West End this Halloween so, if you’re feeling particularly brave, here are our top ten spooky experiences to enjoy when the clocks go back:
#1 The Woman in Black (http://thewomaninblack.com/)
This enduring classic, far more terrifying than the recent film version, continues to chill West End theatregoers. Try to sit in the stalls – not only for the full effect but also because the leg room in the circle is horrific.
#2 The Phantom of the Opera (http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/london)
He might not be an oil painting, but he sings great for a dead guy. Set in a sewer, it’s amazing what a few scented candles and a chandelier will do.
#3 The Illusionists (http://www.shaftesburytheatre.com/shows/the-illusionists)
Featuring Britain’s Got Talent’s Jamie Raven, The Illusionists is sure to conjure up theatrical magic when it opens on 14 November. After all, who doesn’t like seeing people trying to escape certain death?
#4 The Ghost Bus Tour (http://www.theghostbustours.com/london.html)
This might not be based around a theatre theme, but you’d be hard pushed to find a more spooky way to see the West End by night.
#5 Matilda The Musical (http://uk.matildathemusical.com)
Magical powers abound in this RSC mega-hit. It may once have been a children’s book but it’s now a deliciously dark delight for an autumn evening.
#6 Wicked (http://www.wickedthemusical.co.uk/)
If you like your witches camp and crafty, then you simply can’t miss this musical display of broomsticks and bitchiness
#7 Thriller Live! (http://thrillerlive.com/west-end/)
Singing zombies, moonwalking werewolves – and that’s just the audience! Fans flock to this tribute to the greatest showman on earth.
#8 Theatre Royal Drury Lane Backstage Tour http://www.reallyusefultheatres.co.uk/specials-vip-hospitality/offers/tours
If you’re brave enough you may encounter a brush with the Man in Grey – and if not you could always hang around for an evening performance of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
#9 Hamlet http://hamlet.barbican.org.uk/
Featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Shakespeare’s best known ghost, it’s a total sell-out… but there are 30 day seats every day, including for the final performance on 31st October. The queue will probably start the night before for seats sold at 10.30am.
#10 Harry Potter and the Cursed Child http://www.harrypottertheplay.com/
Tickets will harder to come by than a basilisk’s tooth when this opens in 2016, so register now to get a seat for next Halloween!
Haunted West End Theatres’ by Ian John Shillito and Becky Walsh
Theatreland: A Journey through the Heart of London’s Theatre by Paul Ibell