Jan 24, 2020

The World’s Coolest Haunted Theatres

Actors and people who work in the theater are known to be a superstitious bunch. They might be professionals, but they’re always worried that something might go awry. When things do go wrong, performers often suspect the worst. Add in most actors’ propensity towards theatricality, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for deliciously spooky ghost stories that get passed down by generations of performers. 

That’s why many theaters around the world are considered by insiders to be haunted. From mysterious happenings behind the scenes to spooky frights that take place on and off stage, some seriously unsettling occurrences can happen once the lights dim inside a theater. 

If you’re intrigued by the supernatural and love a good ghost story, these theaters will probably give you shivers. Here are some of the most haunted theaters in the world.

  • Located in the heart of London’s West End theater district, Theatre Royal on Drury Lane first opened in 1663, making it one of the city’s oldest operating theaters. It’s known to be one of the most haunted locations in the country – and in a country with as much surviving historical architecture as England, that’s saying something.

    There are two famous ghosts that are reported to reside at Theatre Royal. Joseph Grimaldi is the most charming. He’s a former comedian and pantomime whose ghost has been said to enjoy kicking passing staff. The other is The Man in Grey, a young, limping man who’s said to appear, then vanish through walls when spotted. In the 1870s, renovations were done on the theater, and a male skeleton with a dagger through his ribs was found exactly where the Man in Grey would often disappear.   

  • The famous novel and hit Broadway musical The Phantom of the Opera is set at the Palais Garnier. This theater has been the historic home of the Paris Opera since 1875. And while there’s never been an actual Phantom sighting, the theater is said to be haunted. 

    The building has been shrouded in mystery since the early days of its construction, when frustrated workers had to alter their plans because a mysterious spring of water was flowing through the foundations with no origin in sight. This mystery, along with several others – including the death of a theater worker who was crushed under a falling chandelier – made their way into Gaston Leroux’s story of the Phantom who haunts the cellars of the theater, and his love affair with a young soprano named Christine.

  • Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre has been home to many long-running and legendary productions including Disney’s Aladdin and The Lion King. It was originally built in 1903 for theater producer Florenz Ziegfield, the mastermind behind the vaudeville show Ziegfield Follies. Behind the scenes, however, everything wasn’t always shiny and bright at the New Amsterdam Theatre. 

    In 1920, a chorus girl named Olive Thomas who’d made a name for herself in the Follies died, and her spirit is said to haunt the building. Incidents of ghostly apparitions and the feeling of hands touching people on the back have been reported by many staff. Olive has been such a constant presence that theater workers have put up pictures of her at the theater. It’s thought that, by greeting her every day, staff keep her pacified so she won’t make mischief.

  • The Theatre Royal has the Man in Grey, and another theater of the very same name also has a mysterious, kind of frightening figure in grey. At the Theatre Royal, Brighton, many people have told stories about seeing The Grey Lady, an extremely lifelike apparition of a woman wearing stiff, 19th century clothing. 

    Accounts vary on the identity of the Grey Lady. Some people say that it’s the spirit of legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt, who was a popular French actor between the 1860s and the 1920s. Other people who have seen her believe that the ghost is the spirit of a woman named Ellen Elizabeth Nye Chart, who was the theater’s manager in the late 1800s. If you want to see for yourself, Brighton is just a quick train journey from London!

  • Another popular vaudeville theater with a spooky haunting history is the Palace Theatre in New York City. First constructed in 1913, it’s been continuously occupied ever since – until September 2018, when it actually closed for renovations following the run of SpongeBob SquarePants. However, the theater likely won’t be quiet while it’s under construction. During the 3-year renovation, the construction workers may be troubled by the ghosts. 

    It’s rumored that there are over 100 ghosts on the premises of the Palace Theatre. The most tragic ghost of all is Louis Bossalina, an acrobat who was severely injured at the theater during a performance in the 1950s. Stagehands who’ve been inside the theater at night have claimed to see him swinging from the rafters, then diving into the stage with a scream. 

  • Boston University Theatre, which opened in 1923 under the name the Repertory Theatre of Boston, is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of the original owner. Henry Jewett built the theatre as a home for his eponymous acting troupe. Less than five years later, Jewett declared bankruptcy and the theater was sold. It became a movie house, but before the keys were handed over, Jewett hung himself underneath the stage. 

    Now that it’s a theater venue again, actors and technicians alike claim to have seen Jewett’s ghost in the back row during rehearsals.

  • One of the most unusual theater ghost stories has to be the Phantom Butterfly of Theatre Royal, Bath. The story goes that in 1948, an ambitious director decided to include a large “Butterfly Ballet” in his Christmas pantomime. An immense set piece was built, covered in fake butterflies.

    One day, a real butterfly was found dead onstage. Almost immediately after that, the director died. His son took over and decided to cut the “Butterfly Ballet” scene from the production. Soon after, a live butterfly was seen onstage, and the show went on to be a huge success. Ever since, butterflies have been spotted onstage occasionally. But here’s what makes the occurrence spooky: the butterflies only appear during critically acclaimed productions.

  • Most theaters today are built with a gigantic, heavy, and flame-retardant curtain. They’re employed to protect the audience in the event of a fire. In 1903, the Iroquois Theatre was built in Chicago, and its fire curtain was advertised to the public as being “Absolutely Fireproof.” That claim backfired terribly, however, when the entire theatre burned down one month after it opened. 

    That fire is still considered to be the greatest single-building fire in American history. Sparks from a short-circuit quickly lit the canvas backdrops, which turned into a “gigantic fireball” when actors tried to escape out the back door. More than 600 people died. Ever since the tragedy, people performing in the rebuilt theater – now named the Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theater – have seen apparitions, especially in the area behind the theater where the bodies were piled up during the investigation.

  • The site of the Edinburgh Playhouse has had a number of different uses over the years – and it hasn’t always been a theater. Its past includes stints as an insane asylum and a religious institution. 

    But it wasn’t until the Edinburgh Playhouse opened as a movie theater in 1950 that people started seeing apparitions of a man in grey coveralls. Many people have seen him or felt the touch of a hand when no one else was around. No one really knows where he came from, whether he met a violent end, or if he just likes being around the building. He’s so accepted by the staff at the Playhouse that they even named the theater bar Albert’s in his honor.

  • The popular New Wimbledon Theatre is one of the jewels of London’s West End. It’s a huge Edwardian structure that was first built in 1910, and it’s a true sight to see, whether you’re watching a play or simply exploring the building. 

    But it’s good to know that the New Wimbledon Theatre is haunted before you visit – and sightings are frequent. Many people claim to have seen the ghost of the original manager, an affable man named J.B. Mulholland whose spirit seems to enjoy nothing more than sitting in his usual spot and watching a performance. Others have seen the figure of a woman in grey, who apparently loves to turn on the sprinkler system.

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