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It’s spooky season! A guide to haunted theatres around the world

19 October 2020 by Michael Rowshan
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Let’s face it: theatres are haunted. After the curtain falls, a ghost light illuminates the stage to, you guessed it, ward off ghosts, and those ghost lights are working overtime these days with theatres dark all around the world.

So maybe the ghosts are having all the fun, and during this spooky season of missing theatre, we hope these haunted theatres around the world are getting their freak on.

Princess Theatre | Melbourne

Now home to the magical world of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Melbourne’s Princess Theatre is known primarily for it’s resident ghost Federici. Italian-British Opera singer Frederick Federici was in Melbourne in 1888 performing in Faust, when he suffered a heart attack whilst falling through a trapdoor at the conclusion of the show.

All seemed fine as the cast saw him join them for their final bows; however, it was only when they returned backstage did they realize that Federici had actually died as soon as he fell through the trapdoor. Spooky right? Federici is now known to make frequent friendly appearances, and a seat is reserved for him at each opening night performance. He is also honored by the theatre bistro being aptly named: Federici. 

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane | London

As far as haunted theatres are concerned, there are none more brimming with ghouls and ghosts than London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Opening in 1663, the oldest continuously running theatre in London has had many centuries to conjure up a whole host of ghastly apparitions.

The most popular forlorn spirit to call this theatre home is known as The Man in Grey. A dapper 18th century gentleman, this polite ghost is said to be a good luck charm to new shows, and is frequently seen in the upper boxes telling noisy audience members to be quiet. Creepily, he is said to be the spirit of a man whose stabbed skeleton was found encased in a wall when the theatre underwent renovations. 

The New Amsterdam | NYC

A member of the famed Zeigfeld Follies of the early 20th century, Olive Thomas was known for her extravagant garb and her love of performing. Crowned “The Most Beautiful Girl in New York City,” Olive died at the young age of 25 after swallowing a handful of mercury pills after a heated exchange with her husband. Since her passing, she has been known as the most active ghost on Broadway.

Her portrait lines the backstage halls of The New Amsterdam so staff can say hi to her and occasionally blow her a kiss in order to quell her mischievous ways. Luckily, Olive is not a vengeful spirit — she supposedly recently hand delivered a booster seat to a young patron attending Aladdin!

Her Majesty’s Theatre | London

It’s an eerie coincidence that the current West End home of Phantom of the Opera is also home to its own resident phantom. Sir Herbert Beerbohm-Tree was an actor, manager, and full-time resident of Her Maj, even going as far as to fund its rebuild in 1899.

It’s been said that his favourite spot to watch a performance was in the stage right top box, where modern audience members have reported ghostly apparitions and sudden temperature changes. Apparently, this is the only part of the theatre he haunts, so if you want to experience a peek into the afterlife, make sure you book tickets in this box. 

The Lyceum | NYC 

The oldest continuously running theatre on Broadway, The Lyceum is rumored to be home to the ghost of legendary choreographer Bob Fosse. With his distinctive style and flair for theatrics, it’s no wonder that Fosse decided to stick around the dazzling lights of Broadway in the afterlife.

The most recent encounter occurred in 2016 when Chita Rivera was performing at The Lyceum. Fosse and Rivera had a very close working relationship, so when crew members started hearing strange sounds and smelled cigarette smoke coming from the balcony seats (he was known to only sit in the balcony), they could only assume it was Fosse coming back to watch his favourite thespian perform.