For some time now I have been carrying out research about Haunted Theatres in Scotland. I hope that you enjoy some of the following encounters with our Scottish Ghosts in Greasepaint.
Many of us love a good ghost story and are at our happiest when the story is so good that the hairs on the back of our necks start to tingle. Here are a few of my favourites.
The Ramshorn Theatre in Glasgow near Ingram Street has been converted from a former church and sets a scene for various disturbances. A woman called Edie is said to haunt the toilets where the minister's vestry was once located and strange footsteps have also been heard echoing round the main auditorium.
The New Century Theatre in Motherwell began as the Rex Cinema and dating from around 1936, is said to be haunted by a ghost called "Oscar", who is reputed to be a man who committed suicide by jumping from the gallery into the stalls. Over the years there have been many recorded sightings of "Oscar" roaming corridors and stairwells in the building.
The Royal Princess Theatre in Glasgow, which was built in 1878, became the Citizens in 1945, and reputedly has an apparition of a green lady haunting the building. It is believed that the ghost of the woman was a former front of house manager who sadly died in the theatre and her apparition has been reputedly witnessed in the theatre on a number of occasions in the areas of the Stalls and the Circle.
The Byre Theatre in St Andrews was converted in the 1930ís from a dairy and throughout the years, has staged a succession of performances for audiences of all ages. In spite of the difficulties of the time, the theatre was kept going right through the dark years of the Second World War thanks to the unstinting efforts of its director, Charles Manford. It would appear that Manfordís dedication to the Byre has stayed with him since his death, for although he passed away in 1955 his ghost still haunts backstage. Manifestations have consisted of cold feelings on the stairs leading to the green room and the impression that a person was pushing past when nobody was apparently present.
His Majestyís Theatre, Aberdeen, a fine building dating from 1906 was fully renovated in the 1980ís. It is said to be haunted by the spirit of a former stagehand known to everyone as "Jake". It is recorded that Jake was killed in 1942 by a stage hoist and it has been reported over the years that objects move by themselves and his apparition has also been reputedly seen. There has also been an appearance of a "Grey Lady" who glides through the foyer of the theatre.
The Playhouse Theatre in Edinburgh, which was built in 1927-29, is one of the largest theatres in Scotland, a former cinema with a capacity to seat around 3000 has become one of the main Scottish venues for many of the West End large scale Musicals. This theatre is said to be haunted by a ghost called "Albert", his apparition has been seen on a regular basis and is said to be very friendly but mischievious. Albert is believed to be a maintenance man who very sadly was killed in a backstage accident. His presence has been felt in certain cold spots in the theatre, and also on occasion he has materialised as a figure in a grey coat.
The Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh dates from 1883 and was beautifully remodelled in 1992 with a glass foyer. The Theatre has a fine Victorian interior, and is said to be haunted by an apparition of a woman in a blue dress. Various sightings of her having have seen in an upper gallery, which is not open to the public during performances and ghostly laughter has also been heard in the auditorium.
The Theatre Royal, Glasgow, which dates from 1867, has a fine interior with 3 circles of beautiful decoration. The Royal has had a great history over the years and at one time was used by Scottish Television to record the One Oí Clock Gang with Dorothy Paul and Larry Marshall. The Theatre is now home to Scottish Opera and is said to be haunted by at least 2 ghosts. The first is said to be a ghost of "Nora" a former cleaner, who reputedly was an aspiring actress whose work sadly was not taken seriously, and unfortunately she threw herself to her death from the upper circle. Her ghost is said to manifest itself with moaning and slamming doors. The second ghost is said to be an apparition of a fireman who was killed in the theatre while on duty. He has reportedly been seen lurking in the shadows of the orchestra pit.
The Rothes Hall Theatre in Glenrothes, Fife, was built on the site of an old burial ground. Workers have reported many ghostly occurrences over a number of years; and many of the incidents are impossible to explain. Today the hall is used by a group of Spiritualists who in fact claim that the building is haunted by at least 3 ghosts.
The former Edinburgh Empire, which was reopened as the Edinburgh Festival Theatre in 1994, has a staff that claim to have seen a tall dark shadowy figure of a man on a number of occasions, creating the speculation that this apparition might be the ghost of the great magician Lafayette. Lafayette was killed in a fire at the Edinburgh Empire during one of his performances and his ghost has been identified in the circle area of the auditorium and also on the stage.
The Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow celebrated 100 years in February 2004, the Pavilion was home to the great comedian Lex McLean and is said to be haunted by at least five ghosts. The great comedian Tommy Morgan is reputed to haunt the theatre. After Morgan's death, his last wish was to have his ashes scattered on the roof of the pavilion and at that time the management carried out his last wish. Tommy is said to wander the upstairs corridors and back stage area of his favourite theatre. Another two ghosts in the theatre are believed to be firstly the apparition of a woman who has been sighted in one of the boxes in the auditorium, and secondly a seat which mysteriously seems to go down itself in Row F of the stalls.. Most of the theatre staff have on occasions reported various items of equipment very strangely disappearing from right under their noses. The Ghost of a female dancer is said to haunt one of the Chorus dressing rooms on the top floor. In the early days of the Pavilion, the Dancers shared the top dressing room as it was the largest, and legend has it that the girl caught her dress on a fire in the room and was burnt to death. The final ghost which is alleged to haunt the fine building is reputed to be a phantom pianist. Over the years there have been one or two reports of strange piano music coming from the locked auditorium, and on inspection auditorium staff can find no pianist and even more strangely no piano!
The Empire Theatre, Glasgow, opened in 1897 and played host to many great stars from the world stage, television and film, the final performance was on Sunday 31 March 1963. Sadly after this the threatre was demolished and now some shops and offices stand on its site. Two ghostly accounts from the Empire were brought to my attention through Mr Daniel Fernie who had worked in the Empire in its later years. These accounts are from Daniel himself.
"In June of 1960 I left Colston School in Bishopbriggs and began a signwriting apprenticeship with David Mars and Co. of Bishopbriggs. The Empire was the first assignment I had under my trainer. In August of 1960 we were gold-leafing the pilasters on the upper balcony when I happened to turn and look down at the stage. There was a feeling of electricity in the air and a faint apparition of what looked to be Nuns singing on the stage. The lead singer was a very strong soprano and powerful women. I could faintly hear the music which was the Easter Hymn from Cavalaria Rusticana. I am very familiar with the classical music genre. Anyway at that point for some reason the name Marion came to mind. I do not know why... My trainer heard and saw what I saw. He told me that we were supposed to be the only people in the theater. He went downstairs to investigate and I sat down to view this spectacle which lasted about 3 minutes. My trainer came back and said that we must have imagined it but I knew otherwise. At home I recounted the happening to my Mother who at that point told me that the singers name was Marion... I forget the last name. She was part of the Charlie Chester show and was introduced as the Golden voice of...I wonder if anyone remembers that particular Charlie Chester show where this number was performed".
"About a week later I and my trainer were up on the stage working with the fire-curtain which was down. I had just finished lettering an advertisement when my trainer turned to me and said, "Did you stamp your feet on the floor?" I said no! Just then we could feel the boards move on our side and on the other side of the curtain as if someone were dancing rather forcibly. This time I said to my trainer that I would go to the other side to check it out. On the other side there was nothing visible but I could still hear the boards move. I checked the surrounding areas. I was just by the scene door when I heard some music. It sounded foreign to me but I could not quite place the type of music. I was some two years in the USA before I found out that the Red Army Choir and Dancers were featured at the Empire. I bought one of the records in the U.S. It was only then that I realised that the music I heard was a Balalika. Were the dancers moving the boards? It still gives me a shudder when I think of It!"
Ghosts are known to haunt many of the theatres in the British Isles. Next time you go to see a show, pause for thought and have a look around. You never know who or what you may be sitting beside.
Empire Photographs by kind courtesy of the Bob Bain Variety Collection
Theatre Photographs by kind courtesy of Various Authors