Ghost stories and scary productions in London
Something wicked this way comes… as a ghost in London’s West End from apparitions that melt into walls, to poltergeists throwing objects into the air can scare audiences. Theatreland’s rich history makes it an ideal stomping ground for a host of haunting figures. Get spooky with us as we take you on a journey through to the walls of the West End where the ghosts lurk.
Ghost stories in London
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Theatre Royal Drury Lane is the oldest working theatre in London and is also known as London’s most haunted theatre.
The most famous ghost to prowl the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is The Man in Grey. Wearing a riding cloak, a white ruffled shirt and a tricorne hat, he patrols the upper circle and dematerialises through a wall. Famously, in 1939, more than half the cast of The Dancing Years, who were on stage for a photo call saw the ghost cross the upper circle and melt through the wall.
The Man in Grey is said to only appear at the beginning of a successful theatre run. The King and I, Oklahoma and South Pacific are just three of the productions he has appeared for and Miss Saigon was even honoured by an appearance each time the cast changed. His antics include pushing performers into positions from which they can deliver their lines better.
The father of modern clowns, Joseph Grimaldi, is said to haunt the theatre. With a white face painted on, he was a very popular clown, with clowns being named “Joeys” in the theatre world.
Although he died in 1837, his ghost has returned many times to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane where he performed often. He is known among actors, cleaners and ushers for giving them a mischievous kick as they go about their duties.
When theatregoers see him, it’s in the form of a white, disembodied face floating around the theatre. Oddly, Grimaldi requested that his head should be severed from his body prior to his burial, which might account for these sightings.
John Baldwin Buckstone at the Theatre Royal Haymarket
John Baldwin Buckstone was once actor-manager at the Theatre Royal Haymarket – the second oldest theatre in London. He staged 200 plays during his tenure and the theatre quickly became known as the leading comic venue of its day. Although he died at home peacefully at the old age of 77, Buckstone can still be found lurking around the complex, usually sat watching the plays.
Patrick Stewart glimpsed him on stage during a 2009 production of Waiting for Godot in his beige coat and twill trousers. Judi Dench and Donald Sinden have also spied the friendly ghost.
Evelyn Laye at the Piccadilly Theatre
Evelyn Laye was the star of the first ever production at the theatre when it opened in April 1928 and is said to haunt the venue as a poltergeist.
Laye went on to enjoy a long and successful career appearing in Hollywood films as well as on stage both on Broadway and in the West End. When the photo of her was removed from the offices, the activity allegedly became more violent – objects were thrown and doors were slammed! Once the photo was replaced, things calmed down. Laye died in 1996 so if she causes the ghostly activity, this makes her a good contender for the most modern ghost in the West End!
The ghosts of New Wimbledon Theatre
The New Wimbledon Theatre is a Grade II listed building in Merton, London with a ripe history.
Allegedly, when the theatre was new, part of the set collapsed and killed an actress. Many have felt a strong female presence within the theatre that is said to be her. During a tour of the building, a lady was almost knocked backwards by what she described as an incredibly powerful female energy. A few years before that, an usher was clearing away after a performance and heard a woman whistling in the ladies toilet.
In 1980, the venue was undergoing a £3 million refurbishment and the fire brigade had been checking the valve system that operates the sprinkler. They were confident that it was working correctly but at 2am, the manager was awoken by the alarm bell to find the sprinkler system flooding the stage. Upon investigating the machinery, the fire brigade still could find no fault in it.
Scary shows to see in London
Take a walk into the scarier side of theatre at Ghost Stories, back at the Lyric Hammersmith nearly 40 years since its first performance at the off-West End theatre. Written by Andy Nyman (playing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof) and Jeremy Dyson, feel the magic of a larger-than-life West End show in an intimate setting.
Based on the 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead receives its first live London adaptation, allowing audiences to sit among the gore and guts. Whether you choose to sit in the ‘safe zones’ or in the ‘splatter zones’ or on stage, expect things to go bump in the night once you’ve left the theatre.