Famous Haunted Places: Theatre Royal, Durry Lane, London
by Christine B.
The Theatre Royal is a working theater, but not all the actors are still among the living. There is a spirit known as “the Man in Grey,” and he has been seen at all hours of the day and night, especially in the audition room. He appears in full costume of a tri-corn hat, powdered wig and a sword.
The original theater at the site was built in 1663. The current theater was built in 1812. It is presently owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The spirit that still plays his role in this theater has been seen for over 200 years.
The skeletal body of a murdered man with a knife still lodged in its chest was found walled up behind a backstage room in the 1800s. It was dressed in the same costume that the restless spirit has been seen wearing and on the other side of a wall where the ghost has been seen to walk through on numerous occasions. But the Man is Grey is not the only phantom at this theater.
A popular character during the early 1800s was Joseph Grimaldi. Grimaldi had a long and popular run at theater playing a white-faced pantomime clown. He was so admired in the role that he is the reason clowns wear white face makeup and are called “Joeys” even today. By 1818 Grimaldi had fallen into ill health and was penniless. His friends planned a benefit in his honor. Although Joseph was so ill that he could not stand up, he was still able to rock the audience with laughter.
Grimaldi’s spirit is still attempting to make the theater staff laugh by giving them mischievous kicks from time to time. His floating white face has also been seen on many occasions. This is due to the fact that one of the clown’s last wishes was to have his head severed from his body after his death. A strange request, but it was carried out. I guess he only wanted his clown face remembered.
Another well-liked performer at the Theater was Dan Leno. His performance incorporated him dressing up like a “Dame” and doing a pantomime while clog dancing on the stage. Unfortunately, at the height of his popularity the poor man went mad and then died at the age of forty-three in 1904. The actor used a great deal of lavender perfume when he performed and the scent of lavender can still be detected on occasion when Dan’s spirit comes to visit. Actors and stagehands have been pushed and pulled from behind as they stood at the wings of the stage during performances. When they turn around to check out the perpetrator, no one can be seen. Staff passing Leno’s former dressing room often hear the sounds of the actor clogging in the room, as well.
But the most frequent phantom visitor at the Theater Royal is the Man in Grey. He has been seen hundreds of times by actors, stagehands, back stage visitors and audiences. He is most likely a residual haunting as his ghost is usually seen doing the same thing. He appears mostly during the daylight hours and materializes at one side of the Upper Circle area of the theater, crosses over to the other side and then vanishes into the wall. He has also been seen sitting in the last seat at the end of the fourth row near the central isle of the Upper Circle area. He has appeared to workers at the theater, but vanishes as they are talking to him. His true identity has never really been established, but he was thought to have met his end by a jealous rival.
The ghost of the Man in Grey has always been treated with respect by those who work in the Theater Royal. It seems he is their best critic as he most often appears during a performance of a successful running show. In the long-running show, “Miss Saigon” the Man in Grey was seen each time there was a cast change. He must have really enjoyed that show!