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5 Spooky Tales of the Theater

Updated on August 20, 2018
Stephen C Barnes profile image

Stephen is an avid theatre goer, and a lover of all things theatre related, especially eerie tales and ghost stories.

The Tarot Card Scene From the Opera Carmen
The Tarot Card Scene From the Opera Carmen | Source

1. Carmen's Other Premonition

Georges Bizet was a 19th century composer. Born in Paris, France on October 25, 1838 Bizet was a child prodigy, whose preternatural musical talents got him admitted to the prestigious Paris Conservatory of Music at the tender age of nine. He was best know for his 1875 opera Carmen, though he never got to enjoy its success. He died of heart failure at the age of 36, only a few months after the opera's debut. An event that was foreseen by the opera's star.

Parisian born Celestine Galli-marie was a mezzo-soprano, and the original Carmen. During the many months of rehearsal for the play's opening Galli-marie spent a great deal of time with Bizet, and the two became close friends.

In act three of Carmen there is a scene where she foresees her own death in tarot cards. It is during this scene, at the play's thirty-first performance, that Galli-marie sees more than the death of her fictional character. The cards give her a premonition of the death of the opera's composer. She is so upset by what she has seen that she runs off and collapses back stage. The following day she learns that Bizet had passed away during the night.

The Majestic Theatre, St. John's, NL
The Majestic Theatre, St. John's, NL | Source

2. Ghosts of the Majestic Theatre

The Majestic Theatre, nicknamed the Flat Iron Building because of its unique, flat iron like shape, is a four story domed building located on the corners of Duckworth Street and Queen's Road, in downtown St. John's, Newfoundland. Built in 1918 the building has been a part of the culture of the provincial capital for a hundred years. It also played a major role in two historically significant events.

In 1932 it was the launch pad for the infamous April riot, in which two thousand people gathered there to March on the Colonial Building. The Colonial building suffered extensive damage in the riot, and the then Prime Minister Sir Richard Squires barely escaped the hands of a lynch mob set on seeing him hang. Then, in 1948 and 49 the theatre was used to hold political rallies in support of Responsible Government, and as the headquarters of the Confederate Party during the Confederation debate.

It is not, however, the history of the building that is responsible for its apparent haunting, but rather the history of the land upon which it sits. For some years prior to the construction of the building in the earlier twentieth century the site, due to its proximity to the courthouse, was the location of public executions, and many a man was hanged on this spot.

Many employees of the Majestic theatre, as well as scores of theatre goers, report having heard the screams and moans of men echoing through the building, believed to be the wails of those sent to there deaths on the gallows. Others have reported seeing objects moving around on there own, and past employees have reported finding items that were in one place the night before, when the building was closed and empty, in another place when the building was reopened the next morning.

Scene from Phantom of the Opera
Scene from Phantom of the Opera | Source

3. The True Story of the Phantom of the Opera

There are few people, if any, that have not heard of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Phantom of the Opera. First performed in 1986, it is the longest-running Broadway show of all time, and has been seen by 130 million people, in 28 countries worldwide. However, what many people do not know is that the opera is based on a 1910 novel by French writer Gaston Leroux. Even lessor known is the fact that much of this eerie tale is based upon a real person, and true events.

Gaston Leroux, in addition to being a novelist was also an investigative journalist. While researching a story on Palais Garnier, the Paris theatre that serves as the setting for the fictional Phantom of the Opera, he uncovered some interesting facts that were later used in the story, and one creepy person that became the basis for the tale.

Inside the famous Palais Garnier
Inside the famous Palais Garnier | Source

As in the opera, there really is a body of water beneath the theatre. It is more of a water tank than a lake, but it is real. As well, the chandelier did actually fall. Not only did it fall but it struck and killed one unfortunate individual who happened to be standing beneath it at the time.The eeriest truth uncovered by Leroux, however, is the story of Erik, the disfigured contractor who helped build the theatre, and who served as the inspiration for the fictional Erik, Leroux's main character.

The real Erik, like his fictional counterpart, was born disfigured, and thus abandoned by his family. There is little else known of his background, only that he had spent some time with the circus before becoming an architect and builder. Erick spent a great deal of time at the theatre, and even had his own private box where he could watch performances without being seen. Also, just like his fictional namesake, Erik fell in love with a singer who was performing at the Garnier, and kidnapped her. In real life however, the girl escapes and flees Paris. Erik never sees her again. According to Leroux, Erik was so upset by this that he hid himself away in his apartment beneath the theatre, where he eventually died of starvation.

The Empire Theatre, Liverpool
The Empire Theatre, Liverpool | Source

4. The Ghosts of the Empire Theatre

The Empire theatre in Liverpool, is located on the corner of Lime Street and London Road. Built in 1925 it is the second theatre to be built on the site. Among its many claims to fame is the fact that the Beatles used to perform there in their early days. It is also said to be haunted by numerous spirits.

Its most famous ghost is that of a young girl with blond hair, dressed in Victorian era clothing. She has been seen many times by many different people, and quite often she is crying. If anyone approaches her or attempts to speak with her she disappears. She is sometimes seen in the company of a tall man who appears not to have eyes. Again, if anyone attempts to approach or speak to them they just vanish.

Stage illuminated by a ghost light.
Stage illuminated by a ghost light. | Source

5. The Ghost Light

The ghost light; just about every theatre has one but few people outside of the theatre know about it, what it is, or why it is there. A ghost light is basically just a lamp, a single light, often times just a bare bulb, left on onstage after the actors and all others have gone for the night.

From a practical standpoint the light is left on for safety reasons, so that anyone entering the darkened theatre does not accidentally wander off the stage and injure themselves. This however, according to popular theatre lore, and most people in the theatre, is not the real reason it is there. It is actually placed there, as its name implies, for the ghosts.

It is a rare theatre indeed that is not believed to be inhabited by ghosts. Some say the light is put there to keep the ghosts away so that they do not get into mischief while nobody is there. While others believe that the light is left there for the spirits of departed thespians to perform by.

Source

These are just five of the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of eerie tales that are part of the legend and mystique of the theatre world. The next time you are heading out to the theatre to catch a performance of a new show, or an old favorite, perhaps you should do a little research first. You may just discover an interesting story to share with your guest, or a ghost or two to keep a sharp eye out for.

© 2018 Stephen Barnes

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