Ghosts, a strangling coat and a book with pages turning by itself…only the start to the spookiness from the haunted walking tour of theatreland on Sunday.
Along with a lovely group of bloggers, we started our afternoon at the Every Hotel in Piccadilly, where we were introduced to Kai Bleul, the Hotel Value Centre General Manager, and our tour guide Diana from secretlondonwalkingtours.com before setting off to learn the ghoulish stories of theatreland.
From front of house staff to actors, dead soldiers to wandering ghosts from nearby graveyards, I didn’t realise how haunted the theatres were in central London!
Diana enlightened us with stories and superstitions, let us in on all the spooky goings on, and what should and shouldn’t be done inside the theatre – did you know it’s bad luck to whistle on stage? Stage men used to be retired sailors and if you whistled you risked having stage set being dropped on your head! Ouch!
Starting at Royal Theatre Hay Market, we learnt all about Samuel Foot and the theories behind the term ‘Break a leg’ – obviously not literally!
But we didn’t just stop to learn about sayings….Dame Judy Dench reported seeing a ghost in Victorian dress in the corridor of the the Royal Theatre Hay Market, turning and disappearing into the wall, and she wasn’t the only one! Another actress stayed overnight, returning after dinner to find a book she had been reading open with the pages turning by themselves! A real page turner huh?
A quick action snap with everyone taking notes, pics and listening to the lovely Diane talk to us about the ghosts at Royal Theatre Hay Market
The Coliseum Theatre is just as terror-ific, and perfect if you fancy a companion for a show – it’s haunted by a first world war soldier who has been sighted sitting in row G of the circle many times during performance and rehearsals! Be quick, they could be the best seats in the house – If you’re into that kind of thing!
The Coliseum Theatre with it’s huge spinning Globe at the top, designed to attract people coming up from Charing Cross station back in the day
The Duke of York theatre on the other side of the road couldn’t escape the spooktacle either – with a Ghost who’s thought to be a lady called Violet, a front of house manager from days back when who helps close down at night – the doors have been found locked before the person on duty goes to check them off his list! – or maybe she’s locking them in…wonder whether they’ve thought of that?
Along with the ghost this theatre also had the pleasure of being home to the strangling jacket – a jacket with a turtle neck worn by an actress who had to undo the top buttons due to feeling like she was being strangled on stage – the same thing happened to her understudy too! Spooky huh? Surely they both couldn’t have been pulling off the same gag?
If all this talk about theatre has got you peckish – thoughts of icecream tubs, bags of sweets/chocolate or tubs of pringles for munching whilst being absorbed by acting wandering through your mind- you might be pleased to know you’re not the only one. The ghost of William Terrace also got a case of the munchies. The ghost who originally haunted Adelphi Theatre and is now seen late at night at Covent Garden station (where he used to buy cakes and bread!). Have you seen him? Think I’ll be avoiding this stop in future, especially when the 24hour tube comes in….don’t think I’d fare well late at night with a ghostly tube buddy.
Now this one bites…or maybe not…Lyceum Theatre, home of the Lion King today and where Dracula was written, was once temporarily Madame Tussaud’s wax works. When she went to prison she was never sent to her death as she was given the job of creating death masks for those who had died (a wax mask of their face). Her ghost actually been seen sitting in the theatre with a severed head in her lap! Don’t think I want to have the pleasure of seeing this in person!
And the spookiest of all, Theatre Royal Drury Lane is the oldest theatre and the most haunted in London. Not one, not two but THREE ghosts – an actor who was murdered in the dressing room, a man in grey who appears for a successful production (perhaps the only ghost people wish to see!), and the scariest of all… This is not a laughing moment…a ghost has been seen in mirrors, appearing behind the person looking in, with a painted clown face! And people wonder why clowns are scary!
I’ve been to this one too!
An extremely funny moment happened at this point – someone in the flats behind us decided to try and be clever, speaking into the intercom and at a low and slow voice to scare us all half to death outside (would be quite fitting!)…’Hello’. I almost jumped and we all started laughing, it just added to this fun experience.
The tour finished with a stop at Fortune Theatre where the Woman in Black has a ghoul-y double, who has appeared drifting across the stage, and thought to be a wandered spirit from the graveyard across the road.
I realised, Ghosts appear to be pretty drawn to theatres and many we heard about on the tour didn’t die there! So are they just bored of wandering and looking for entertainment? Some say actors are very imaginative people and therefore manage to conjure up the spirits not passed on. Hmm…
The sights on the tour were great too, walking down streets and alleys I would never have thought to be strolling down. We wandered down Goodwins Court, which felt a lot like Diagon Alley! It’s still got it’s gas lights too – would be super atmospheric in the dark!
This alley reminded me of Diagon Alley!
Yep they still exist – Love it!
We headed back to the Every Hotel for food, a fab delicious selection of salad, burgers (chicken, falafel or steak), pizza and pasta, and to see more of the hotel.
A bit about The Every Hotels:
With amazing, comfy super king beds (there will be no arguing over space with a bed that big!), Smart TVs in every room, free high-speed wifi, incredible bathrooms with rain showers and a fab music system which you change the track by downloading and using an app – how cool? – the Every Hotel in Piccadilly is the first hotel of the brand, launching 6months ago. But I have some great news – they aim to expand worldwide with another 50 hotels in the next 5 years.
The views from the Every Hotel are pretty amazing – from some of the rooms you can see out to Leicester square which is apparently the perfect place for when premieres are happening! Quick note to all 007 fans – get booked in for James Bond!
They also offer buffet breakfast – one of my favourite things about staying in hotels – well I do love food!
If you’re staying in London you should definitely check it out! But whether you’re visiting or a London resident, walking tours are so much fun, and definitely not just for tourists. Diane does a few different tours including a special one for Halloween which you should definitely check out.
What did you get up to at the weekend?
P.S. Check out Every Hotel’s blog post on the Haunted Theatreland Walking Tour too… http://blog.every-hotels.com/en-gb/category/things-to-do/a-haunted-walking-tour-of-london-this-halloween