Drury Lane Theatre (London, England)

Mike Czaplinski (mcc@nsscmail.att.com) writes the following about the ghost of Drury Lane Theatre:

“Drury Lane Theatre. From my fuzzy recollection, the ghost is described at various times as a soft green glow, or a handsome young man. I seem to recall there being an entry on this particular haunting in THE BOOK OF LISTS (circa 1980). According to the entry (again, subject to my faulty memory), during renovation in the late 1970’s, they stumbled on a skeleton with the remnants of a grey riding coat with a knife sticking out of its ribs.

The folklore is that whoever sees the ghost is destined for theatrical greatness.” [end quote from Mike Czaplinski]

Further details (provided directly from The Book of Lists, Bantam, 1977): The ghost is that of a young man who was murdered in 1780. J. Wentworth Day, a ghost hunter, reported seeing a moving blue light in the theatre in 1939.

More details from a reader:

From: “Alan” (alandp@flash.net)
To: obiwan@netcom.com
Date: Mon, 12 May 1997 10:06:20 +6
Subject: The Drury Lane Ghosts

Hello,

I’ve just been reading the a.f.g-s FAQ, and not long ago I also read a book that had a section on the ghosts at the Drury Lane Theatre. This book is by Daniel Cohen, published 1978, called “The World’s Most Famous Ghosts.” I think it was meant to be a children’s book, (or juvenile, anyway), but I suppose the information is still valid.

First, regarding the ghost of the handsome young man mentioned in the FAQ. In this book he is referred to as the “Man in Grey.” He is described as very dignified, dressed in eighteenth-century clothes, with either powdered hair or wig, and wearing or carrying a three-cornered hat. He gets his name from the long grey cloak he wears, and sometimes the hilt of a sword has been seen sticking out of the cloak. He seems to be part of the audience, rather than a ghost of a performer, although people who see him might mistake him for a (living) performer wearing a costume. He is often seen before a play that is going to be a hit, so he’s considered an omen of good luck. He never shows up for failures. Someone once offered to exorcise him and was turned down.

Drury Lane was opened during the reign of King Charles II, who loved theatre. In 1948, during the extremely successful run of “Oklahoma,” King Charles II and a crowd of his attendants were seen on stage.

Also during the run of “Oklahoma,” there was a young American actress named Betty Jo Jones who wasn’t doing a very good performance. Then during one scene she felt hands pushing her into a new position, and the invisible hands continued to guide her around the stage during the performance. Her performance got better.

Another young actress named Doreen Duke was trying out for a part in “The King and I.” She was very nervous, and during the audition she felt the invisible hands guiding her around. She got the part. A theatre expert named W.J. Macqueen-Pope thinks that this may be the ghost of Joe Grimaldi, who performed often at Drury Lane and gave his farewell performance there. He was always known by other actors to be very helpful.

Another ghost at Drury Lane is described as being tall, thin, and ugly, and is thought to be the ghost of actor Charles Macklin. He had a bad temper, and in 1735 he killed actor Thomas Hallam during an argument. Macklin was charged with manslaughter but never punished, and finally died at the ripe old age of 107. The ghost wasn’t seen until after his death.

A comedian named Stanley Lupino was putting on his makeup when he looked up and saw another face reflected in the mirror beside his own. It was the face of Dan Leno, another comedian who had died recently. Lupino later learned he was using Leno’s favorite dressing room.

W.J. Macqueen-Pope got a letter from a woman who said she had seen what must have been a ghost intently watching the play that was being performed. It was a man wearing old-fashioned clothes sitting at the end of the row where she was. When the lights went up, the man was gone, though to get out he would have had to walk right past her, and he hadn’t. Later when she was looking through a book of old theatre pictures she saw his picture. It was Charles Kean, an actor of the nineteenth century.

Hope this helps.

Cheers,
Alan Peschke
alandp@flash.net

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