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London's haunted theatres: the ghosts of the West End
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski

The West End is stuffed to the rafters with theatrical phantasms, some terrifying, some benign, one a dolphin. Here's a round-up of our favourites (limited to one per theatre – apologies to Drury Lane's large posse of spirits).

Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree

Where? Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Who was he?  The marvellously named Beerbohm Tree was a Victorian/Edwardian actor-manager, famous for his progressive approach. He owned Her Majesty’s Theatre and literally lived in it.

How scary? Like, scary-ish if you’re in the top box, stage-right – he’s said to be responsible for sudden, inexplicable drops in temperature. By all accounts this is the only bit of the theatre he haunts, making him this list’s most niche ghost.

Eleanor Cooper

Where? Dominion Theatre.

Who was she?  Eleanor Cooper was a teenage girl tragically crushed by the collapsing wall of the Tavistock Arms on Tottenham Court Road in the London Beer Flood of 1814. The Dominion was built on the site.

How scary? Pretty creepy: a lot of phantasmal giggling and the odd bit of spooky poltergeist activity.

William Terriss

Where? Adelphi Theatre.

Who was he? Terriss was a celebrated Victorian actor murdered by Richard Archer Prince, a fellow thesp he’d had removed from a minor co-starring role. Stabbed at the stage door, he was allegedly brought inside and then died on the stage itself, declaring with his last breath: ‘I shall come back’.

How scary? Reasonably: he’s thought to appear as a hovering light and make ominous noises.

The Man in Grey

Where? Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Who was he? Dunno. A fella in grey eighteenth-century garb, he allegedly often appears in the fourth row of the upper circle. Though nobody knows who he is, a skeleton with a knife in its chest wearing some shreds of grey cloth was found in a wall cavity when the theatre was being done up in the 1840s.

How scary? He is said to only appear during a successful show, meaning it’s arguably scarier not to see him.

John Baldwin Buckstone

Where? Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Who was he?  John Buckstone was another Victorian actor who wrote, directed and produced literally hundreds of plays, most of them at the Haymarket. Unusually for a future theatre ghost, he died peacefully, at the pretty decent age of 77.

How scary? Like properly unscary. He benignly appears around the building, often watching plays. Celebrities to have seen him include Judi Dench and Patrick Stewart, who saw him on stage during a 2009 production of ‘Waiting for Godot’.


Where? Peacock Theatre.

Who was it? A dolphin (probably not actually called Flipper)  who performed in one of Paul Raymond’s famous nude revues. The exact fate of this smart mammal seems to be the subject of some debate: some say it died of neglect in the theatre’s dolphin tank, others insist that it was sold to the Flamingo Land theme park in North Yorkshire.

How scary? Well, how scary do you find the idea of a ghost dolphin? Flipper is allegedly responsible for ‘a spectral squeaking’ in the theatre.

Check our our top theatre shows for Halloween

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