Next to mausoleums and drafty old castles, no edifices are the site of more paranormal activity than theaters. And with the amount of drama, superstition, and ego associated with stagecraft, it’s no wonder. From see-through noblemen in London to screaming phantoms in Beijing, here are the most ghost-ridden performance spaces across the globe. After all, old actors never die—they just float around the mezzanine for all eternity.
1. Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - London, U.K.
Opened: 1663 (Current building: 1812)
There’s been a theater on the site of this Covent Garden playhouse since 1663, making it the oldest continually operating theater in London. Over the centuries, it’s racked up its fair share of ghosts. The most famous is “The Man in Grey,” an 18th-century gentleman in a tricorner hat whose apparition has been spotted in the upper box by countless actors, audience members and stage hands over the years, His appearance is said to bring good luck to shows.
2. Palace Theatre - New York, NY
In its heyday, the Palace was the nerve center of the vaudeville circuit—and some of those who made it here apparently never left, with more than 100 spirits supposedly stalking the theater. The most illustrious phantom is Judy Garland, who performed there in the 1950s and appears near a door in the orchestra pit. The shade of Louis Bossalina, an acrobat who was gravely injured during a high-wire act in 1935, sometimes recreates his botched performance. Other phantoms include a white-gowned cellist, a little boy playing with toy trucks, and a melancholy young girl in the balcony.
3. Boston University Theatre - Boston, MA
In the mid-1920s, Australian actor and stage impresario Henry Jewett established the Repertory Theatre of Boston as a home for his acting troupe, the Henry Jewett Players. Within five years, the company went bankrupt and the theater became a movie house. Legend has it that an inconsolable Jewett, who died in 1930, hanged himself under the stage. His ghost continued to linger after the Huntington Theatre Company took over the theater in the 1980s, appearing the in back row during rehearsals and messing around with lighting cues. And he’s not the only haunter here: "The Lady in White," the ghost of a wardrobe mistress, hangs out in the lounge.
4. Palais Garnier - Paris, France
Thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber and his power chords, the Phantom of the Opera is the first name that springs to mind when most people think of theatrical phantasms. But there’s a surprising amount of fact embedded into Gastón Leroux’s 1910 novel: There really is an underground lake (well, a giant water tank) beneath the Paris Opera’s Palais Garnier, and the theater’s opulent chandelier really did fall in 1896, killing a construction worker. Depending on who you talk to, there might have even been a deformed guy named Erik who helped build the opera house and lived in a secret apartment underneath. And while his skeleton was never found, something else from Leroux’s novel was: a collection of phonographic recordings of some of the Paris Opera’s most famous singers, uncovered in the cellars in 2007.
5. Huguan Huiguan Opera House - Beijing, China
Part of a complex of traditional buildings, this bright-red opera house–cum-museum is one of the main performance sites of the famous Beijing Opera. During World War II, a philanthropist built housing for the poor near the theater—and according to creepy lore, he leveled an ancient burial ground in the process. These days, disembodied screaming and wailing is supposedly heard in the theater’s courtyard. And if you throw a stone while you’re standing in it, a ghostly voice will shout at you to cut it out.
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