Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London – Haunted Theatres
Drury Lane Theatre has been called one of the world’s most haunted theatres. The appearance of almost any one of the handful of ghosts that are said to frequent the theatre signals good luck for an actor or production.
The most famous ghost is the “Man in Grey”, who appears dressed as a nobleman of the late 18th century: powdered hair beneath a tricorne hat, a dress jacket and cloak or cape, riding boots and a sword. Legend says that the Man in Grey is the ghost of a knife-stabbed man whose skeletal remains were found within a walled-up side passage in 1848.
The ghosts of actor Charles Macklin and clown Joseph Grimaldi are supposed to haunt the theatre. Macklin appears backstage, wandering the corridor which now stands in the spot where, in 1735, he killed fellow actor Thomas Hallam in an argument over a wig (“Goddamn you for a blackguard, scrub, rascal!” he shouted, thrusting a cane into Hallam’s face and piercing his left eye). Grimaldi is reported to be a helpful apparition, purportedly guiding nervous actors skilfully about the stage on more than one occasion.
Another clown to haunt the Theatre Royal is Dan Leno, who was famed both for his clog dancing routine and his portrayal of a pantomime dame.
At the height of his popularity Dan Leno went mad, and he died in 1904 aged just 43.
His ghost, however, refuses to depart from the spotlights and often returns for an encore. Leno suffered badly from incontinence and used to disguise the resultant smell with perfume. Actors on stage might not see his ghost, but often detect his invisible presence as his passage is marked by the smell of Lavender left hanging in the air.