Thursday, April 25, 2013

Haunted Theatre Royal Haymarket

The Haymarket is the second oldest theatre in London. * The original little theatre in the Hay was built in 1720. This playhouse lasted for a century. It was abandoned in 1821 and a new larger theatre was built next door. 

John Nash designed this magnificent theatre called, “Theatre Royal Haymarket”. The Haymarket is still in use. It has hosted many successful productions over the years. 

One of its most beloved managers,
John Baldwin Buckstone is said to still haunt the building today.

From 1853-79 John Buckstone was associated with the Haymarket first as a comic actor, then as a playwright and finally as the theatre’s manager. He wrote 150 plays, he starred in many of them. 

When he died at the age of 77 he was fondly remembered by all who worked with him. Some state his strong connection to the Haymarket keeps his ghost in residence.

Many actors and staff at the theatre have shared their stories of encounters with Buckstone’s ghost in the hundred years since his death. It is stated that he is most often seen when the Haymarket is hosting comedies. 

Over the years there have been reports of cold spots, doors opening, lights turning on and off and items being moved, without normal explanations. Buckstone’s apparition has also been seen on a regular basis.

One stage manager in the 1940s seeing what she thought was a stagehand on the stage during a performance went into a panic. Thinking he must be drunk she went to ring down the curtain only to see this figure disappear. 

Later she realized that the clothing she saw the figure wearing was not of a stagehand. Her description of the man led others to believe it must have been Buckstone on the stage that night.

Buckstone’s ghost has been seen in several areas in the theatre. One actor saw him on a staircase landing as he left his dressing room. He thought he must be another actor because he was in costume. He greeted him as he passed but when he looked back up the landing this figure had disappeared. 

Another witness saw him in one of the theatre boxes. He stated he felt a chill breeze before he saw Buckstone’s apparition. Both these witnesses stated when they talked to Buckstone they did not receive a reply.

Two famous actors appearing at the Haymarket had their own encounters with Buckstone’s ghost. On a very foggy night in 1963, Margaret Rutherford who was appearing in a comedy play at the theatre decided it was too dangerous to make her way home. She stayed in her dressing room that night. 

The next morning she reported that she had seen the Buckstone’s ghost appear in front of her. She described seeing a hairy leg and face appear out of a cupboard.

In 2009, Patrick Stewart while performing in a play at the Haymarket also spotted Buckstone’s ghost. During Act One while on stage he went down on his lines. During an interval his co-star, Sir Ian McKellen asked him what had thrown him. He explained that he had seen a ghost standing in the wings wearing what looked like a beige coat and twill pants. 

Hearing of this encounter the director of the theatre stated that it had been some time since Buckstone’s ghost had appeared. An actress had last seen his apparition ten years before. The two actors were surprised because the play they were starring in was not a comedy.

* The oldest theatre in London is Drury Lane it is also haunted. I share this story here.

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