Liverpool was the European City of Culture for 2008. In 2009 it handed the title over to the Austrian city of Linz. The city itself was founded in 1207 as a borough and now has a population of a little less than half a million. There are a number of theatres in Liverpool and this In Pure Spirit post looks at some of their ghosts and hauntings.
One of the most haunted theatres in Liverpool is the Empire Theatre. It opened in March on 1925 and was built on the site of the Royal Alexandra Theatre and Opera House. It was bought by the Merseyside County Council in 1979 and stages about 400 shows a year.
One ghost is known as the Black Phantom who had been seen haunting Dressing Room S (right of the stage). When the dressing room door opened, those people inside would sometimes see the dark shape in the reflected behind them in the mirror. The room was often inflicted with the familiar cold of a haunting and performers would frequently refuse to change in it.
The Liverpool Empire, however, was refurbished in 1998 and since that date reported sightings of the BlackPhantom have dramatically reduced.
A rather sinister ghost who suffers in the Liverpool Empire Theatre is that of a young Victorian girl. The ghost, who appears to be no more than 10 years old, has been trapped in the building for more than 40. The girl is most often seen in the Stalls and many witnesses suggest that she seemed to be crying. A third ghost, a tall darkly clad man with equally dark eyes, is sometimes seen the dragging the young girl away.
It is not known whether this tall man is the same as the Black Phantom or the theatre’s fourth ghost – a painter called Les.
The Empire is also the site of one of the most famous ghost photographs* ever. It’s an image used by ghost hunting tours in Liverpool to this day.
The Everyman is a theatre converted from a chapel originally built in 1837. It is haunted by a ghost that smells of stale urine. The ghost does not only haunt the men’s toilets but also the area behind the auditorium. As he roams the theatre he leaves the awful stench behind and so the building’s manager has had to have the stairs and corridors fumigated.
Between 1912 and 1959 the Everyman Theatre was a cinema. Hope Hall cinema showed both classic films and stage plays.
Royal Court Theatre
The Royal Court Theatre was rebuilt in 1938 after a fire destroyed the previous building in 1933. Before 1933 the site had been used as both a circus and opera by John Cooke who bought it in 1826. Known then as Cooke’s Royal Amphitheatre of Arts the building was a centre of entertainment. In 1881 the building was renamed and redesigned by Henry Sumner.
The Royal Court Theatre is haunted by the ghost of a former caretaker. Les was working on the roof over twenty years ago when he slipped in the ice and broke his leg. Despite calling for help, he was not rescued and died of exposure.
In a twist of fate; both the Empire and the Everyman theatres have ghosts called Les.
One of the most famous haunted theatres in Liverpool is the Playhouse. There as been a concert room on the site since 1844 and the building has had a number of names in its busy history; Star Music Hall, Star Theatre and Liverpool Repertory among others.
In 1999 the Liverpool Playhouse had its refurbishment interrupted when workers refused to enter the building any more. Throughout the building’s repairs, there had been sightings of a number of ghosts. Doors would be slammed shut – often heavy doors that proved hard to re-open. Taps would turn themselves on and a presence in the basement was so strong that many people felt it.
One of the named ghosts of the Playhouse is a cleaner called Elizabeth. Elizabeth was cleaning the stage when the fire iron apparently came loose, fell, struck her and knocked her into the orchestra pit and she broke her neck. The death, which occurred in 1897, is recorded as an accident however the fire iron was water-powered and would have required someone to operate it.
Elizabeth is said to haunt seat A5, especially.
Other ghosts in the Playhouse are the Grey Lady who roams the stalls and seats. She is believed to be the ghost of an upper-class lady who would come to the theatre alone – something that would have been a scandal in her age. Another ghost is that of a man dressed in a top hat and frock coat who spends eternity searching the theatre for his runaway daughter.
In January 2009 Most Haunted Live visited the Empire Theatre. For the show webcams were used to allow an internet audience to maintain surveillance of a number of rooms.
In Pure Spirit
Have you been to any of the haunted Liverpool theatres? Did you take part in 2009’s Most Haunted Live and see anything on the webcams?
Have you been on any organised ghost hunting* tour? What was it like?
Disclaimer: Links marked with stars* are revenue links.