If you’d like to read Part I and my ghostly experience with Alice at Harrogate Theatre, click here.
While on national tour with a play starring Siân Phillips (a beautiful lady – I played her maid) at the Theatre Royal Brighton, I popped backstage one afternoon because I had nothing to do. The doorman told me I was the only person backstage, apart from two in the costume department.
He said he was popping out for lunch and would be gone for an hour, during which time nobody would be able to get in backstage from the street. I didn’t worry about having to get out because there was a funny little door that led from the back of the stage to the bar. I made my way upstairs and said hello to the ladies in costume, who told me they were going out for lunch too, but they’d put the washing machine on and if I heard it going nutty, could I please switch it off. No problem. I waved them off and descended to my dressing room on the level below. They called out goodbye when they left.
Not ten minutes later footsteps sounded on the floor above. Careful and measured in pace, they didn’t sound right - because, you know - there wasn't supposed to be anyone there! They weren’t heavy like a man’s, they were a woman’s. I tried not to think too hard, but the funny thing is that an old theatre is a ghostly place to begin with. Whether you’re in the auditorium or backstage, there’s a quietness, and when you know there’s nobody there but you, it’s a terribly ghostly quietness.
I decided I didn’t like the measured pacing of the footsteps upstairs, so left my dressing room, locking it, and called upstairs in the hope it was one of the costume ladies. No such luck. No verbal response. I made my way behind stage. I noted the doorman was not there, and the door to the street locked. I fled to the funny door leading to the bar, and couldn’t open it. I was slightly panicked by this time, because I could still hear the footsteps. There was nothing for it – the only way out was through a long, dark and dingy corridor that led to the street. Unfortunately, I'd previously been told that this was the corridor that one of two likely ghosts were seen, or felt. Which is why I'd never gone near it before now.
I’d been told that it was either the ghost of Sarah Berhardt (esteemed actress who once slept in a coffin for three years, and who had injured her leg while performing in the Theatre Royal Brighton, necessitating said limb’s amputation and hence her apparent displeasure with the Theatre Royal), or it was Mrs Nye Chart, known as the Lady in Grey, whom it is thought ran the theatre between 1876 to 1892 and is believed to be an elegant and un-scary ghost.
Try telling that to someone who’s alone with her!
I couldn’t get through the first door to the long, dark, scary corridor because it was a fire door, and for some reason, I couldn’t open it (panic, probably). So I couldn’t get out – but the footsteps were now in that corridor! No way was I going through it, even if the door opened.
I worried myself back to the funny little door and managed to push my way through to the bar where I tried my utmost to appear nonchalant and at ease while ordering a large Gin &Tonic.
The photos of the stage door, the exterior of the theatre and many more, plus some fascinating history of the theatre (and many other British theatres) can be found on Arthurlloyd.co.uk – a Music Hall and Theatre History website. Matthew Lloyd has given me permission to show you these two photographs – thank you, Matthew! I spent a wonderful afternoon browsing ArthurLloyd.co.uk and getting some history of so many theatres.
Hope you enjoyed my ghost stories,
Jennie x (with The Lady in Grey) 👻