Ghosts in the theatre

13 August 2013

'It is a damned ghost that we have seen…' Hamlet

The Ghost of Hamlet's father is one of Shakespeare's most well-known visitors from the after-life. Whilst Greg Hicks plays the Ghost in the Royal Shakespeare Company's current production of Hamlet in Stratford-upon-Avon, audiences can also learn of the real ghosts of the RSC in our After Dark Tours.

The history of the RSC's theatres is full of stories of ghostly encounters experienced by staff and visitors. Regular accounts are made of the 'The Perfumed Lady', often smelt in the Upper Circle of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Her perfume is said to be old fashioned and flowery. It is frequently smelt when new members of the Front of House Team are working their first shift, almost as if she was watching them work.

A further female figure known as 'The Grey Lady' haunts the areas around the Swan Theatre. Every night RSC security guards note that even though they always turn off the Swan Theatre Bridge lights, by the time they have made their way back to Stage Door, the lights are back on. Investigations have taken place- there is no timer connected to this light, nor has the switch been tampered with. No matter who turns this light off, or how many times, it is always on again when they go back. Spotted on CCTV and on thermal imaging photos, 'The Grey Lady' is always described as wearing a long grey dress and appears to people so real that she is often mistaken as a lost patron.

After Dark Tours, take place after the show starting at 11pm. As the theatre transforms from a bustling hive of activity to a quiet and empty building a guided tour takes people through the theatre as they discover the Shakespearean and real ghosts of the RSC. Forthcoming tours are on Friday 16 August 11pm, Friday 23 August 11pm, Saturday 14 September 11pm, Saturday 21 September 11pm and Friday 27 September 11pm. Each tour lasts one hour, tickets costs £6.50 per person and can be booked by phone on 0844 800 1110.

Hamlet directed by David Farr in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre runs until 28 September 2013, starring Jonathan Slinger as Hamlet. Tickets can be booked at www.rsc.org.uk / 0844 800 1110.

We are looking for accounts of supernatural experiences at the RSC from our audiences and are inviting people to tweet them using #RSCghosts

Accounts of 'The Perfumed Lady'

'I was working on putting up a set in the RST and I smelt perfume very strongly, so strongly that I thought it was one of the other workers til they said something as well. It was like a vertical column of scent rising directly upwards from a certain point, and then it just disappeared.' Former carpenter at the RSC

'I had a close encounter with the Perfumed Lady a few months ago in the Upper Circle. During an evening shift myself and another Front of House Assistant I was working with sensed there was a presence in the auditorium. I kept hearing the sound of creaking floorboards. At the interval my colleague asked me who had been walking up and down the lobby during the first half of the show, and I said no-one! In the second half, I continued to hear creaking floorboards, but there was no-one there. Then suddenly out of nowhere came this most beautiful smell. It enveloped me for a minute and I held my own wrists to my nose in case I'd forgotten that it was my own scent, it was nothing like what I was wearing. Then just as abruptly as the scent came upon me, it melted away. Later I was told of this ghost called the Perfumed Lady (who I'd had no knowledge of) and I felt even more spooked. I must also add that I've worked in the same place since and felt nothing like the strange atmosphere I felt that night. Also, more strangely, I've walked along the floor behind the seats where the floor creaked on that night and the floor doesn't creak.' Sue, RSC Front of House Assistant

Accounts of 'The Grey Lady'

'I was working as a Sales Assistant in the old Swan shop. It was a Sunday morning so I was opening up and that included unlocking the Swan Gallery doors and turning all the lights on. One of the tour guides was getting ready for her day at the same time. We used to have a TV in the corner of the Swan shop where you could see a CCTV feed of the upstairs gallery. While I was in the Swan Gallery I was looking at an old costume and I remember feeling cold, but nothing else out of the ordinary. When I went downstairs to see my colleague she said to me that she was surprised to see someone viewing the gallery so early. I said it was only me up there and she said no, there was a lady standing behind me while I was looking at the costume - she had seen her on the CCTV. She told me she saw an old woman in a long grey dress standing behind me as I looked at the costume but there was definitely no one in that room other than me!' Pippa, RSC Retail Merchandiser

'It was during the Transformation Project at the time when the old building was at the height of its demolition stage. I was taking photos in the foyer, which was sealed off from the rest of the building for security reasons. I was working alone, as I usually did and there was nobody else in the foyer. I was walking along the foyer towards the fountain, looking down at my camera to check some shots I had just taken. As I walked under the clock in the foyer I looked up to see a woman walking down the stairs. The curve of the staircase took her out of sight for a couple of seconds, no longer, by which time I had reached the fountain area to see she had vanished. There was simply no way she could have gone back, either up or down the stairs, without me seeing her. She had appeared as a real figure and now she had gone. My impression was that she was wearing a greyish dress and had quite dark hair. She certainly seemed real, too real to be a shadow or reflection.' Stewart, freelance photographer

'Prior to the work starting on the Transformation, one of my jobs was to locate the position of the heating pipes which are buried in the ceilings of the Dress Circle Bar and the main Foyer. To do this we hired a thermal imaging camera, which showed the position of the hot pipes under the plaster. While we were doing this, I pointed the camera at the floor near to the Grand Staircase entrance and we saw a set of footprints leading from that point to the doors into the auditorium, exactly the same track as the Grey Lady has been seen to follow. The spots showed up because they were considerably colder than the floor around them.' Simon, former RSC Head of Engineering

For further information, please contact Amy Belson on 01789 412622 or amy.belson@rsc.org.uk

For regional requests, please contact Dean Asker on 01789 412660 or dean.asker@rsc.org.uk

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