Ghosts in the theatre


The Ghost of Hamlet's father is one of Shakespeare's most well-known spectres, but isn't the only otherworldly visitor in our theatres.

Our ghosts include the Grey Lady, seen wearing a long grey dress in the areas around the Swan Theatre, and the Perfumed Lady who is smelt in the Upper Circle of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, often by new members of the Front of House Team working their first shift.

Sightings of the Grey Lady
Pippa, who was working as a Sales Assistant in the old Swan Theatre shop was opening up one Sunday morning. She went to open the doors of the Swan gallery, which was monitored by a CCTV feed, displayed in the shop.

She said: 'I was looking at an old costume and I remember feeling cold, but nothing else out of the ordinary.

'When I went downstairs, my colleague said she was surprised to see someone viewing the gallery so early. She had seen on the CCTV 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!'

And during our Transformation Project, freelance photographer Stewart was taking photos alone in the foyer, which was sealed off from the rest of the building during the demolition.

He said: 'As I walked under the clock in the foyer, checking some shots I had just taken, 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, by which time I had reached the fountain but she had vanished.

'There was no way she could have gone back, either up or down the stairs, without me seeing her. She was wearing a greyish dress and had quite dark hair. She seemed too real to be a shadow or reflection.'

Accounts of the Perfumed Lady
A former carpenter said: 'I was working on putting up a set in the RST and I smelt perfume very strongly. 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.'

Front of House Assistant Sue had a close encounter with the Perfumed Lady one evening in the Upper Circle.

She explained: '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 it was my own scent – it wasn't. Just as abruptly as the scent came upon me, it melted away.'

Learn more about the theatre's ghosts in our After Dark Tours.

Do you have a story about supernatural experiences in our theatres? Tweet your account using #RSCghosts

Photo: Greg Hicks as the ghost of Hamlet's father in David Farr's current production of Hamlet.

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