The Ghosts of Drury Lane

Myth and Legend

The Ghosts of Drury Lane

The Theatre Royal Drury Lane is the oldest theatre site in London, dating from 1663. It's not surprising, then, that with all that history it is also said to be the most haunted theatre in the world.

The first building on the site was founded in 1663 and the current building dates from 1812.

Drury Lane’s most famous, and most frequently seen, ghost is the so-called “Man in Grey” - an apparition in 18th century clothing, wearing a grey riding cloak, powdered wig and three-cornered hat. He usually appears during the hours of daylight, and materialises on one side of the upper circle, crosses to the other side and disappears into the wall. Numerous performers, audience members and theatre staff have seen him over the years.

He has also sometimes been seen sitting in the fourth row of the Upper Circle beside the central gangway. One morning a cleaner saw him sitting there at 10am, and thinking he was an actor, put down her equipment to speak to him, whereupon he vanished. As she looked round she saw the same figure disappearing into the wall at the side of the circle.

The Man in Grey’s true identity has never been confirmed, but legend has it that he is the ghost of a skeleton that builders found in a secret room behind the wall in the 1870s. He is seen as a good omen for a successful run.

Drury Lane is also haunted by the ghost of Victorian comedian and pantomime dame Dan Leno. Though he has been seen in his old dressing room, his presence is more often detected by the scent of lavender perfume in the air as he passes invisibly through the theatre.

Another one of Drury Lane’s ghosts is that of clown Joseph Grimaldi, who enjoys giving performers and staff a mischievous kick, or sometimes invisibly pushes them into a better position on the stage.

Image by Fiona Horan

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