MJ STEEL COLLINS says Glasgow Theatre Royal ghost tour rivals those from Edinburgh
Theatres have their own unique kind of energy, and it’s not surprising that some people find an empty theatre to be a particularly spooky experience. It’s quite hard to think of a theatre that hasn’t got a reputation for being haunted. Just about all the major theatres in Glasgow have associated ghost stories; the Theatre Royal in Hope Street is one that has chosen to embrace this by putting on a short run of ghost tours.
The tours were held late at night, once the audiences, cast and crew of the current musical, Top Hat, had left the building. Things kicked off with a brief run down of the history of what is a very significant theatre, which has existed in Glasgow in one form or another since 1865, then it was off into the depths of the large building, with an unfathomable number of stairs.
What was quite surprising was the number of tales of ghostly happenings in the theatre. Apparently the strange occurrences keep the staff on their toes. A few stories, such as that of Nora, the cleaner who was an aspiring singer, are already well known, but the tour provides a deeper insight into the supernatural side of the theatre. They were very well researched, something that can prove difficult when uncovering some ghost stories in Glasgow. The city is somewhat by-passed in favour of Edinburgh’s 100 ghosts per 20 square feet. Whilst Edinburgh’s reputation is justified, the neglect of the Glasgow ghost is a pity. The Weegie wraith can be just as impressive as those in the Capital.
One thing that stands out with the Theatre Royal Tour in stark contrast to the Edinburgh ghost tour is how low key it was. Some of the Edinburgh tours feature costumed guides and the ubiquitous ‘jumper ooter’ (that is the technical term), and whilst they are entertaining, they are probably a bit too theatrical for some people. The strength of the Theatre Royal Ghost Tour was the fact that frights were built up by the atmosphere created by effective storytelling as the tour moved deep into the bowels of the theatre. Quite a few of the patrons on my tour were jumping out their skins rather quickly. The only Edinburgh counterpart that is comparable is Mercat’s tours of the Blair Street vaults.
Another wonderful aspect of the tour was the chance to see what the theatre looked like behind the stage. It did share the labyrinthine quality of the TARDIS; I feel like we only covered a quarter of the building. Much of the tour took place in the dark. After it finished, it was noticeable just how keen folk were to vacate the building into the hordes of several Christmas nights out in the city centre. I found myself left alone in the room where everyone left their winter warmies, thanks to the eagerness of everyone to leave. I think I’ve only seen such a stampede on Edinburgh’s City of the Dead Tour that winds up in Covenanters Prison when the punters are keen to escape the clutches of the Mackenzie Poltergeist. And the Theatre Royal ghosts are much friendlier in comparison. Not that I hung around myself…
There don’t appear to be any further dates planned for the Theatre Royal Ghost Tour, but hopefully it will come back. It has the potential to become one of Scotland’s best ghost tours.