Ghosts are part of the furniture at our Victorian buildings, so, through tales told by our team, we thought we’d celebrate World Paranormal Day and revisit past encounters at Leeds Heritage Theatres.
Written by Carla Klein and Aaron Cawood
Accounts from The Grand
Technician, Kieran, who has worked for Leeds Heritage Theatres for four years, has experienced quite a few encounters.
It was only the other week during MAMMA MIA! that I panicked and turned the house lights back on after a show because I genuinely thought I’d turned the lights off on a member of the audience walking on the Upper Circle.
I saw a shadow in the dark just as the lights were going out, right before the iron (safety curtain) was about to close, which looked human size and was bobbing up and down like a human would as they walked. When the house lights came back up and the iron had been taken out again, there was no one there at all. Richard from Front of House sent two staff members to check, and there was no one up there at all. That’s the second time now I’ve seen shadows about the same size as people.
The first time the shadow ran from left to right at such high speed it diverted all my attention towards the Upper Circle while I was looking into the Stalls. I actually went home and researched because I was so convinced I’d seen a ghost, and shadow people are a very common phenomena apparently. If you research them, it’s exactly what I have seen multiple times.
There’s definitely something weird about these old Victorian buildings, and there’s definitely a lot of unexplainable things that do happen regularly. I half want a ghost to just tap me on the shoulder, clear as day, and tell me they exist because then I wouldn’t have to question my sanity anymore ha ha! Instead I have to deal with shadows, noises, creaky walking sounds when no one’s there and the feeling like you aren’t on your own when you’re the only one in the building!
Deputy Box Office Manager, Pat, had an eerie story to share about The Grand.
The strangest was when we had the open days before The Grand refurb in 2005. I was working in the old boardroom and the pass door (access between the auditorium and the stage) is held open with a bag of sand. The door suddenly closed on it’s own with no one near it. When I tried to open it there was resistance on the door which suddenly stopped and I could re hook the sandbag. There’s just no way it could lift off by itself.
Same room and day, I kept feeling a breeze like you get when people walk past you, but no one was there. I checked all the windows for drafts and they were fine. That was one creepy room!
Stories from The Varieties
Sales and Ticketing Manager, Rachael, has worked for Leeds Heritage Theatres for 15 years and has had many encounters.
I was locking up at The Varieties in 2019 and checking that every area of the building was secure. I would always start at the top of the building, so I went up to the attic and walked up the stairs. I could see a figure in the shadows slowly walking toward me. It was very tall and wearing a top hat and a cape, dressed all in black. I shouted hello (and got no answer). I then felt very cold, so I quickly left the attic but the door wouldn’t close and kept sticking. After about three attempts at shutting the door it finally closed. As I don’t really believe in anything ghost-like, I told myself that it must have just been a shadow.
A few days later, I googled ghost sightings at The Varieties and came across an article in The Yorkshire Evening Post and it described someone seeing a ghost in the back of one of the boxes at a gig they had come to see (The Blues Band) on Halloween. It sounded exactly like what I had seen and it said an image should have been attached to the article but it wasn’t.
Technician, Kieran, had even more stories to add about The Varieties.
At The Varieties, we’ve had a few things reported from visiting Companies. Multiple acts have been really surprised and actually pleased to tell us they’ve seen a lady in a period dress sitting on the balcony. Both of the acts actually thought they came dressed in fancy dress, similar to The Good Old Days, due to it being a well known Victorian venue. We know for a fact that no one like that was sat up there.
In fact, when the Dracula Company first reported seeing the lady to me, the balcony wasn’t even open to the public! There is a very uneasy feeling at The Varieties in the auditorium and backstage. I’ve had to work into the night a few times there on my own and it does feel spooky, whereas at The Grand I feel totally comfortable on my own. It’s weird as you’re always on edge, full of adrenaline.
Coming Soon to Leeds Heritage Theatres
City Varieties Music Hall Building Fund
The City Varieties Music Hall is the gem in Leeds’ crown. As the city’s oldest theatre, we want to ensure that Britain’s longest, continuously operating music hall is here for future generations, making it more accessible, sustainable, and comfortable. All donations will be fully invested in the building and equipment and will enhance your experience as a customer.
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