Monday, 6 July 2009

Theatre Ghosts....


Recently reading of the alleged antics of a ghost called 'Martha' in the Ottawa Little Theatre (Canada) reminded W.M.G.C. members of a couple of instances where we were called on to 'tread the boards'.... Thankfully, this was purely in an 'investigative capacity', of course, and certainly not a request based on our potential acting prowess!!! Laugh!!

Back on September the 14th 2007, W.M.G.C. members were invited to conduct a brief investigation of the Garrick Theatre in Lichfield. (Above). While the current, theatre building - named after the actor David Garrick, who was raised in the locality - is of comparatively recent construction, it is rumoured to stand on the site of a previous theatre..... however, there seems little historical support for this notion(?)

Whatever the pedigree of the site itself, staff have reported a number of peculiar happenings over the past 25 years - including the inexplicable movement of objects in certain parts of the property, sightings of shadowy figures, the sound of womens footsteps in the stage area and feelings of being physically pushed and touched.

Some years ago, BBC Radio W.M. disk-jockey, Malcolm Boyden, claims to have been sitting alone one night, inside the theatre mixing room, when the door to the booth flew open and a pile of papers on his desk were thrown into the air.......!!

During our visit to the site, in the presence of a 'sensitive' friend, Simon, the latter mentioned picked up on a number of regions within the building that he deemed worthy of further scrutiny..... At one point, he picked up on a female figure dressed in typical 1950's style clothing, that was described as a somewhat 'overbearing' ppresence! It was suggested that this was the woman who had been heard walking around the stage area over the years......?

Delving a little further back in time - late July, 2005 - group members conducted an investigation of the 'Brew House Theatre' in Burton On Trent. This visit was kindly suggested and organised by Chris Campbell-Brown of the popular Burton Ghost Walk.

Formerly part of a nearby brewery – hence the name – local legend has it that the site is haunted by an unfortunate workman who was accidentally boiled to death in a large vat during the 1950’s. (Urrgghhh!!)

While the provenance of this particular tale is somewhat questionable, it cannot be denied that theatre staff members frequently report experiencing inexplicable happenings. Nicknamed ‘Fred’ by cleaners, the resident ghost is constantly blamed for a variety of occurrences, including the sound of doors opening and closing; the noise of furniture being dragged around empty rooms; lifts operating by themselves and auditorium lighting switching itself on of it’s own accord.

Theatre technical manager, Matt Bancroft, reports having had a number of strange experiences at the site. Alone in the building one night, Matt found himself openly telling ‘Fred’ off for interfering with some lighting equipment. As if in reply, he immediately heard a hefty blow hit the side of the auditorium seating, the sound reverberating around the building! On another occasion, Matt was standing in a passage that leads to the actors dressing rooms when he saw a ‘grey figure’ passing across an area at the rear of the stage. Thinking it was the theatre manager – who often wore grey – he went to investigate….. only to find the area concerned totally deserted and the manager seated in a distant part of the building.

While - as usual - our investigation of the site passed relatively quietly, the following (edited) report outlines the evenings events:

INVESTIGATION REPORT: The Brew House Theatre – Union Street – Burton On Trent – East Staffordshire.

Date Of Visit: 30th / 31st July 2005.

Duration Of Visit: Approx. 5 hours.

Time of Arrival: Approx. 10.00 p.m.

Present:

Investigative Team - 5 members of the W.M.G.C. and Brew House technical manager, Matt Bancroft.

[I]. Aims / Inv. Process:

General investigation of property, mainly focussing on sections of building noted as being of particular relevance / importance regarding the alleged paranormal history of the site. Investigation procedure incorporating:

1st person audio / visual observation.

(b) Static (area based) audio / visual recording, incorporating standard / night shot camera’s and digital audio recording equipment. Also wireless (radio) security camera.

(c) General temperature / humidity recording. (Incorporating ‘ambient’ devices).

(d) Trigger objects – listed below:

12” tall mannequin figure – positioned table in 1st floor, Corner Studio. Also, 4 coins – outlined on single sheet of white paper – placed on table top in same room.


[II]. Primary (1st Hand) Notes: Investigation Procedure, plus Findings, Experiences / Poss. Significant Events:

*11.00 p.m. – Vigils held in ‘Corner Studio’, ‘Drama Studio’ and ‘Auditorium’.

Corner Studio – Len Jackson and Darren Simpson. Len reports having heard 2 ‘clink’ and 2 ‘knock’ sounds from corridor area during session. Sounds not heard by Darren.

Drama Studio – Nick Duffy and Kevin Wallace. Session was severely hampered by a faulty – flashing - Emergency Exit sign (light) situated above one of the doorways to the room. Exceptionally disorientating.

b)Auditorium – Frazer Smith and Matt Bancroft. Frazer believes that he heard ‘movement sounds’(?) coming from upstairs corridor to right of Auditorium.

Vigils end: 11.30 p.m.

*12.00 a.m. – 3 video recording sessions begin. (All group members situated in Bar / Café area throughout sessions).

Camera 1 situated in Corner Studio filming in darkness utilising night-shot capacity.

Camera 2 situated on middle landing of Auditorium raised seating, facing back stage area. Filming carried out in full light.


Camera 3 situated in Drama Studio, with filming carried out in full light. (Cam. facing corner of room where figure allegedly seen).

Sessions end: 12.30 a.m.

*12.50 a.m. – Vigils held in ‘Corner Studio’ and ‘Auditorium’.

Auditorium – Kevin Wallace, Len Jackson and Darren Simpson. At 1.19 a.m. approximately 10 ‘bump / bang’ sounds in fairly quick succession from upstairs corridor to right of Auditorium. All present hear noises concerned, but cannot agree on whether they originated at stage end of corridor or foyer end(?) It is suggested that the sounds may have been a sequence of footsteps.

Corner Studio – Nick Duffy, Frazer Smith and Matt Bancroft. Frazer taken ill during this session necessitating a visit to the toilet for some time.

Vigils end: 1.20 a.m.

*1.40 a.m. – 3 video recording sessions begin. (Again, all group members situated in Bar / Café area throughout sessions).

Camera 1 situated in Dance Studio, filming in darkness in night-shot capacity.

Camera 2 situated in upstairs corridor (right of Auditorium) filming in full light, facing foyer end of building.

Camera 3 situated in Corner Studio, filming in full light.

Walkie-talkie set to ‘voice activated’ capacity left in Auditorium.

Sessions end: 2.10 a.m.

*NOTE – During the above period, Frazer Smith had to leave the building and return home because of illness.

*2.30 a.m. – 3 video recording sessions and a vigil begin.

Camera 1 situated in Corner Studio filming in full light.

Camera 2 recording in upstairs corridor (right of Auditorium) filming in full light, facing stage end of building.

Camera 3 recording in upstairs corridor (left of Auditorium) filming in night-shot capacity.

All investigators situated in Auditorium during the session. Kev Wallace and Matt Bancroft report having heard sounds of ‘movement’ from upstairs area at stage end of room. No one else heard sound. Fairly regular sounds detected from behind large, double doors in backstage area, some of which Matt identifies as noises made by metal roller-shutters (probably moving in wind) situated behind wooden doors. Also sound of water running or dripping emanating from same area. Nick Duffy checks outside – via main foyer – and finds that it is raining.

All sessions end: 3.00 a.m. At this point, group decides to call it a night and leave.

[III]. Secondary Notes: Audio / Visual Results.

None of the recordings made during our stay appear to hold any material that could be regarded as ‘paranormal’ in origin. A small number of anomalous (mainly solitary) clicks / taps / bangs were caught on some of the recordings concerned, but, after scrutiny, it is assumed that these noises were native to the building – i.e. sounds naturally occurring in the environment concerned, such as the floor settling, etc.

[IV]. General Findings / Conclusions.

While the building in question would (from anecdotal evidence) appear to be a fairly ‘active’ site, nothing of an obvious paranormal nature was detected during our stay.

Of the variety of sounds sporadically heard by group members during the visit, none could be specifically tied down to any one area, nor were they directly corroborated by audio / visual recordings. While remaining anomalous, the sounds could not be accepted – nor for that matter discounted – as being of blatantly preternatural nature.

Temperature readings monitored throughout the night showed that the stage area fluctuated by only .3 of a degree during the stay, while the Drama Studio (with one fixed, slightly open window) dropped by almost 2 degrees.....

Regards to all,

The W.M. Ghost Club

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