Ghostly greetings from Northern Ballet! On this chilly Halloween we are enjoying everything spooky with our ghoulish production of A Christmas Carol currently touring the UK. In one magical night the three ghosts and Old Jacob Marley take miserable Ebenezer Scrooge on a spiritual journey but it is not just our production that has ghostly apparitions, some of our venues have reported strange encounters.
At The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, where Northern Ballet are currently performing, there have been several sightings of a resident ghost that inhabited the old Marlowe Theatre. It is reported that a dark figure, referred to as Howard, has been seen several times in the old Marlowe but since the opening of the new theatre the spirit has disappeared. With so many ghostly apparitions in one magical performance, tonight just might be the occasion for Howard to make an appearance.
There is also the ghostly tale of May Wallace in Sheffield Lyceum Theatre, our next stop on the tour. The story goes that in December 1891 Miss May Wallace was engaged by the producer of Dolly to assist in the dance training of 29 chorines (billed as 28 rosebuds) at the Palace Theatre of Varieties. The show ran for six weeks and while there May met and fell in love with Herbert Bessamer, a musician with the Palace Orchestra. The show was a twice-nightly performance and Herbert had fallen into the habit of asking May to bring him a jug of beer between shows, from the Railway Inn next door to the theatre.
On Saturday 23 January 1892, a fog had descended on the city in the early afternoon, and by 8.30pm as the first show finished, visibility outside the theatre was down to twelve inches. May wrapped a shawl around her face for warmth before leaving via the stage door on Whitworth Street to buy Herbert’s beer.
But May never returned from the Railway Inn. She was found on Whitworth Street badly injured, probably run over by a horse-drawn vehicle in the thick fog, and was taken to the Royal Infirmary on Piccadilly where she later died.
Herbert was so grief stricken that he could no longer work at the theatre where he and May had been so happy and he left without giving notice.
In February 1892 the stage door keeper, making his last inspection of the night saw a young woman with a shawl over her head sitting in the gallery. It appears that as he approached her, she moved away as if searching for a way out – and then vanished for sight. Everyone in the company of Dolly insisted that it was May Wallace searching for Herbert Bessamer.
Over the years there have been many, many sightings of this sad young woman in various parts of the theatre – in Box 7, in corridors back stage, at the old stage door entrance and in the wings on stage, sometimes late at night as you walk through the auditorium, you may just catch a glimpse of something out of the corner of your eye.
So we hope you enjoy the Halloween celebrations and let us know if you catch a glimpse of Howard or May Wallace.
Boo to you from our crew!