'Les the Painter' and the 'Black Phantom' among the ghosts who roam Liverpool's theatres

Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Empire Theatre, Liverpool -Credit:Photo by Colin Lane

There have been stories told for years of ghostly sightings in Liverpool's theatres.

The action doesn't always happen on stage - with many stories coming from behind the scenes. And in a city with so much culture and history, it's not unusual that suspicions, old tales and hauntings are reported in theatres brimming with superstition.

Many have come forward to share their stories of supernatural activities, while others battle with sceptics to have their tales believed. There are many theatres with different tales to tell, from Les the Painter to the Lady in Red being just two of the spirits who have been allegedly sighted.

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Here, we take a look at a number of other spooky stories that have been shared through the decades. This list isn't intended to be comprehensive. But if you have a haunting story to share, let us know in the comments section below.

The Empire

Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Empire Theatre, Liverpool city centre -Credit: Photo by Colin Lane

The Empire Theatre's history dates way back to 1866, but it was demolished, re-built and re-opened in 1925. In typical theatrical style, one of the ghosts is known as the 'Black Phantom' and is said to roam the dressing rooms, the ECHO previously reported.

Actors and actresses using the dressing rooms have previously claimed to have seen a dark shape reflected in the mirror. The theatre has many other ghostly residents, but the most famous is perhaps 'Les the Painter.'

A handyman who worked at the Empire, according to eyewitness accounts, he decided to return to his old place of work in the afterlife, haunting the actor’s changing room area. Not much is known about Les but the handyman has appeared before many actors as they use the dressing rooms.

Another of the Empire ghosts is that of a young Victorian girl, who is believe to have fell l to her death from the circle into the stalls, breaking her neck. She is said to walk the Stalls bar area of the Empire Theatre while her crying can be heard late at night.

The Everyman

Hope Street is home to the Everyman Theatre, another spooky Liverpool building that originally served as a chapel. Though the Everyman is steeped in history, the ghost that haunts this theatre does not reflect its heritage.

This ghost, bizarrely, is said to leave behind a dreadful stench of urine at the back of the auditorium and the men’s toilets. Staff have previously reported seeing shadows in the men’s toilets last thing at night when they lock up.

Do you have any haunting tales from across the city? Let us know in the comments section below.

The Royal Court

Royal Court Theatre on Roe Street
The Liverpool Everyman Theatre, Hope Street

Opening in 1826, Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre on Roe Street boasts a fascinating history - previously being a circus, arts amphitheatre, live music venue and comedy club. In its time, it has survived fire and renovation, but its old walls are said to have seen plenty of ghostly goings on.

According to the Royal Court, the most famous Royal Court spectre people may have heard of is Les Joynson, the caretaker who died in hospital after he fell on the roof in the early 1970s. Opening and closing doors, sometimes on command, his cat, Napoleon, is said to leave a smell.

Another, which is said to have been further speculated following an old ECHO article, features "the Lady in Red." Spotted in the downstairs bar by a Royal Court member of staff - after the story of the ghostly apparition of an older woman wearing a red cardigan was made public - a former licensee contacted the venue to say he’d seen the same ghost 35 years ago, but had never told a soul.

According to the Royal Court Theatre, in the 1970s, a stagehand called Tommy and his pal also were working on what’s called the fly floor, set above the stage, where you could see what’s happening below. Suddenly, a man dressed in a Cavalier costume is said to have appeared, walking through walls, terrifying the men.

The Playhouse

Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool
Royal Court Theatre, Roe Street -Credit:Photo by Colin Lane

The Playhouse on Williamson Square is the last stop on our ghost tour. A woman by the name of Elizabeth, who worked as a cleaner when the site was home to a music hall, is said to tread the boards here, doing so from the spiritual realm.

It was 1897 and Elizabeth was on stage, going about her usual cleaning duties when she was struck by a falling fire iron, falling into the orchestra pit breaking her neck. Although her death was recorded as an accident, the fire iron was water-powered and needed someone to operate it.

Elizabeth’s ghost is said to haunt the theatre’s gallery level, specifically the seat A5, searching for her mystery killer. She was last seen sitting in the theatre by the Birkenhead actor, Pauline Daniels, in 1996.

Famously, when contractors were refurbishing the Liverpool Playhouse in 1999, workmen downed their tools in fear after numerous odd happenings and sightings of what they believed to be ghosts. Electricians Matt Chapman, aged 17, and 36-year-old Mark Morris, experienced several creepy incidents as they worked on the Playhouse's wiring system, the ECHO previously reported.

In the theatre toilets, Mark came upon a water tap that he had just turned off but was now running again of its own accord and in the basement, he was also creeped out by a presence. On another occasion, Matt was opening the backstage doors when he heard footsteps and the sound of a door slamming - the door in question was a heavy, stubborn one, which was difficult to open, yet it was seen to close itself.

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