This is a story told to me by a friend. He did not tell it to me exactly the way I tell it; I changed a few details, but at rock bottom it’s a story about a true experience of his. Thanks, G.:)
Theaters are haunted, by both the famous and the infamous–look at the contrasting stories of theaters haunted by, respectively, Edwin Booth and his murderous brother, John Wilkes. They are most commonly haunted by stagehands, who in the course of their duties spend more time in them than actors do. And smaller, local venues can be haunted by the anonymous actors who played their parts there but for one reason or another never moved on.
A friend of mine who has worked in all sorts of capacities in live theater told me this story. I have his permission to retell it, as long as I change names and the like.
He was working with a little theater group in a small town not far from Lake Erie some years ago. The building itself was built shortly after the turn of the last century, and was said to be haunted by an actress from the twenties or thirties, but nobody quite knew the whole story; they were sometimes strongly aware of her presence, but she was rather retiring for an actress, very seldom seen.
When he first saw her that day, she had her back to him. She was dressed in Victorian white, a tall slender woman with dark blond hair in a bun on the back of her head.
He didn’t think much of it at first; there are always women in costume backstage in a theater. Then he remembered he was alone in the building–and they weren’t doing a Victorian melodrama, so her costume was definitely out of place.
She turned around to face him, as if she had only just become aware of him. She was, he saw, holding something even more out of place than her costume: a small pistol, which she raised and without warning fired at him.
He could feel the bullet go through him, he says; and even now, after nearly two decades, the memory makes him tremble.
And then she was gone, and he was not bleeding. That’s as much as he remembers; he left in a hurry.
Several years later, in a book of legends and ghost stories by a local author, he read her story. In the theater’s early days, a young actor and actress had appeared opposite each other in a number of productions in which they played loving couples. Often, such roles bleed over into real life, and soon the pair were almost engaged.
Unfortunately, the young man was less than faithful, which drove his almost-fiancee mad with jealousy and rage. The last straw came when she found him backstage in a fairly compromising position with one of the company’s ingenues. She went out and bought a gun. Within days, her false lover was dead; she shot him backstage as he was waiting to make an entrance.
She was adjudged insane, and confined to an asylum. Some years later, she managed to escape, and was–as my friend puts it wrily, in the best Ophelian tradition–found drowned in a nearby creek, like Hamlet’s mad love.
A rather fitting end for a theater ghost. . .
Because of conflicts within the theater group, my friend left it shortly after he met the lady with a gun. He never encountered her again.