ghosts at the gielgud

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October 17, 2012 by jooshanoosh

Josh has been putting some pressure on me to write up a true scary story. I have many of them. I’m a ghost fanatic. I go looking for them, and that means I’m bound to find one or two. It also means I’m a super huge loser. I know ghost hunting is a little white trashy and most people pooh-pooh it, but I can’t help but love it. It’s like getting sodas from Maverick. You crave it, you do it late at night, and you hope nobody ever finds out. I firmly believe in things that go bump in the night, including the hollow thumping sounds of livers imploding from late night infusions of aspartame.

Anyway, when I’m in London every summer you can bet I’m running into ghosts around every corner. That city is full of ghosts. So it’s no surprise I ran into one fairly recently.

I had taken my students to see a production of Lend Me a Tenor which was playing at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. The Gielgud is 106 years old this year, and it feels like it. It’s creaky and drafty, with long wallpaper paneled hallways and an endless series of staircases and doors. It’s a bit of a maze in there. Have I set the mood?

A spooky thing happened at intermission. Greg Larson, one of my students, and I were wandering the theatre looking for a famous painting of a cat named Beerbohm. He used to live in the theatre and he’d show up on stage all the time during plays and the actors had to improvise around it. Oh, Beerbohm! When he died they put up a portrait of him, and supposedly it’s hanging somewhere in the theatre. We were trying to find it. Easier said than done. The Gielgud was basically designed by M. C. Escher.

We were walking down a long, dimly lit and completely empty hallway until we came to a wooden door with glass panels that cut the hall into two. As we approached, the door swung open on it’s own, just feet away from us. Greg and I both jumped back. After we confirmed that we had both seen this happen, because you would be blind not to, we started to approach the door a little more gingerly. The air was suddenly very cool and felt somehow electric. I carefully closed the door. Since I faithfully watch Ghost Hunters I’ve learned to address whatever it was directly:

“Hello,” I said. “I noticed you opened that door. Could you do it again?” Immediately, the door unlatched and cracked open.

“Great. Thank you. Could you do it again for me?” Immediately, another crack open.

We waited a bit and didn’t say anything. Nothing happened. Then Greg said “I bet it won’t happen again.” And immediately it cracked open again. About four inches.

We left. It was too creepy. And it wasn’t just that the door seemed to open on command, though that alone was really spooky. It was the sense in the air that we weren’t alone, or that something or someone was watching us. It’s a strange sixth sense. We scampered back down the hall until we came to a theatre bar, where we sat for a moment to process the mysteriously responsive door. But we couldn’t stay away long. We were too curious and had to go back to make sure it wasn’t just air pressure or coincidence.

Initially we kept our distance. The door was fully closed now, though we had left it ajar. We watched. We waited. Nothing happened. We approached it again. Nothing happened.

“Could you open that door for us?” I asked. The door cracked open. Just a hair.

“Are you a girl?” I asked. Nothing.

“Are you a boy?” I asked. The door opened about an inch.

“If you are a boy, could you do that again?” The door opened about six inches. I felt an electric shock up my spine.

And we freaked out. And ran. And kept running until we were back in our seats. And it was terrifying.

If you are skeptical, please know we checked the following:

1. This was not air pressure. There were no open windows, no other doors nearby, and not enough of a draft to open a heavy wooden door.

2. There was no one in that hallway. It was well lit enough to see someone, and certainly there was no place for a person to hide. That door was opening entirely on it’s own.

3. There were two of us that experienced this. Greg will vouch for it. 

4. It was not a cat. That cat was dead. Anyway, cats don’t speak English or follow commands.

5. Google says that a little boy was murdered in that hallway in 1912. Oh, Google! What will you come up with next! (You can’t believe everything, you guys.)

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