Since the Hall’s opening in 1871, the Kensington venue has been the scene of many strange and eerie stories. For example, a couple of years ago, we told you the little known story of the séance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Conan Doyle Séance in 1930
This Halloween, we decided to go even further into the spiritual realm and share our ghost stories with you. For many years years, we’ve been keeping track of all the ghost sightings that have happened within our walls, and now they are all out of the archives.
Read below if you dare. You have been warned…
Beneath the Door 6 foyer, in the carpeted basement area, there is one spot where two young women, known as ‘the girls’, briefly appear each 2 November a little before 2am, when the building is almost desert, except for some security staff.
Over the years, several staff members reported hearing ‘the girls’ laughing, and seeing their animated and excited silhouettes appear, clothed in the fashion of slightly risqué Victorian ladies (extravagant long dark dresses embellished with lace from neck to bodice, with many ruffles, especially around the sleeves and hem, and their hair styled in cottage-loaf buns with ringlets hanging over their ears). The Duty Security Incident Book indicates that there had been appearances by ‘the girls’ for the three years prior to 1991.
Door 6 in 1970
They have been seen passing across the foyer space, which is bounded by double doors at each end, leading on one side to the staff canteen (where we still eat today) and on the other to the kitchen corridor, and then disappear. That is why some believe that ‘the girls’ may be responsible for unexplained accidents, tappings and footsteps that occur behind locked doors late at night in the kitchens. Assistants Chefs, who have to clean the kitchen every night after use, often used to hear noises and have been frightened whilst in that area.
- In 1988, at about 2am, two staff left the door of the basement security room open, and they both heard female chatter and giggling passing the room. One even fleetingly noticed figures passing by the open door. Believing they had heard female catering staff, they thought no more about it until the Duty Catering Manager requested to be let out of the building. On enquiring when the girls they had previously heard would require to be let out as well, the Manager told them that there had been no female staff in the building since doors had been locked at 11pm. A complete search of the building yielded no sign of occupation.
- In 1989, a porter on his way to the kitchens followed the two giggling girls. After they disappeared at the double doors leading into the kitchen, he raised the alarm. A full building search was immediately undertaken but it revealed no intruders. The porter gave his notice that week and never returned to the Hall.
- In 1990, the Hall was still fairly busy at 2am, and the Duty Manager was leaving the restroom when two girls passed him. They were walking towards the kitchen and were engaged in voluble conversation with much giggling. Believing they were members of the promoter’s staff who had attended the post-show party, he called out to warn them that they were about to enter a private area, whereupon the girls disappeared through the double doors to his amazement. The girls were nowhere to be seen after a thorough search of the area. The Duty Manager said: “you could put it down to an over-active imagination but these stories have been going on for some years.”
Prior to the Hall’s construction, two houses stood on the site, Grove House and Gore House. It is said that the area where ‘the girls’ appear is the site of Gore House, where from 1839-1849 the heavy gambler and society dandy Count d’Orsay co-habited with the outrageously immoderate society beauty and writer, the widowed Countess of Blessington (step-mother of his first wife and formerly Miss Power from Tipperary), in circumstances which Victorian London considered less than conducive to the maintenance of moral rectitude. The Countess spent her husband’s fortune throwing lavish parties attended by many notable guests, mostly male, as they looked askance at the unusual household arrangement, although Lady Blessingtons’ nieces, the young Miss Powers, often attended.
The Count had a mysterious basement ‘studio’ constructed at Gore House, the purpose of which is unknown but often speculated to have been a brothel. It is suggested that whatever went on in the depths of Gore House is what echoes down the years today in the Hall…
Whenever restoration work is carried out on our organ, its original constructor Henry Willis, fondly nicknamed ‘Father Willis’, returns as a stooped ghost wearing a black skull cap.
Inside the organ
When the organ was being reconstructed in 1924, workmen saw a little old man walk down the stairs late one afternoon. On returning to their workshop and relating the facts, their foreman asked what the man was wearing. When told that he was donning a black skull cap, the foreman decided it was the ghost of Father Willis, the original builder of the organ, long since dead, who would not approve of the alterations being undertaken. Since then there have been many reports of a sudden cold atmosphere in the area behind the organ.
When interviewed in 2018, Michael Broadway, the Hall’s organ custodian was asked if he had ever seen signs of the legendary ghost of Henry Willis. He answered: “I remember the organ builder Clifford Hyatt telling me about this over forty years ago. The tuner […] was making the final visit of the Willis contract before the Harrison & Harrison rebuild in the 1920s. When he got up on to the Great passage board he saw Father Willis there saying ‘They shan’t take my organ from me’. A lovely story, but I haven’t seen him. There are many questions I would ask him and hopefully have his approval of the way I look after this instrument. Perhaps he has no reason to be disturbed.”
The Man in White
During a Jasper Carrott comedy event in May 1990, the Duty Manager was ordered to clear the Middle Choir seats and to post a Steward at either end to avoid anyone entering as it is very distracting for a performer to have people walking across the back of the stage during the show. That’s why a very angry Stage Manager demanded on radio to know why there was someone crossing the stage. The description was of a man dressed in white, walking oddly as if on drugs. The Stewards insisted no one had passed them and on further investigation no one except Jasper Carrott was onstage, but several people had seen the figure cross the stage from left to right.
The Auditorium in the 1990s
The Victorian Couple
A staff member during the 2000s reported having seen a couple in Victorian clothing walk across the second tier near to Door Six and vanish into a box. As a venue whose history is so closely tied to the Victorian times, this didn’t seem particularly odd (people dress up sometimes…)
But in 2011, a Head Steward was finishing off his shift one evening and had made sure that all members of the public had left the second tier. On going downstairs into the auditorium, he noticed a couple sitting in the box so he returned to the second tier but found no one in the box. He assumed they had left while he was on his way back, so once again he returned to the auditorium… Only to see them again. So he went back to the second tier, and that’s when he heard the couple chattering. He assumed they were in the box but on opening the door, there was no one there.
View from a Box
He went back to the auditorium a third time and once again saw them, sitting in the box. He went to Stage Door to report what had happened, but before he could explain he was told, “You’ve seen the ghosts, haven’t you?”
The Victorian Boy
At 3am on Christmas day in 2009, Rory, a member of the Show Department, was at the Hall setting up for Cirque du Soleil’s annual performance run. He came out of the Door 11 lift in the Gallery and walked to his left around when something caught his eye by the Door 4 lift shaft.
What he saw was a young boy, dressed in a long-sleeved frilly grey shirt with a high neck and braces, leaning over the gallery railings. He thought it must be the child of a member of the crew, but as he walked around the gallery towards the boy, he disappeared, leaving behind only a sense of extreme cold in the area where had been standing.
Another member of staff was called, who agreed it was very cold. The then Event Co-ordinator also came up in the lift to investigate, and saw Rory, who he described as looking white as a sheet with his hair standing on end. The following Boxing Day, again early in the morning, Jeremy was working night security. In the same area of the gallery, Jeremy said he felt like someone was standing behind him – he spun around but no one was there. He said he hadn’t heard Rory’s story before this occurred.
Since these two occurrences another member of crew has since had the same sighting of the boy.
The Gray Man
But the Victorian boy isn’t alone up in the Gallery. In January 2004, a female visitor to the Hall reported that during a concert she saw the figure of a grey man shrouded in a mist who kept appearing, then disappearing in the gallery.
Also, several stewards and security personnel report that they have sensed fluctuations in temperature and atmosphere in the gallery. The stewards are especially afraid to use the gallery lavatories due to an ominous atmosphere or sightings of ghosts. There are reports that at least annually a steward will run panicked from the lavatories, having seen or sensed something unexplained.
After several years of refusing to talk, one former female security guard and ex-military woman described an eerie experience in the Gallery. She was on patrol one evening and checked the female gallery lavatories. On opening the door she immediately saw a pulsating grey mass/ball emitting light which stretched from floor to ceiling and contained patches of dark.
She stated that she felt her hair stand on end as if statically charged and her finger nails felt as if made of lead and being dragged to the floor. As soon as she could she slammed the door and ran off terrified. She drew a sketch of her experience but was so shaken that she could not discuss it with anyone outside the security team for some weeks.
Man on a Horse
Mrs Wooding from Wanganui, New Zealand, visited the Hall on 9 August 1995 for a Proms concert. She was sitting in seat 195, row Y6 in the balcony when, around 9.30pm, she looked up to see a most unusual sight in the lighting gantry above the stage.
She later reported that she saw a military gentleman on a chestnut horse, who was wearing black riding boots, a dark navy coat with mandarin collar and brass buttons to the waist and divided skirt. His hat was dark, probably black, with a black plume running from front to back. Mrs Wooding thought they must be part of the concert, and would be lowered down as both horse and rider appeared to her for several minutes, until disappearing. The sighting has never been reported before or since.
The Ghostly Mist
A whisp of smoke or mist was seen on a handful of occasion during the 1980s in this location drifting up the stairs, turning the corner before vanishing upwards.
Gary Barlow & Michael Bolton
On 22 April 2014, this happened at a Gary Barlow concert:
And in 2016, several hundred people reported seeing a grey figure sitting in a supposedly empty seat during a concert by singer Michael Bolton.
Will you be looking out for our ghosts when you visit next? Let us know what happens…