By Ryan Goodale
Halloween is rapidly approaching so we thought it would be fun to look at a couple of theatrical haunts! Theaters are a notorious place for things to go bump in the night and whether this is something you believe in or not, theres is no denying the superstitions. Take a ghost light for example. Ghost lights, the light left on overnight on a theater stage, were originally mandated by Actor’s Equity Association (AEA) but the superstition goes back much further. Lore says that every theater has a ghost and the ghost light is left on to appease the spirits. Some theaters don’t even sell specific seats for a plethora of reasons: it was a favorite seat of someone who has since passed on or even patrons complain of being sat on by unseen entities. Yikes! Here’s a look at some theaters right here in New York City that are deemed among the most “haunted”.
1. The Belasco
I have attended a show at every Broadway house, except the Belasco. I’m unsure how in my almost 12 years of residing in New York City, I have managed to miss every show that has played there. Ironically, The Belasco is the theater that fascinates me most. Built in 1907 by David Belasco, who not only built the theater but wrote and produced many of its shows, the theater was his home. He built an apartment above the theater that exists to this day. Belasco passed on in 1931…or did he? A private elevator was installed leading directly to the Belasco apartment where Mr. Belasco, notorious for his love of young women, would whisk chorus girls to his private quarters. Long after his death, and subsequent closing up of the apartment/elevator, sounds of raucous parties were heard. Although the theater has been said to have been relatively quiet post renovations that took place in 2010, there are still reports of doors locking mysteriously by themselves. Stories from actors that have been in shows there will send a shiver up your spine. The closed off elevator has been said to have been heard running, locked dressing room doors are heard opening, and even older gentlemen in Belasco’s signature attire have been seen in dressing room mirror reflections. No thank you. David Belasco is reportedly not the only spirit to carry on the after life in this theater. A “lady in blue” has been spotted as well. Spooky stuff. My biggest fascination lies with the apartment above the theater. They don’t give tours of it and it remains behind many a locked door. If anyone has a key, or knows someone with a key, don’t hesitate to reach out. I would love nothing more than to see this piece of Broadway history with my own two eyes.
2. The New Amsterdam
One of the oldest surviving Broadway houses, The New Amsterdam was built between 1902 and 1903. Home to The Ziegfeld Follies, The “New-Am” eventually became a movie house before lying dormant for many years, falling into disrepair. The 1990’s brought the new lease for Disney Theatrical and the House of Mouse began the restoration of this theatrical gem and much of the 42nd St. area, a notoriously rough area at the time. It didn’t take long into the renovations for workers to report seeing a young woman in a green-beaded dress carrying a blue bottle in the building. Olive Thomas was “the most beautiful woman in New York City” and appeared as a Ziegfeld girl in 1915. Five years later, Olive died due to overdose of mercury bichloride pills that were her husbands. The pills? Kept in a little blue bottle. Olive’s presence at the theater of her glory days sparked early morning phone calls from security guards in hysterics, claiming to have seen a woman glide across the empty stage and pass through walls. Doors lock, lights flicker, sets rattle and even the sounds of tapping feet can be heard. The spirit of Olive Thomas is playful but to keep her mischief to a minimum, photos of the starlet are kept at two backstage doors, where it is customary to say hello and goodbye to her.
3. The Palace
Built in 1913 in the heart of Times Square, The Palace was the ultimate vaudeville venue. In 1951 Judy Garland had her record-breaking return to the stage at the Palace before the theater became a legitimate Broadway house in the 1960’s. It is said that over one hundred spirits reside within the walls of this legendary show place. Reports claim multiple sightings of various apparitions. The cellist playing the orchestra pit, the man in the brown suit, the little boy who plays with his toy truck in the mezzanine lobby, the young girl who sits sadly in the mezzanine and even Judy Garland herself, near a door behind the orchestra seating that was installed during her run in the 50’s. Perhaps the most unsettling of these spirits is the tales of vaudeville acrobat Louis Bossalina. Bossalina fell during a routine and sustained severe injuries, although he did not die as a result as many say. Even still, it is said that if you see this particular spirit, it could mean the end is near for you. The Palace is the one on this list that I have spent significant time in. I have been in the depths of backstage, dressing rooms, dark quiet stairwells, on the stage, watching performances in front of the “Garland door” and even alone in orchestra after audiences have trickled out. Not once did I feel a chill or ever see any of these reported spirits. Doesn’t mean I don’t believe they are there, reliving the best (or worst) moments of their time spent in the building when they were living.