English Touring Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester bring Conor McPherson’s chilling modern classic The Weir to Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts from 7-11 November. In a small Irish town, the locals exchange stories round the crackling fire of Brendan’s pub to while away the hours one stormy night. As the beer and whisky flows, the arrival of a young stranger, haunted by a secret from her past, turns the tales of folklore into something more unsettling. One story, however, is more chilling and more real than any of them could have imagined.
Lighthouse is no stranger to ghostly goings-on. After a bit of investigation, it appears our staff have a few ghost stories of their own to share. Unexpected audience members, Victorian ladies, children’s laughter and mysterious humming have all been experienced by the cleaning and operational staff at our iconic arts centre ...
Cleaners Maureen (Mo) Fletcher and Sue Richards recall an early morning ghostly encounter in the Lighthouse cinema when Mo became startled by the sight of a leg sticking out straight in front of her between the rows of seats. Sue looked up and saw an old lady with curly hair sat stock still in a seat like a mannequin. “She was a big lady with long curly hair. I didn’t see her face, but I was terrified she was going to turn her head and look at me. Both of us just put our heads down and got out of there quick.” she says of the encounter.
The cleaning team say that they’ll often find seats in the cinema up or down when they shouldn’t be, or see seats go back up as if someone was sitting in them and has got up when they come in.
Mo reveals “I went in there once with our supervisor and we heard dripping from behind this door at the back on the cinema. She took out her key to put in the lock and the dripping stopped instantly. When she opened the cupboard there was nothing in there to drip. There’s a lot of things happen that we can’t explain and because of the stories we probably spook ourselves a bit. I’ve only just started going into the cinema on my own in the mornings, but as soon as anything happens again I’ll be out of there like a shot.”
Kim Purbrick, who worked for Lighthouse for around ten years, also remembers experiencing a number of unexplained happenings.
“A medium told me that if we went into rooms in a friendly way and acknowledged the spirits in there, all very upbeat, they would be fine with us. Certainly, nobody’s ever been hurt, just a bit spooked.”
Several people have seen a man in t-shirt and jeans outside the Sherling Studio and on one occasion in the gents toilets. He appears and disappears very quickly. Some say it might be the ghost of Bill Duffield, the 21-year-old lighting engineer who tragically fell to his death in the Concert Hall after a Kate Bush show on 2 April 1979.
Other reports include a lady in Victorian dress in the corner of the Sherling Studio and a humming lady in the Studio dressing room.
Cleaner Nee Parrott reveals “I was in there one morning and I heard this humming. It was lovely music, a lady’s voice, high pitched, sort of angelic, and it started far away and then got closer and closer to me until it was humming right in my ear. I called the others in but it had stopped by the time they got to me.”
Nee has also been in the theatre when the lights have suddenly been turned off - and there was nobody there to turn them off. She recalls having to find her way back out of the theatre and turn them on again.
Other curious happenings reported by staff include a “presence” on the theatre stage, a mysterious smell of hot chocolate at the foot of a particular flight of stairs and children’s voices heard when the building was completely empty.
Duty Manager Craig Kingshott also recalls having a particularly sinister encounter with one of the ghosts of Lighthouse. “I was locking up the building at the end of one evening, and doing my usual security checks,” he recalls. “I was outside the Sherling Studio and called out to ask if there was anybody in the room before I locked it. To my amazement a raspy, out of breath voice replied “Yes” – but when I double-checked the room and there was nobody there!”
Got your own ghost story to share? We'd love to hear from you and will be sharing the best ones on our Facebook page in the run-up to The Weir!