In the week of Halloween what better time to investigate our very own Lighthouse ghosts…?

Of course there’s nothing new about theatre ghosts – in fact the tradition is that, other than a ghost light upstage, theatres remain dark on Mondays to allow the ghost of Thespis the first actor to play – so it comes as no surprise that even a relatively modern building such as Lighthouse has its own spectral cast.

Most ghostly encounters at Poole’s centre for the arts occur early in the morning before 7am when the cleaners are making the building ready for that day’s business.

One morning some years ago cleaners Mo Fletcher and Sue Richards were in the Cinema when Mo called out in shock after she saw a leg sticking out straight in front of her. Instead of looking down at the row 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,” says Sue. “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.”

Another time Mo and cleaning supervisor Wendy Waylen heard a dripping sound coming from behind a door at the back of the Cinema. As Wendy took out her key to unlock the door the dripping stopped and when she opened the cupboard there was nothing in there to drip.

A former cleaning supervisor Kim Purbrick took some photos in the Cinema one morning, had the prints developed and noticed two orbs of light above a pair of seats in one frame. She sent them to a medium she knew who reported seeing the faces of an elderly man and woman and the woman was resting her head on the man’s shoulder. In another image she had a single orb of light and a face with child-like eyes.

Kim remembers: “I’d worked at Lighthouse for about ten years then around 2012 all sorts of things started to happen. It started early one Saturday morning and I’d gone into the Cinema to clean. This seat that was jammed down suddenly flipped up and another couple of seats around it flipped up as well. Then I saw someone flit across the window in the projection room and a few minutes later the back door slammed shut and I was out of there pretty sharp!”

But it’s not just the Cinema. There have been several sightings of 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. Other reports include a lady in Victorian dress in the corner of the Studio and a humming lady in the Studio dressing room.

“I was in there one morning and I heard this humming,” says cleaner Nee Parrott. “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 on the radio, but then it stopped.”

Nee has also been in the Theatre when all the lights have suddenly gone out and nobody turned them off and previous cleaners have reported a presence on the stage. A technician once tried to grab a young girl he mistook for a colleague’s daughter playing in the Theatre – his arms went straight through her.

Elsewhere, several people have reported a mysterious smell of hot chocolate at the foot of stairs by the curved corridor and children’s voices have been heard in the building when nobody else is around.

Duty manager Craig Kingshott once saw a man try the handle of a locked door to the ticket office. He got up to investigate, but there was nobody there and nowhere anyone could have gone without being seen – except through a wall.

Of course, there’s no rational explanation for any of these freaky phantasms. Are they merely figments of over-active imaginations – it is a theatre after all – or is there something else out there? Something that’s with us, watching, just out of sight, keeping us company… Boo!

By Nick Churchill Published 29 October 2019