Night for a bad case of stage fright

ASK anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you I'm a right fearty – so exploring an empty, haunted theatre after dark was never going to be my idea of a great night out.

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Reporter Rebecca Gray checks out some of the spookier corners of the theatre
Reporter Rebecca Gray checks out some of the spookier corners of the theatre

Let's face it, I was going to be scared out of my wits.

But somehow I plucked up the courage to join a ghost tour investigating strange events at Glasgow's Theatre Royal – and there were some terrifying bumps in the night after the audience had gone home.

I nervously arrived at the Hope Street building, parts of which date back almost 150 years, after that night's performance was finished. All the patrons and staff had left, and no-one was due to come in again before the following night's show.

Being in an empty, old theatre was creepy enough, but things were about to get even spookier when we moved backstage and turned out the lights. My ghostly guide for the night was Susan Kirkwood, who has researched the building's history since she had her own "strange experience" in the theatre bar.

Our exploration began in the theatre's dressing rooms. In the pitch-black – with nothing more than a lantern to provide light – Susan began to tell about Nora, a working-class cleaner and aspiring actress in Victorian times.

Suddenly the sound of distant thuds and groans echoed faintly down the corridor and I felt an icy chill.

As we made our way down to the deserted orchestra pit, once again something went bump in the night, followed by more noises from rooms which appeared inaccessible.

It's probably a bird, I told myself, or maybe even a mouse. I was tingling all over and every muscle was tense as I forced myself not to run.

We made our way back out of the orchestra pit in the pitch-dark – without any complaint from me – and once more descended into the depths of the theatre, winding our way through seemingly never-ending corridors and up and down dark, forbidding staircases.

Eventually we emerged from the darkness out on to the magnificent Theatre Royal stage, where Susan began to tell us more about poor Nora, who jumped to her death in the theatre while pregnant, apparently after an affair with one of the managers.

I was constantly looking over my shoulder as something just didn't feel right when Susan pointed up to the upper circle, lit only by her torch.

"Nora jumped from there," she said.

Suddenly a woman on the tour let out a blood-curdling scream and said that a vision of a ghostly woman had appeared before her.

Me? I couldn't see a thing. But I still screamed. Had she really seen the ghost of a dead person?

While some were still sceptical, nobody could explain the unexpected noises or fleeting glimpses of the theatre "ghost".

But I was convinced the spirits present that night were not just the whisky and vodka in the theatre bar.

Midnight was approaching, the wind was howling, the rain was bucketing down and I was glad to be going home.

I said my goodbyes and walked into the night chill. The streets were deserted.

But behind me, I heard a footstep on the pavement.

Nora, is that you?

:: The Theatre Royal Ghost Tour will run tonight and next week from Tuesday until Friday during the run of The Ladykillers and The Woman in Black.

Each tour starts 15 minutes after that night's show has finished. It will last for an hour and is strictly for people aged 16 and over. Patrons should meet in the foyer, where an usher will take them to the upper circle bar for a quick refreshment – should their nerves be getting the better of them – before the tour moves backstage.

Tickets are £10. Call the box office on 0844 871 7648 or visit www.atgtickets.com/glasgow.

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