We were invited into Harrogate Theatre following years of sightings of a ghost throwing herself of the balcony.
Her name is Alice and she was caught up in a love affair and ended up committing suicide when the relationship went sour.
We went in with two other teams, H.A.R.R.P.S and Paranormal Huntz UK and got to work setting up.
Flour was placed on the stage to see if we could capture any footprints on the stage from ghostly dancers or performers.
We set up our base upstairs with our CCTV operations hub and laid wires all over the theatre with sound as well.
We were using ghost boxes, KII and EVP recorders in addition to our IR cameras as we undertook this mammoth investigation. Throughout the evening, we heard and experienced things which were very encouraging.
On reviewing our footage, there were light flashes that could not be explained, We also had a CCTV camera pointing along row M where people have said to have experienced things and we saw a mass moving slowly along the back wall and changes of light only on the seat that is reported.
There were several bangs throughout the evening but the bangs on our cameras were really loud and couldn’t be from outside sources for we didn’t hear them with our own ears in cross reference.
Also experienced were smells of pipe tobacco around the dressing room stairs leading to the stage where Charlie Chaplin used to walk down. Also captured were flashes of light in a mirror at the bottom of the stair case.
Built just before the turn of the century, Harrogate Theatre opened on 11 January 1900 with a charity gala in aid of British soldiers fighting the Boer War in South Africa. This was followed on 13 January 1900 by Mr J Tully’s pantomime, “Dick Whittington”.
Known as The Grand Opera House, the theatre was designed by architect, Frank Tugwell, who also designed the Futurist Theatre in Scarborough and the Savoy Theatre in London. The theatre incorporated many of the latest safety features, a fire-proof curtain which could be lowered between the stage and the auditorium, fire extinguishers and a sprinkler system. The stairs and corridors were constructed of stone, which made them fire proof.
The theatre was lavishly decorated with gilded plasterwork mouldings and boasted hot and cold running water in the dressing rooms and electric lighting. The carved frieze in the foyer was not part of the original décor. Sculpted by Frances Darlington, it depicts themes from drama and literature and is thought to have been added shortly before 1911.
William Peacock was the Managing Director of the Grand Opera House from it’s opening in 1900 through to the mid 1930’s when his wife and daughter took over. The theatre operated as a touring venue up to the early 1930’s when the growing popularity of cinema and radio saw a decline in theatre audiences. As an answer to the problem, William Peacock formed a repertory company, The White Rose Players, (one of the first weekly rep companies in the country) and the theatre became a producing venue. The White Rose Players performed around forty-five plays a year and continued through to the mid 1950’s when once again the theatre experienced a decline in audience numbers, this time due to the growing popularity of television and in 1955 Harrogate Opera House closed.
In 1958 the theatre reopened, this time as Harrogate Theatre and soon after, a non-profit making charitable trust was set up to run it. Harrogate Borough Council bought the building and became the theatre’s landlord, which it still is today. The theatre continued through the 1960’s and in the early 1970’s underwent a programme of refurbishment and alteration. At this time the seating capacity in the auditorium was reduced to 481 from 800 (the original capacity had been 1300), the balcony was reduced to the two rows we still see today. The apron and Juliet stages were added either side of the main stage and the maze of corridors and small cafes and bars were opened out to form the current stalls and circle bars.
The theatre continued to run through the seventies and eighties despite a funding crisis in the mid-eighties which resulted in it closing for a period of reorganisation, reopening once again in 1987.