Wearside Echoes: Haunted theatre spooks actors

Ghost Hunter, Lesley Giles from Spirit Seekers in the haunted prop room at the Royalty Theatre.

Ghost Hunter, Lesley Giles from Spirit Seekers in the haunted prop room at the Royalty Theatre.

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GHOSTLY goings-on are taking centre stage at a Wearside theatre.

High pitched moaning noises, dark shadows, moving furniture, slamming doors and spooky black cat apparitions have all been reported at the Royalty Theatre.

“Part of the building was apparently used as a hospital for wounded and dying soldiers during the First World War,” said chairwoman Anna Snell,

“We used to have some old uniforms as props, but have since sold them on. There is a theory that the spirits are returning to look for their clothes.”

Ghostly figures of laughing children, weeping women, brave war pilots and boozy smugglers are all said to haunt the historic buildings of Wearside.

But, while supernatural sightings at Hylton Castle, Washington Old Hall and Lumley Castle are well documented, The Royalty is a new addition to the list.

“We visited for the first time this year, and have just been back for a second look around,” said Karl McGahern, organiser of ghost hunting group Spirit Seekers.

“All sorts of paranormal occurrences have been recorded so far; some for the first time. We even had a mysterious whistler who copied our own whistles.”

The history of the Royalty Theatre can be traced to Victorian times, when it originally consisted of three houses and the Union Congregational Church.

Part of the building was used as a military hospital for sick soldiers from 1914-18, with separate quarters for the nurses created in a room next door.

And it was finally transformed into a theatre just after the Second World War ended in 1945, after the drama club moved in.

“The Royalty is a combination of four buildings, and different paranormal experiences have been reported in the different areas,” said Karl.

“People have experienced feelings of dizziness and paranoia in the cinema room, and some strange high-pitched moaning noises have been heard there too.

“In the reception and bar area, originally three houses, there have been many instances of footsteps being heard, along with sounds of furniture moving.

“And in the theatre itself, which was originally the church, people have had very uneasy feelings of being watched.

“Large, dark shadows have also been seen, moving around the back seats, and there have even been sightings of a black cat.” Photos of orbs – said to be balls of spiritual energy – have been captured in the theatre too. Unusually, the orbs are brightly coloured, rather than white.

“There are lots of sounds upstairs as well, including muffled voices and whistling,” said Karl. “We whistled back, and it copied our pitch back again!

“People have also witnessed what seems to be a certain spirit eager for attention who, when ignored, tends to create loud bangs and even throws things.”

Strangest of all, however, are the bizarre moods of hilarity which occasionally grip individual ghost-hunters during their visits to the theatre.

“People suddenly burst out in fits of laughter. They just can’t explain it,” said Karl. “Perhaps one of the spirits was a comedian, I just don’t know.

“I have never seen anything like it at any of the other sites we have visited. At least people seem to be enjoying themselves!”

Karl, from Middlesbrough, had his first brush with the supernatural as a child – when he witnessed a ghostly woman walking down the stairs of his home.

He went on to develop a keen interest in the paranormal, forming Spirit Seekers two years ago. The group now holds ghost hunts around the North East.

“I’m a sceptical believer,” he said. “I believe in spirits and a spirit world, but I would question things like ouija boards, as they can be manipulated.

“I’ve certainly seen some strange things over the years, things that can’t be explained. Spirits are part of life.”

l A suitably spooky Halloween offering will open tonight at The Royalty. The show, Nightmare; Fright of Your Life, will run until November 5 and tickets are available on 553 2000. Further information on Spirit Seekers can be found on the group’s website: http://www.spiritseekers.info