Thrilling Theatre Haunts
The theatre is a thing that many people are passionate about. They spend endless hours rehearsing lines, writing scripts, designing sets, etc. Some might say that the theatre is their life, so much so that they are still around long after they are gone …
Spooky Tale #1 – David Belasco Lives and Dies Theatre
David Belasco is one such person; as a young boy in San Francisco, he began his career as an extra for minor roles, copying scripts and taking on the part of the classic call boy. In 1882, he made his way to New York and became a producer, playwright, and director. He opened his self-named theatre in 1910, becoming a significant influence in naturalizing the theatre, making it more realistic. By the end of his career, Belasco had his hand in more than 100 plays. Since his life was clearly wholly centered in the theatre, it would only make sense that his death would be spent there too.
Casts and crews who have gone through the Belasco Theater have reportedly encountered Belasco numerous times. He has been known to sit in the private box of the theatre during productions while he seemingly critiques performances, not afraid to share his thoughts out loud. Actors claim they’ve received handshakes for a job well done, while others have their dressing rooms “ransacked” for mediocre work.
In her recent return to Dracula: The Musical, Melissa Errico had a gentler encounter. She said, “One night, I forgot my coat, and I had turned out the lights in my room. I turned back to get my coat in the dark, and someone (David?) turned the small pretty table light on for me to see my way. It was spooky! As I opened the door to leave and walked out, ‘someone’ closed the door behind me. I didn’t touch it but watched it move.”
Spooky Tale #2 – The Follie Girl Who is Still Dancing
A few blocks west of the Belasco, the New Amsterdam Theatre hosts the forever Follie girl Olive Thomas. Thomas began her career by winning the high praise of Howard Chandler Christy in 1914 in the “Most Beautiful Girl in New York City” contest. She modeled and danced as a Follie girl for the Ziegfield Follies and eventually became a prolific silent movie star. In her personal life, Thomas married the famous silent film actor Jack Pickford, and they didn’t live so happily ever after.
Their marriage was filled with passion and struggle. They had hopes of whisking away their problems by taking a second honeymoon in Paris. To be honest, Pickford told Thomas he had contracted syphilis, which only drove her to a short depression. What comes next is considered to be controversial … On September 5, 1920, Thomas was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead five days later. She had, supposedly by accident, ingested an entire bottle of mercury bichloride solution intended to treat Pickford’s syphilis.
While some speculate that it was an unfortunate mix of intoxication and a disarrayed temperament that led Thomas to consume the blue bottle, others say Pickford maliciously put the bottle in Thomas’ champagne.
Following her death, the crew at the New Amsterdam Theatre talked about how they saw Olive backstage, only to be notified of her recent death. Sightings of Olive continue to this day.
In one report, “Thomas made another appearance in the middle of the crowded New Amsterdam orchestra section. Shortly after the opening of Aladdin in 2014, an audience member came up to one of the ushers during a performance and asked if she could have a booster seat for her child. ‘We don’t like to interrupt a show, so we waited until the intermission and came to her with a booster. But we found she already had one. When asked where she had gotten it, she said a ‘lady at the back of the theatre’ had gestured to where they were. We checked and none of the staff had done it. So, you can take that how you like, but it was kind of freaky.”
Nowadays, people still see Olive tap dancing in her green flapper dress while holding that unfortunate little blue bottle. And David is still rocking that unfortunate clerical collar.
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