Charlie, the theatre ghost, is said to haunt the cat-walks of the theatre, along with other areas as well.
Collected by Jesse Clements, Ingrid Sheaffer, and Jessica Smith during Interim 2003.
For her book Haunted Theaters, storyteller Barbara Smith collected accounts from over fifty theaters in North America and Great Britain. The spectral encounters she relates take the form of chilly winds, chilling laughs, noisy footsteps, and vanishing apparitions. Some ghosts were theater lovers: actors, stagehands, and patrons who could not get enough drama in life, so they spend their afterlife in the theater. Others are embittered failed actors or abused employees, often suicides, whose malicious mischief terrifies their living counterparts who are more successful. And some ghosts are accidental occupants of the theater, such as unlucky souls who were struck dead in the street in front of the theater or those whose previous haunts were demolished and replaced with new theaters. Folklorist Simon Bronner accounts for the prevalence of ghosts in college theaters: “The drama, mystery, and pathos enacted there lend to speculation about phantoms lurking in the darkness. Besides, theaters, usually intimidatingly cavernous, often have trap doors, mysterious basements, and multiple dank passageways” (Piled Higher and Deeper 177). Bronner notes that new students are acculturated to college life through ghost stories that accentuate the strangeness of their new surroundings while helping them participate in the history of the college. Although he is talking specifically about dorms and fraternity houses, how true also for those students whose second home is the theater.
More about Charlie the Theatre Ghost
Some current students offer their Charlie-experiences.
From Mac Smith
When we got here as freshmen, we were told Charlie stories jokingly. There were Charlie believers and Charlie skeptics, but in either case everyone talked about him. Most Charlie references are, "Hope Charlie doesn't get you," or "Watch out for Charlie." Most personal encounters with Charlie were extremely paranoid sensations while in any part of the theatre by yourself.
The most common origin of Charlie that I have heard is that he is the ghost of a previous director who retired after 30+ years in the theatre department. A couple of months after his retirement, he died. His name wasn't Charlie, but he sort of picked that name up along the way. (Fun Fact: The last show the previous director directed, and consequently Charlie's favorite music, was The Fantastics)
My encounter is a little more boring, while the other two are a lot more exciting. One I heard from an Alum first hand, and the other happened to my best friend Matt Adams.
My encounter is more like a practical ghost joke that he probably got a good ectoplasmic belly laugh out of. I went into the theatre one night, and it was pitch black. I needed to get to the men's dressing room because I left my keys and...needed them. So I walked down the hall to the dressing room area, and there are two doors at the end of the hall, one straight and one to the left. The one to the left leads to the bathroom, then to the dressing room. The one straight ahead leads to the make-up room and then to the dressing room. So I took the left, or tried to. It was dead bolted. I pushed a few times, but got that locked resistance (There is no handle on this door, it's like a bathroom door, so from the outside you would push it.) So I went straight and then to the dressing room, then I left. The next day I was in the theatre and needed to use the bathroom, so I went down the hallway and took that left door (that was previously locked) and went into the bathroom. On my way out I just casually thought about how the door had been locked the night before and looked at the door, then did a double take. There's no lock on that door. Nothing, it's just a door. I looked in the bathroom for an obstruction that could have been pushed in front of the door and given the effect of a lock, but there was none.
Not that creepy, but weird any way.
This one is from a member of the Urinetown company/visiting Alum, he told me when hearing us debate Charlie's existance while on a bus ride.
He was in the theatre, of course after hours, doing some singing work in the downstairs theatre. When he finished and came up stairs to leave, he heard arguing on the stage. Sort of like people doing a scene. When he made his way up to mainstage, he said that the voices got louder as they would if people were on the stage arguing. As he rounded the curtains blocking his view to the stage, the voices stopped, and all he saw was a bare stage with the ghost light on it. He turned to leave and the voices started again, arguing. He looked at the stage and again, nothing. He was spooked and turned to run out of there, and as he ran he said the voices got louder as if they were arguing while chasing him and stopped when he got out of the door. He never went into the theatre after hours again.
From Matt Adams
I have three incidences in which Charlie has made himself known to me in some obscure and not so obscure ways. Interestingly, all three times this has happened, I have been playing music in the theatre. Once, I was in the theatre last semester practicing for my piano lesson. It was about 9:30 in the evening. I went into the theatre with all of the lights off. I practiced for about 30 minutes when all of a sudden I heard what sounded like footsteps walking down the stairs in the house. Those stairs are not stationary and they make a very distinct sound when you walk on them. I went to go see if someone had come into the theatre. I stood onstage and looked out into the house. The only light that was on was the ghost light. I didn't see anyone so I asked if anyone was there. No reply. This shook me up quite a bit so I decided to leave the theatre...and very quickly at that. The last two times, I have been playing my guitar in a very obscure stairwell in the theatre. This stairwell echoes like crazy and offers amazing acoustics, so I go and sit down on the stairs and play my guitar. The first time, I was in the theatre by myself - I had checked everywhere to make sure that wouldn't be disturbing anyone. After I had played for a little while, I paused for a moment. In that moment, I heard a voice. The voice was coming from inside the stairwell...it was unmistakable. Although I couldn't make out exactly what it was said, but it sounded like "thank you" and "good job." As much as I appreciated the compliment, it literally sent chills down my spine. I ran to the mainstage to see if anyone was there...no one. I also checked Theatre One...no one. So I decided to leave...again very quickly. The last time I had two other friends with me because I had told them about my Charlie experiences and they wanted to check it out. We went back to the stairwell. After I had played for maybe 20 minutes, we heard what sounded like a door close. But that was the only sound. There were no footsteps that followed it. Again, we checked to see if anyone had come in, but no one was there but us. And yet again, I left very quickly. I hope this is of interest to you. To be completely honest, I am NOT a superstitious person, but I firmly believe that there is something odd in that theatre. However, he seems to like music...so maybe I'm on his good side.
From Laura Spurgeon
This is what happened on my encounter with Charlie:
I was merrily walking along to Matt Mielke's class at about 9:20 AM, when I heard the copier running something off. Naturally, I peeked in to see if I knew who was in the copy room, only to find the lights completely off, and the copier working at full speed. Not only was it not shooting any paper out, the light on the key pad screen was flashing, and all of the copy trays were moving around.
There may be an explanation for all of this, but I was pretty freaked out. I immediately thought it was Charlie.
- How old is this story?
- Who was Charlie? A student? A stagehand?
- By what strange occurrences does he make his presence known?
- To whom are these stories told and in what settings?
Email your comments, corrections, or additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bronner, Simon. Piled Higher and Deeper: The Folklore of Campus Life. Little Rock: August House Publishers, 1990.
Smith, Barbara. Haunted Theaters. Edmonton, AB: Ghost House Books, 2002.