Lancaster Grand Theatre – 24/25 May 2014.

Cumbria Ghost Hunts had the great pleasure of being one of the few groups allowed to investigate this fantastic venue situated near the centre of Lancaster. It is one of the oldest theatres in Britain having been in near continuous use since 1782 though there have been many alterations over the years much of the original stone remains. The theatre was built in 1781, becoming one of the first permanent theatres in Britain. The theatre was opened in June 1782, by actor Joseph Austin and dentist Charles Whitlock, who managed a circuit of theatres across the north of England. It was known simply as "The Theatre, Lancaster". In that first summer, the plays Hamlet and The Belles Stratagem were performed at the theatre, and received good reviews at the time. In 1795 Mcbeth was performed, and playing Lady Mcbeth was Sarah Siddons who was the sister-in-law of Whitlock. To this day Sarah Siddons is very much associated with the building as many believe she is Grey Lady who is sometimes seen.

The theatre was closed in 1882. In May 1884 the theatre found a new owner, Henry Wilkinson, who had the building altered and it was re-opened as the Athenaeum Theatre. In 1897 the theatre was modified again including a new stage by architect Frank Matcham. The work of Frank Matcham was destroyed when the building was badly damaged by fire in 1908. With the interior rebuilt in the same year the new design by architect Albert Winstanley it re-opened as "The Grand Theatre" In its current condition The Grand Theatre seats 457 on two levels. It is owned by the Lancaster Footlights who started performing in the 1920s and bought the Grand Theatre in 1951 to save it from demolition.

The building layout is fairly typical of most theatres, behind the stage there are steps that lead down to 5 dressing rooms of reasonable size, as the pictures show the auditorium is full of character and you do feel as if you are in somewhere just a little bit special, the balcony gives a great view of the stage area and as you leave the balcony there are a couple of small bar areas to investigate. These lead to the stairs that lead you down to the foyer.

For our first vigil we decided to venture down to the dressing rooms, it was a fairly benign start but things soon began to occur. Firstly the group all heard the sound of footsteps and then some of us could smell the stench of alcohol. As if this wasn't bad enough one of our group then began to feel ill and had to be led outside to recover, once outside she felt fine and was eager to rejoin the vigil. We then decided to investigate changing room 5, as soon as we opened the door a fairly strong breeze was breifly felt and the EMF meters started to flicker strongly into life, reaching 4 lights at one point. We could only register the EMF outside the door and it wasn't present when we done our opening walkround either. It was literally like something was standing guard outside of the door. During this time Steve our medium was able to pick up a spirit with the name Simon who was wearing a suit and bowler hat.

We then moved to the stage area for another vigil and it was fairly quiet for the duration, everyone felt as if they were being watched from the wings and gantries above us, there were also several breezes felt across peoples faces and hands that seemed odd at the time and although there are a couple of holes in the roof this felt a bit different.

After a break to get our energy back we preceeded to go to the Balcony and also held a Planchette session in one of the bars. We split into 2 groups who went into the boxes above the stage and myself who was sat out in the balcony area. Before we started we made sure all of the seats were in the upright position. One group felt uneasy in the box to the point where one of the group had to leave and joined me in the balcony. We heard some footsteps and there was a rather loud bang which we later found was one of the seats which had been lowered. During the planchette session we had the spirit of one of the particpants relitives come through so we can't divulge any further details, needless to say the planchette always seems to be very reliable.

For the last vigil Julie and Steve went backstage to the dressing rooms and had a fairly quiet session, there was the odd unexplained knock that couldn't be explained away but as it was getting well into the early morning, activity was declining. The high levels of EMF that were present earlier were nowhere to be seen either, however when the group were on their way back they noticed that another of the seats on the end of one of the rows had been put down, not by us, I can assure you! Chris took a small group through another Planchette session in the bar where another close family member for one of our guests was present and that concluded another night on the road for Cumbria Ghost Hunts, sadly for us there was no sign of the famous Grey Lady, though we do still have hours of CCTV footage to go through so who knows what we may find.

Cumbria Ghost Hunts would like to thank all the team at the Lancaster Grand Theatre for giving us the opportunity to spend the night at their wonderful building and especially to Duncan for being a fantastic host for the event. We certainly look forward to coming back in the future.

Stage and boxes.