The Phantom Of The Royal George: Ghost Sightings and Other Halloween Highlights
Hardly had the backpacks and lunchboxes disappeared from the store shelves than preparations commenced for the advent of the three-day festival celebrating ghoulies and goblins, Calacas and Calaveras, hyperglycemic diets and toilet-paper lawn decor.
The earliest of the seasonal offerings opened in September, only to close by mid-October, but the historical true-crime Bloody Bathory is scheduled to run all the way to mid-November. The Silence of Harrow House invites a squad of life-sized puppets to stalk playgoers, while Three Stories Up plunges them into total darkness. Hell Followed With Her proposes a Wild-West yarn with zombies, and Countess Dracula, a vampire story with a social message on racism.
For honoring the spirit world, however, nothing surpasses the possibility of encountering a genuine, bona fide, ether-and-ectoplasm ghost, as occupants of the Royal George Theater declare they have.
Unlike the Royal George's first-floor mainstage and cabaret auditoriums, the Great Room space, home to the solo show Late Nite Catechism and its affiliate Bible Bingo, resides above the complex's attached restaurant, where its entrance—located amid a warren of offices and storerooms—opens onto a narrow corridor. It was here that Vicki Quade reports having, last February, witnessed a post-show spectral manifestation.
"[Stage manager] Elizabeth Dean and I were in the adjoining conference room, putting away the Bible Bingo props." Quade recalls, "I looked out through one of the textured windows facing the hallway, and I saw a woman wearing a heavy winter coat, walking toward the Great Room. I turned to Elizabeth, saying that the woman must have left her gloves or scarf in the theater and come back to retrieve them, and that I would go help her.
"It only takes five seconds to reach the hall from where I was standing in the conference room—I've timed it—so I should have been right behind her, but when I arrived in the hall, she wasn't there. I thought she might have gone into the performance space, but its door was locked and its lights off, and when I looked inside, it was empty. Finally, I pushed open the fire door at the end of the hall and shouted down the staircase leading to the front of the theater on Halsted Street. Now, that door makes a loud noise when you open or close it, but I didn't see or hear anything.
"When I went back to the conference room, Elizabeth asked me what the woman had wanted. I told her I didn't know, because she had disappeared! Then Elizabeth asked what she had looked like, and I realized that I hadn't really seen a face, or hair color, or any specific detail. The woman had just been grey—like a shadow, but with form and movement."
This apparition might have been dismissed as a one-time illusion, but actor Brad Armacost—a veteran of several shows playing in the converted building—affirms past sightings of a similar nature. Royal George maintenance chief Willie Birkes also claims to have heard footsteps when he's alone in the building. ("I was so spooked, I began to bring my dog to work with me.")
So while some theatergoers may be content to revel in the shivery ambience of playhouses flanked by cemeteries, churches, former speakeasies and other Casper-friendly environments, those scouting for a chance to spot the real thing lurking behind the nostalgic warmth of a Parish Game-Social re-enactment would do well to include a stop at the Royal George on their trick-or-treat route.
Holy Ghost Bingo: God, Goblins and Games continues at the Royal George Theatre through November 10. Contact: www.nuns4fun.com
The Silence of Harrow House continues at the Chopin through November 10. Contact: www.roughhousetheater.com
Countess Dracula continues at Otherworld Theatre through November 2. Contact: www.otherworldtheatre.org
Hell Followed With Her continues through November 9 at the Den. Contact: www.wildclawtheatre.com
Three Stories Up plays at the Church On Thorndale (1244 West Thorndale Avenue) from October 24-November 9. Contact: www.theatreinthedark.com
Bloody Bathory continues at Epworth United Methodist Church (5263 North Kenmore Avenue) to November 16. Contact: www.thebarrenstheatreco.com
Mary Shen Barnidge
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