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Haunted Broadway: A Spooktacular Tour of NYC Theater Landmarks

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |


The Phantom’s not the only ghost in the theater district

The approach of Halloween puts us in the mindset of ghosts and goblins, and what better place for Broadway fans to go looking for hauntings than amongst the theater landmarks of New York City? Even The Phantom of the Opera would be given a run for his money by some of the apparitions wandering the halls of these theatrical institutions.

The Majestic Theatre, home of ‘The Phantom of the Opera,’ isn’t the only Broadway house that plays host to a ghost (Photo: iStock)

The Majestic Theatre, home of ‘The Phantom of the Opera,’ isn’t the only Broadway house that plays host to a ghost (Photo: iStock)

The New Amsterdam Theatre
The 1,700-seat New Amsterdam Theatre – currently the home of the musical Aladdin – is home to one of Broadway’s most-beloved ghosts. Olive Thomas, who had been a chorine in the Ziegfeld Follies, who died of mercury poisoning on the premises in 1920, and has continued to wander the venue, appearing to guests and theater staff, helping patrons and occasionally throwing a tantrum if anyone is disrespectful to her memory. Pictures of Olive, who was the sister-in-law of film star Mary Pickford, are placed about the theater, but one, just inside the theater’s 42nd Street entrance, is most easily visible to the theatergoing audience.   

The Algonquin Hotel
Once the popular haunt of the literary cognoscenti of New York, including playwrights and theatre critics, the Algonquin Hotel was the home of the famous “Round Table.” From approximately 1919 to 1929, the likes of Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Alexander Woollcott would convene daily to trade wit and vicious barbs over lunch. The restaurant and hotel continue to be one of New York City’s most revered institutions, but it is rumored that not every guest inside its walls is among the living. It has been reported by visitors and hotel staff alike that members of the Round Table have been seen walking into the bar and restaurant. Others have suggested that the elevator itself is haunted by a lift operator who likes to tease guests by stopping at every floor but the one they are trying to reach.  

The Palace Theatre
At the corner of Broadway and West 47th Street sits the celebrated Palace Theatre, recent home of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical. The venue is set to be lifted into the air 29 feet to make room for retail space, but how will its rumored ghosts feel about the renovation? A home for vaudeville, concerts and Broadway musicals, the Palace is reputed for being the habitat for over one hundred different ghosts. In the orchestra pit, a cellist dressed all in white occasionally appears. Louis Borsalino, an acrobat who supposedly fell to his death during his act has been seen and heard emitting blood-curdling screams as he performs his aerial feats. It has even been suggested that Judy Garland, who gave one of the great concerts of her life at the Palace, occasionally appears in the theater. But the list of its spectral encounters goes on and on, as rich and as full as the theater’s history itself.

New Victory Theatre
Though it may not be a house for Broadway plays and musicals, The New Victory Theatre on 42nd Street is one of New York’s premiere locations for quality children’s theater. It’s also the alleged home the ghost of Mrs. Leslie Carter, a leading lady of the famed David Belasco. Though she died in 1937, her spirit is said to continue to roam the theater, sometimes aiding the production team when props and costumes go missing. Also among the ghosts at the New Victory is the apparition of a child in the theater’s balcony, which some patrons have insisted they have encountered and who disappears when they try to interact with her. Could she be among the kids in the theater’s audience?    

Belasco Theatre
David Belasco was a renaissance man, an actor, director, playwright and theater impresario. The theater at 111 West 44th Street (soon to be the home of the Broadway play Network) is named for Mr. Belasco and, although Belasco passed away in 1931, many believe that his ghost continues to oversee the venue’s day-to-day proceedings. Belasco was known as “The Bishop of Broadway,” attributed to his daily attire that featured a clerical collar and a cassock. Patrons of the theater and the talent both onstage and backstage have reported seeing a man in this regalia watching from the theater’s balcony. It is also rumored that there is a second ghost within the walls of the Belasco, a specter known as the “Blue Lady,” a lovely woman who some suggest may have been enamored with the “Bishop.”   

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.

 

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