The hidden haunted history of a century-old Victoria landmark
Mona Mahmoud, CTV Vancouver Island
Published Wednesday, October 31, 2018 11:00AM PDT
If you ever visit Victoria’s McPherson Playhouse after hours, there is one staple that you will always find in the theatre – a ghost light.
Blair Morris, the technical director for the 104-year-old playhouse, explains that while most theatres usually keep one light on for practical safety purposes to ensure the building is never completely dark, the “Mac” has a specific history with a specific ghost that they attempt to avoid.
In fact, the McPherson Playhouse has been unfolding this haunting legend for decades.
“The McPherson Playhouse has a long history of being visiting by an apparition called The Grey Lady,” Morris says. “[She’s] a regular visitor here over the decades.”
Morris describes the ghost as being “kind of benign,” yet extremely unsettling. He recounts that he has seen her previously on different occasions as she’s been ‘living’ in the theatre for many decades, always sporting a long grey coat.
Her most notable last appearance happened in the late ‘90s during a dress rehearsal for a play called “A Woman in Black” which, as fate would have it, is a vengeful show about the spirit of a scorned woman.
Morris recalls the building being “locked up tight” during the night of her last infamous appearance.
“We knew that there was nobody in the balcony for the first half of the rehearsal,” he says.
So when the two lead actors in the play complained of a mysterious woman running around the balcony of their closed-door rehearsal, questions were raised amongst theatre staff.
After asking the actors to describe who and what they saw, Morris came to the conclusion that this was the same presence he had seen before, often when the theatre was dark and deserted – an eerie atmosphere for any staff member.
In recent years, the playhouse hasn’t been able to keep a single overnight janitor employed. All have felt too unnerved to stay or clean the theatre overnight, even when the doors are locked and the theatre is empty. Or at least appears to be empty.
Thus, the organizers have had to keep the story of The Grey Lady quieter recently, as they feared the scrutiny and its impact on the theatre’s success.
“A lot of people wanted tours, a lot of people wanted to come in and just sit in the dark…we had a long running in-house bet with touring crews and performers that at the end of a show we would seat them downstage center on a seat alone,” Morris joked. “And we bet that no one could be in here half an hour before they felt compelled to run out of the building as quickly as they could.”
He bet right. No one has ever stayed more than five minutes alone before leaving the building, often with much more fear than they anticipated.
Even when the lights are off, there’s always someone home at the illustrious McPherson Playhouse.