Contains Photos, Bibliography
Ian C. Nelson is librarian emeritus and former assistant director of
libraries at the University of Saskatchewan Library. He is also
dramaturge for the Festival de la Dramaturgie des Prairies.
A lot of attention to detail has gone into this anthology of ghostly
anecdotes about theatre houses. Some is worthwhile (the inclusion of a
good number of black-and-white photographs, a two-page bibliography, and
a glossary of theatre terms to explain some of the artistic and
technical jargon) and some merely cute (chapters and anecdotes numbered
like a play in acts and scenes, the cover featuring a theatre faзade
and a marquee spelling out “STAGE FRIGHT”). The scope of the stories
is international and the theatres range from small community halls to
the Metropolitan Opera. As might be expected, many of the tales are
fraught with lights going on and off inexplicably, mysterious noises,
doors being slammed, items being moved, and many heightened feelings of
an invisible or semi-visible presence. Some anecdotes are just the
recounting of these events. Some come with a story from the past that
has become attached to the theatre and has duly entered the
community’s general folklore. Smith’s contributors are a hardy
bunch, many of whom (predictably) began as skeptics of the paranormal,
but are now believers, even if only in their own local presence.
Haunted Theaters is a pleasant read. One clever chapter bears the title
“Still Appearing.” Smith has an equally clever way of deftly giving
the background of each anecdote and her source. She occasionally
displays her own craft as a writer of ghost stories in spinning out the
suspense of a tale or in rounding off the story with a gentle invitation
perhaps to accept the persuasiveness of those close to the ghost in
question who have themselves come finally to believe.
Those who enjoy theatre anecdotes may want to add Haunted Theaters to
their shelves. Ghost story aficionados may well be tempted by the stated
connection with real places and people, even though the suspense in
these instances is often a little light.