Image credit: https://www.llewellyn.com/
Theatres have, for much of human history, featured as an important venue where people gather for reasons none other than to be drawn into a fictional world as a temporary escape from the tedium of day to day life. The tradition of performance art dates back millennia, with every culture having their own theatrical or story-telling tradition some of which can still be found today.
A lesser-known fact about theatres, however, is that theatres attract paranormal activity much more predictably than other places. The phenomenon of theatre hauntings is well documented around the world, and those who work in the industry will often recount, wide-eyed and in hushed tones, their own experiences of inexplicable hauntings that they themselves bore witness to.
The reasons why theatre hauntings are so common have been subject to some speculation and study. One theory is that the intense energies generated by the unbridled outpouring of passionate emotion by both actors and audience both creates a charged atmosphere that attracts spirits and ghosts, and also allows for poltergeist activity as a consequence of the energetic imprint left on the buildings over time. The saying if these walls could speak should perhaps be better stated as when these walls do speak, as theatres will make their ghostly voices heard whether we like it or not.
Theatres are such well-known sites of hauntings that the tradition of the ghost light became an inseparable part of theatre culture. A simple contraption, a ghost light is usually an incandescent bulb that is left switched on overnight on stage. The light is kept on to appease the theatre spirits, giving them free use of the stage during the quiet dark nights, and on the days when the auditorium is closed up and empty. This ritual is said to prevent the spirits and ghosts from causing disturbances with the real performances by giving the spirits their own stage to shine on, and is a tradition hundreds of years old that persists until today. Some theatres even go a step further and leave designated seats empty at all times solely for its ghostly guests.
Image credit: http://www.theatrecrafts.com/
The tradition of the ghost light, while originating from abroad, has made its way to Malaysia as well. Local theatres have unfortunately not been spared by supernatural hauntings, and the phenomenon seems to hold true here. The old Actor’s Studio in the lower basement of Dataran Merdeka was notoriously haunted by ghosts and anyone who worked on the premises will unhesitatingly recount sightings and incidents that regularly occurred. According to a source who wishes to remain anonymous, the paranormal activity was so commonplace that it was eventually taken for granted as something one came to expect.
According to the source , stage managers would often see an additional actor on stage during rehearsals and live performances, sometimes even mistakenly recalling the lost ghostly actor from backstage. The Front of House and the ushers would also see figures of persons on stage who were not meant to be there, only to have them vanish in the blink of an eye. Furthermore, the stage hands who worked the lights up on the catwalk and who had the task of setting up in an often empty auditorium would recount strange noises as well as footsteps and voices that could not be traced to a human source.
Given the nature of HauntU as an interactive theatrical performance, it is inevitable that the fate of theatres as paranormal hotspots befall HauntU and its premises. We honestly think it is only a matter of time before real sightings and inexplicable incidents are reported. Who knows, they may, in all probability, have already occurred. Despite the lack of reported sightings, it is highly plausible that ghostly spirits have managed to slip by unnoticed at HauntU. After all, a haunted experience is the perfect camouflage for a ghost. Even if they did make a brief appearance, caused some ghostly knocks or flickering lights, you would be none the wiser, thinking that what you see and hear is part of the show. Indeed, a better cover than a haunted theatrical performance has yet to be found for a ghost.
In all, the verdict is still out on whether this is a positive or negative. One cannot help but wonder if it is indeed better to be blissfully ignorant when it comes to ghostly encounters. We can at least rest assured that theatre ghosts seek the limelight and attention and are drawn to the thrill of the performance. Sure, they may just as well make a cheeky appearance now and again but rest assured these ghosts are drawn to the drama of venue itself and will unlikely follow you home. To these ghostly entities, your life is pretty boring in comparison to the wonder and magic afforded by the drama of the performance stage.