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The Theatre Royal Haymarket

The Grade I listed Theatre Royal at Haymarket dates from 1720 and is reputed to be haunted by the playwright and comic actor John Baldwin Buckstone (born 14 September 1802 – died 31 October 1879). In 2009 whilst starring with Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf, Lord Of The Rings) in the play Waiting for Godot, Sir Patrick Stewart reported seeing Buckstones apparition.

Sir Patrick Stewart (born 13 July 1940, Mirfield, West Yorkshire) is one of Britain’s best loved film, television and stage actors, known worldwide for playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek The Next Generation and Professor Charles Xavier in the X-men. On 25 August 2009 the Daily Telegraph published an article by Stephen Adams entitled ‘Patrick Stewart saw ghost performing Waiting for Godot’, which described the experience.

Patrick Stewart has told fellow actors that he saw a ghost in what is reputed to be one of Britain's most haunted theatres.

He saw the apparition while performing Waiting for Godot with Sir Ian McKellen.

Stage hands believe he saw the ghost of John Baldwin Buckstone, who was actor-manager of the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the mid 19th century and a friend of Charles Dickens.

Upon coming offstage for the interval, Stewart told his co-star that he saw a man standing in the wings wearing what looked like a beige coat and twill trousers.

Sir Ian asked him: "What happened, what threw you?"

"I just saw a ghost. On stage, during Act One," Stewart replied.

The episode was related in a documentary about the Theatre Royal Haymarket, produced by television channel Sky Arts.

However, it appears cameramen failed to capture images of the ghost itself.

Stephen Adams article also quoted the Theatre’s director Nigel Everett who shed some light on previous sightings.

"Patrick told us all about it. He was stunned. I would not say frightened, but I would say impressed."

Appearances of Buckstone were not that frequent, Mr Everett said, with the last being by a stage hand about three or four years ago.

He added: "The last time an actor saw him would have been I think Fiona Fullerton, playing in an Oscar Wilde, 10 or 12 years ago.

"The ghost tends to appear when a comedy is playing."

While he said he did not consider Waiting for Godot to be a comedy, he thought their production did have comic aspects.

"I think Buckstone appears when he appreciates things," he added. "We view it as a positive thing."

Buckstone was born in Hoxton, London on 14 September 1802 and after spending some of his early years apprenticed on a Navy vessel he studied law before taking up acting at the age of nineteen. He had a longstanding association with the Haymarket Theatre, first appearing on stage there in 1833, followed by five years of writing for its audiences and acting upon its stage. He returned to the Haymarket Theatre again in 1840 and in 1848 before replacing Benjamin Webster as the Theatre’s manager in 1853, a job he held until 1877. In 1854 his fiance the actress Fanny Fitzwilliam died of chlorea shortly before their wedding day. Buckstone eventually married Isabella Copeland, Fanny’s sister.  John Baldwin Buckstone died at home in Lower Sydenham on 31 October 1879 following several years of ill health.

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Red Don
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Re: The Theatre Royal Haymarket

The author Andrew Green had th efollowing to say about the case:

Margaret Rutherford endeared herself to thousands in the film 'Blithe Spirit'and further increased her popularity in the plays of Agatha Christie's crime novels. Michael Flanders, another highly popular entertainer, starred in the show 'At the Drop of Another Hat'and also became a television personality in his own right. Both had experienced phenomena in this old but appealing theatre. Dame Flora Robson is another who thought she witnessed the ghost of a former manager, John Buckstone, who died over 120 years ago.

Buckstone has been heard whispering in one of the dressing rooms and some years ago, one actor opened the door of the room saw the figure wearing a long frock coat sitting in a chair. He immediately closed the door, locked it and called the fireman. When they arrived and opened the dressing room door, they found nothing. Two firemen, however, saw a man's face staring at them through one of the windows. The ghost has been identified as Buckstone from an old photograph. It was Olga Barnett, assistant stage manager for one of the shows, who saw him standing behind Michael Flanders'wheelchair during a show and on enquiry learnt several members of the audience had commented on 'the tall gentleman in the old frock coat'. The story goes on that the phantom only appears when productions are successful, but, perhaps, this idea is fostered to offset some of the untold fear of the nervous.

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Ian Topham
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Re: The Theatre Royal Haymarket

The ghost of John Baldwin Buckstone was also possibly seen by Sir Donald Sinden (Born 9 October 1923) when he was performing in 'The Heiress' during 1949.  Whilst heading toward the stage from the dressing room, Sir Donald and the actress Gill Cadell passed a solid looking figure in period costume looking out of a window onto Suffolk Street.  They mistook the figure as Ralph Richardson, as his dressing room was located on this floor.  They greeted him but recieved no reply or acknowledgement.  Having descended a flight of stairs they realised that Richardson should have been on stage, they went back up to discover who the person was but they were nowhere to be seen. 

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