THE GHOST OF WILLIAM TERRISS

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The Adelphi Theatre, which stands on the Strand in London, was originally known as the Sans Pareil Theatre when it first opened in 1806, it only became the Adelphi in 1819. This was a rather cramped establishment which had been described as little more than a hasty conversion from a tavern hall. The building was subsequently demolished to make way for the theatre you see today, which opened in 1858. The Adelphi has been famous for its many farces, melodramas, pantomimes, musicals and, moreover, its resident ghost.

William Terriss was an eminent actor-manager and a colourful and adventurous character who had travelled extensively. He had tried his hand at silver mining, medicine, sheep farming and even tea planting in Bengal. In complete contrast to all these ill-fated ventures he finally returned to England and took to the stage, establishing himself as one of the country’s most popular actors. Tragically, his illustrious career was cut short at the age of forty nine when he was murdered by a fellow actor.

A rather lacklustre and mentally unstable actor by the name of Richard Prince had borne a grudge against Terriss; perhaps out of jealousy. One grim December night, Prince, in his deranged state, waited in an ill-lit nook in Maiden Lane for the actor to arrive. At around seven o’ clock Terriss entered the passage. As he began opening his private door, at the back of the theatre, Prince sprang from the shadows and stabbed him with a dagger he had bought that very afternoon.

Terriss slumped to the ground mortally wounded. He was carried into the theatre where he died twenty minutes later. In the arms of his distraught leading lady, Jessie Milward, he uttered his final prophetic words saying, “I will come back”.

Alarmingly, it was not long after the murder that all manner of unexplained things began to occur. Actors began hearing strange tapping noises coming from the dressing room once used by Terriss. The sounds of unexplained footsteps were also heard backstage. Perhaps more disturbing was the fact that, from time to time, the appearance of strange glowing lights or orbs were seen. On one particular occasion these seemed to merge into the appearance of a human form and begin floating above the stage area.

One of the most recent incidents surrounding Terriss’s ghostly legacy was witnessed by a lady visitor to London some years ago. Knowing nothing of Terriss’s murder, or the ghostly goings on, she was surprised to see the elegant figure of a man, in old fashioned clothes, pass by her in Maiden Lane. The man appeared to drift rather than walk and bore a glazed and distant look in his eyes. As he entered the passage the visitor was startled to see him disappear at the exact spot where Terriss had been struck down.

Terriss’s spirit seems to quite ubiquitous, however, as he is also said to haunt Covent Garden Underground Station. By all accounts he was very fond of a bakery which once stood on the site of the station. Perhaps the thought of a hot mince pie or muffin still lures his spirit there.

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