MURDER AT THE ADELPHI THEATRE
Posted January 8, 2013on:
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The Adelphi Theatre, The Strand, London plays host to arguably one of the most famous ghostly legends in the city. On 16 December 1897 a popular actor called William Terris, aged 49, was starring here in a thriller called ‘Secret Service’. He had had a solid career, often playing alongside his lover and leading-lady, Jessie Milward. His career was tragically cut short though when he was stabbed to death by a jealous bit-player, Richard Prince, as he left the stage-door at the end of a performance.
Prince seems to have been a classic sociopath. He believed he was a far greater actor than anyone else, even though his underwhelming career clearly said otherwise. He was prone to bragging, liked writing effusive letters to famous people of the day, and getting cranky when they didn’t reply. (These days he’d probably be stalking them on Twitter). Even his own mother thought he was odd, and blamed it on having left him outside too long in the sun when he was a baby! He had conceived a fatal jealousy and dislike of Terriss over many years, culminating in that tragic December evening at the stage door.
Terris died in the arms of Jessie, his leading-lady. Legend has it that as he lay dying, he uttered the immortal words “I will be back”. Witnesses at the scene though said he simply repeated “Sis” (his nickname for Jessie) over and over again. Since his untimely death, Terriss is said to have haunted the building in the form of tappings and footsteps, as well as the lifts appearing to operate by themselves, and electric lights switching on and off.
In 1928 an actress felt the sofa in her dressing-room lurch violently whilst she was sitting on it, and her arm was seized by an invisible force, leaving a bruise. It was discovered that she was using the dressing-room formerly occupied by Terris’s leading-lady, and this room was also afflicted with a green light which hovered in front of the mirror, and mysterious knocks on the door.
Sometime during the 1950s a man walking down Maiden Lane, outside the stage door of the theatre, saw the ghost of Terris in full evening dress, wearing his trademark grey gloves, coming towards him. In 1965 a nighwatchman reported that he often felt as though he was being watched by unseen eyes. Other nightwatchmen have had this spooky and unnerving feeling over the years.
And what happened to Richard Prince? Well he was put on trial, where he revelled in all the attention, relishing the spotlight being on him for a change. He was judged to be insane though (a verdict which one of Terriss’s friends, respected actor Fred Terry, strongly disagreed with), and was sentenced to live out the rest of his days in Broadmoor secure mental hospital … where he apparently thoroughly enjoyed himself, putting on amateur dramatics, and conducting the hospital orchestra in the grounds. In his own twisted mind he may have felt he’d finally achieved fame over his hated rival. But it is Terriss’s dapper spectre which has gone down in the legendary annals of London’s many ghosts.