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Something spooky is happening at Blackpool Grand Theatre. Blackpool Social Club dares to take a closer look

It’s been an unseasonably warm September so with temperatures dropping this week we are more than ready to embrace autumn. Surely it’s time now for cosy jumpers and scarfs! Log fires and Gilmore Girls reruns! Strolls through the illuminations and, best of all, spooky season!

The Grand Theatre has got us covered on the latter, with three ghostly goings on lined up over the next few chilling months. Do You Believe in Ghosts, an experimental ghost story, arrives this week, followed by the ultimate classic, The Woman in Black, who makes her apparition on Halloween week. And the spine-chilling sensation 2:22 A Ghost Story, arrives direct from the West End in the New Year.

There’s something incredibly atmospheric and unsettling about watching a ghost story unfold live on stage. More subtle than cinema, more sinister than literature, and of course Blackpool’s atmospheric 130-year-old theatre provides the ideal setting for otherworldly encounters.

Matcham’s masterpiece contains dark tales

Beyond the glamour and grandeur of Frank Matcham’s architectural masterpiece is the dark tale of a restless spirit who haunts the upper circle. Over the years many a theatre goer has reported seeing a strange figure in antiquated dress – including top hat and cane. Charlie was once an employee of the theatre who, spurned by a performing ballerina, threw himself from the balcony. Woeful singing has been heard echoing across the empty stage after hours, furniture has been known to be violently upturned and many guests have reported chilling taps on the shoulder by unseen figures.

Just thinking about the potential of being scared in this setting is enough to give you goosebumps, but while the stage is no stranger to frightening moments, traditionally horror as a genre has been mysteriously absent from the theatre. Perhaps being a spectator to a spectre up close is just too terrifying. Like a haunted house with a locked door, as the lights go down and the curtain raises you realise there is no escape and nowhere to hide.

The Woman in Black has stood eerily alone amid her haunting marshes and moaning winds for too long. The story follows a lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over him and his family by the woman’s spectre. He engages a sceptical young actor to help him tell his terrifying story and exorcise the fear that grips his soul. The play has been drawing audiences hungry for hauntings for the past 36 years and has proven that, even as audiences become more sophisticated, the rattle of a door or the creak of a floorboard can still create a visceral response when you share the same physical confines as the actors.

The Woman in Black has haunted theatres for over three decades. She comes to the Grand Theatre for Halloween

The Grand Theatre has hosted the Woman in Black several times over the years but the fact that it’s locked in between two other ghost stories is cause for creepy celebration. There’s a lot to be said for tempering the inclination to add more bells and whistles to entertain overstimulated audiences and, instead, relying on clever stage tricks and shadowy scenery to arouse our most instinctive fears. The broader implication is that horror is becoming more of focus for playwrights.

At exactly 2:22 am each night, Jenny hears the sound of someone moving around the house, often via the baby monitor in her daughter’s bedroom.

Since it premiered in the West End in 2021, Danny Robin’s 2:22 A Ghost Story has demonstrated how it pays off. Here suspense is balanced with comic relief as the action follows Jenny and her husband as they renovate their big new house. For several nights, at exactly 2:22 am, Jenny hears the sound of someone moving around the house, often via the baby monitor in her daughter’s bedroom, and becomes convinced the house is haunted. Sam is sceptical and the pair clash along with their first dinner guests. As belief and scepticism collide, Jenny convinces them to stay awake until 2:22 to discover the truth.

Do You Believe in Ghosts appears at the Grand this week to finally exorcise Charlie, the resident spectre

But before we face our fears in these two plays the time has finally come to give Charlie the attention he craved all these years ago, driving him to his untimely demise. James Lee Taylor and Julian Woolford’s Do You Believe in Ghosts? is built around the idea that every theatre has its own unique hauntings. A two-hander, on a stage lit by a single lightbulb, Do You Believe in Ghosts is incredibly original in its approach to the fledgling horror theatre genre. It promises a thrilling night of tales, mystery, murder and ghosts as two paranormal experts tell fascinating ghost stories. But, nothing is what it seems, as time will tell, if you dare to look.

Listings

14th September: Do You Believe in Ghosts – book here

31st Oct-4th Nov: The Woman in Black – book here

23rd to 27th April: 2:22 A Ghost Story – book here

View our comprehensive what’s on listings here

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