VIDEO:  Ghosts of Civic Theatre

ONE of Newcastle’s most iconic buildings is usually a source of drama, comedy, murder, deception and love.

Both John Cleese and Miriam Margoyles have praised the Civic Theatre’s interior and its ability to attract world-class productions.

Yet at night, when the stage isn’t filled with actors and the seats are devoid of an audience, the theatre transforms into a ghostly setting.

Fittingly, many have reported sightings of paranormal activity in its confines, with a ghost named Joe particularly notorious.

Former deputy lord mayor Frank Rigby reportedly had a friendly exchange with Joe back in 1989 while he was sitting alone on the theatre’s stage.

Cr Rigby told the Newcastle Herald in 1998 that Joe was a broken-hearted lover who had been separated from his sweetheart.

Her family didn’t approve of Joe’s background and sent her overseas.

Joe’s spirit has remained at the theatre ever since hoping to meet her there again.

Richard Laws, who has worked at the venue since 1976 and is front of house manager, said he has had several encounters with the resident ghost.

‘‘Before the theatre was refurbished in 1993 we used to play games with staff at night,’’ he said.

‘‘The theatre was in complete blackout and we’d try and walk from the stage to the other side of the auditorium.

‘‘I decided halfway up to go down one of the aisles and as I tried to get through, someone or something was blocking my path.’’

Ever since his first experience Mr Laws has had other strange encounters in the depths of the theatre.

The Herald joined him and Newcastle Ghost Tours at the theatre to investigate paranormal activity.

About 50 ghost hunters from around the country slept over in the venue, hoping to catch a flicker of activity.

While walking past the men’s toilet Mr Laws described another ghostly run-in.

‘‘I was walking past the toilets once and felt a very cold wall of ice all of a sudden,’’ he said.

‘‘It was physically stopping me from moving.

‘‘I found out later that a fellow took his life in the toilet in 1975 after an argument with his girlfriend.’’

At least three other people have lost their lives in the theatre and Mr Laws said a woman had had a miscarriage in what used to be the ladies’ boudoir.

‘‘On our last ghost tour here a lady got a very strong feeling in the room and was very distressed,’’ he said.

‘‘She pointed to the corner where this feeling was coming from and it was the same corner where the lady had had the miscarriage.’’

Renata Daniel, of Newcastle Ghost Tours, organised the sleep-in and said she experienced her first apparition at the theatre.

‘‘I was talking to our tour in the auditorium and all of a sudden I saw a figure go across the seats,’’ she said.

‘‘I was just in awe and fear.’’

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