News | 17 June 2022
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The Ghosts of St James Theatre

Rumoured to have several resident ghosts, the St James Theatre offers a unique type of stage fright.

Archive image of St James Auditorium.
St James Theatre Auditorium. Wellington City Council Archives, 00444-14/26/12 Part 3.

The 110-year-old St James is the official home of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and if you believe the tales, the unofficial home to many things paranormal. The theatre was even investigated on the show Ghost Hunt in 2006.

One in-house haunt is the ghost of Yuri, a Russian dancer. As the story goes, he died after falling from the theatre’s rigging, though it’s widely believed that he was actually pushed by his fellow performer, Pasha.

Those who’ve encountered Yuri find him chill, not chilling. The playful ghost is known to mess with the lights after closing time and swing open the theatre’s doors. The ghost is even credited with saving the life of one of the theatre's projectionists by ‘pushing’ them out of harm's way, twice!

Rigging at St James from back in the day.
Flies of St James Theatre. Wellington City Council Archives, 00444-14/26/12 Part 3.

However, other St James ghosts are thought to be in not-so-good spirits, or rather not so good spirits themselves. ‘The Wailing Woman’ is believed to be an old vaudeville actress, who ended her life in the St James after getting booed off stage whilst trying to revive her career.

The jealous spirit is said to cause accidents for successful women in the theatre, most notably supposedly causing Anna Veitch to break her foot during The Sound of Music and spraining Barbara Windsor’s ankle on the last night of Carry On Barbara.

Some say you can hear the woman wailing from the dressing rooms or catch a sight of her in and around the theatre.

It was reported that director Sir Peter Jackson claimed to have once seen the Wailing Woman in an apartment across the road from the theatre. 

"I woke up one morning and there was a figure in the room, she was very scary, she had a screaming face, very accusatory, she was a lady about 50 years old," Jackson recounted for Britain’s Channel 4 TV. 

"It was terrifying actually… she was at the end of the bed... she glided across the room and disappeared into the wall.”

Cherub at St James Theatre.
Fixture from St James Theatre. Wellington City Council Archives, 00444-14/26/12 Part 3.

Scarier yet, Jackson’s wife claimed to have seen the same ghost, in the same room, two years before!

Whilst Yuri and the Wailing Woman are the most encountered, they are not the only ghosts said to reside in the St James. Deceased American actor Stan Andrews can supposedly be heard wheezing backstage, a tall man is often seen in glimpses in the theatre late at night, and the haunting voices of a boys’ choir lost at sea after their performance at the St James can be heard, but never traced, in the stands.