Haunted? Strange goings-on at Romford’s War Memorial Social Club as ghostly show rolls into town
PUBLISHED: 16:30 29 October 2013 | UPDATED: 17:29 29 October 2013
An elderly cigar-smoker with a gruff voice, a ghostly girl waiting for her acting class, a phantom in a photo and a darts player – all are among the cast of spirits said to haunt Romford’s Brookside Theatre.
Strange events at the War Memorial Social Club that houses the Eastern Road theatre even led staff to call in a medium shortly after renovation work began, the Recorder can reveal.
Now, as Hallowe’en approaches, it seems a new ghost story production has summoned some spectres of its own.
“After the weird stuff started, we decided to get somebody in here to have a look around,” said director Jai Sepple.
“My wife believes in it all but I didn’t – not for a second.
“But then the guy started telling me all sorts of things about this building that he couldn’t possibly have known without doing months of research.”
The medium set up some tape recorders around the club – and when the group played them back, they were surprised by what they found.
“On one recording, you can hear my wife Harri, me and two other people talking. But then all of a sudden there’s another man’s old, gruff voice swearing, as clear as anything.
“On another, you can hear kids laughing and at one point one of them says ‘hello’ – it’s really weird.”
Jai swears there’s no way these voices could have got onto the tape by earthly means – he and his colleagues were alone in the room when the recordings were made.
It wasn’t the first time he’d got the shivers from the social club’s goings-on, either.
Jai and Harri began clearing out the dilapidated, long-empty halls of what had been built as an Old Folks’ Club in 2012.
“The smell of cigar smoke was the first thing,” said Jai.
“There used to be a very old dartboard in the hall, where the audience sit now, with some old plastic darts in a little tray.
“All of a sudden, I would hear the sound of a dart being thrown into the board.
“I’d walk over, and there would be one dart in the wall.
“I’d take it out, put it in the tray and walk away.”
Then it would happen again.
So who could the mystery darts player be?
“The medium said ghosts go back to places they were happy,” said Jai. “This was a senior citizens’ social club with 1,400 members, so many of them would have spent their last happy times in here.”
Jai believes the cigar smoker, the man with the gruff voice and the darts player may all be the same person.
Now, thanks to a chilling picture taken on the set of the theatre’s newest production, we may have glimpsed the face of the mystery gent.
The Woman in Black has a cast of two. The image shows Jai behind the curtain while the other actor stood behind the photographer.
So who is the dim bowler-hatted figure on the right hand side?
It seems he’s not the only person who can’t say goodbye to the War Memorial Social Club.
“When we performed the musical Annie, we had kids in here,” said Jai. “One of the kids walked out to go the toilet and she was gone for a little while.
“After a while she came in, and said to Harri: ‘The new girl’s waiting outside.’
“This kid was absolutely convinced she was having a conversation with a new girl.”
But Jai said there was no way anyone could have got into that area of the building.
And it isn’t just horror stories that summon the theatre’s secret patrons – its ghostly guests even seem attracted to Disney stories.
“When we did the Jungle Book, we used the front building as a dressing room,” said Jai.
“The guy who played Shere Khan was walking over there and he could see somebody at the end of the corridor.
“Thinking it was someone who shouldn’t be there, he called out. Then he saw the person take a left where it was boarded up at the front of the building.
“But when he caught up, there was nobody there.”
The Woman in Black runs until Saturday.