Ghost-hunting in a 'haunted' Highland theatre

Grace Nicoll of BBC Scotland digital platform The Social
Grace Nicoll of BBC Scotland's The Social outside the Bishop's Palace at Eden Court [BBC]

Is the biggest arts venue in the Highlands haunted?

Some of those who work at Inverness' Eden Court think it is after years of uncanny goings on.

There have been reports of a ghostly green lady and phantom footsteps, but rational explanations have been suggested for the unsettling sights and sounds.

Deputy stage manager Paul Findlay at a staircase in the Bishops Palace
Eden Court's Paul Findlay at a staircase in the Bishop's Palace [BBC]

The venue is a mix of old and new - with cinemas, bars and one of Scotland's largest auditoriums.

The oldest part - the Bishop's Palace - is reputed to be haunted by a ghost dubbed the green lady because of her colour.

Deputy stage manager Paul Findlay has been involved with Eden Court for 27 years, and is interested in the supernatural.

"I grew up in Orkney in an old farmhouse that was said to be haunted," he says.

"A couple of times I have come through the Bishop's Palace when the lights are off.

"I have come to the bottom of the stairs and thought to myself 'I don't want to go any further'.

"It feels like I am going to see something I don't want to see."

One of the "most haunted" sites is said to be a room of the sub stage, an area underneath the main theatre's stage.

Paul says: "Whenever I come out of the room I always feel like I am being followed."

Holly who works at Eden Court
Holly, who works at Eden Court, says there have been lots of accounts of the green lady [BBC]

BBC Scotland digital platform The Social visited Eden Court in search of answers.

Holly, a member of staff, told The Social: "We have had quite a few instances of staff seeing the green lady at the top of the Bishop's Palace stairway.

"If you are coming into the Bishop's Palace and look into a mirror there you will see her standing at the top of the stairs or walking up them.

"I haven't seen her, but there have been quite a few accounts of that."

Holly says other reported experiences around Eden Court include whispered conversations and a haunting laugh.

A window in the Bishop's Palace
The Bishop's Palace dates back to the 1870s [BBC]

Eerie sights and sounds have been reported across the riverside complex.

A bar manager said he heard footsteps as he locked up late at night.

He told the person to "hurry up" but, when he turned to look, no-one was there.

He was so spooked that for about a week after he made sure he had someone else with him at closing time.

A duty manager reported hearing a woman crying as she was locking up in the front foyer next to the box office.

She checked the whole place again, but found no-one.

In numbers:. Eden Court [ 1878 The year the 12-bedroom Bishop's Palace was completed. The last bishop to live there moved out in 1947 ],[ 20 Years of use as a residential nurses training centre, before the palace was turned into an arts venue in the 1970s ] [ £23m Cost of a redevelopment project completed in 2007 that added new cinema and theatre spaces ], Source: Source: Eden Court/BBC Scotland News, Image:

Male ghosts are said to haunt the bars, and there have been reports of a phantom child and a couple that vanish into thin air.

Marketing manager Neil Hepburn said there were generations of ghost stories.

He says: "If a building can create such enduring stories amongst its residents, then the question of a rational explanation for all the sightings feels irrelevant.

"If you’re working in a cavernous theatre late at night, reason can go out the window."

Grace Nicoll on the stairs at Eden Court's Bishop's Palace
The Social filming in Eden Court [BBC]

Parapsychologist Ciarán O'Keeffe is head of the School of Human and Social Sciences at Buckinghamshire New University, and a regular contributor on the BBC's Uncanny series.

He says there are explanations for the spooky experiences.

"Quite a few coincide with late-night activity - cleaning up, responsibilities for front of house or the bar," he says.

"Any environment that has been busy and then becomes suddenly quiet is going to be naturally spooky."

He says people might be seeing and hearing things while in a hypnagogic state.

It is usually associated with the stage between wakefulness and sleep, but can sometimes be experienced by a person as they carry out a routine task.

Dr O'Keeffe adds: "Environmental influences could be something like electromagnetic fields.

"They can affect the brain to the extent a person has hallucinations

"You can feel the hairs on the back of your neck go up giving the sensation somebody is behind you."

Dr O'Keeffe is interested to find out more on the green lady sightings, which he describes as unusual.

"I'd be interested to find out more about the theatre's lighting," he says.

The Social's video Tales of the Haunted Theatre of Inverness was made by Daniel Flynn and Donald Edgar and presented by Grace Nicoll.

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