Updated: Jun 7, 2020
The ghost light is a light that gets left switched on, on the stage while the theatre is empty. It is usually a single naked bulb on a stand placed downstage centre.
The primary reason for leaving a light switched on is of course safety. However during these strange and unknowing times, it is a comfort for us to know there is a light on, a light ray of hope during dark and dismal times. A light to say 'WE WILL RETURN' our stage is waiting and we cannot wait to fill it!
A ghost light on stage at our theatre home, Little Theatre Southport
The History of the ghost light
The ghost light is basically a lamp that’s left onstage when all the work is finished in the theatre, and everyone’s gone home for the evening. A ghost light is said to ward off mischievous spectres and light the stage for spirits to perform once more.
The main reason is that the orchestra pit, can be around five - ten feet lower the stage. So when the power is turned off everywhere in the building, that’s the one little globe that’s left on so that no one walks in the theatre and stumbles off the stage and breaks their neck.
It is also particularly helpful to whoever has to open the theatre and turn the working lights on, as most theatres have no natural light in the auditorium or on stage and the main switches are usually on stage somewhere.
There are a number of superstitious reasons for the ghost light too. One superstition is that most theatre ghosts are former actors themselves. The ghost light gives them enough light to perform on the stage. It is also considered bad luck not to allow the ghosts to do this at least once a week, hence theatres usually only being open 6 days a week.