the pantomime ghost

by e. anstwick

taken from

Panto Playtime Comic 1948

Printed by Percy Brothers.Ltd. Whitworth Street, West , Manchester 1. And London , and published by The Hotspur Publishing Co. Ltd. Gloucester Street, Manchester.

“Don’t shove!” hissed Mike, giving Peter a hefty nudge. “O-oh! Stoppit!” gasped Peter, sitting down heavily on a props basket.

“You can come back and watch the Dress Rehearsal”, Mike’s uncle had said, “If- and only if- you keep quiet, keep still, and keep out of everyone’s way”.

Though, as Mike had said while they watched the show, “We can’t keep all the instructions at once”.

“I wonder if we shall see the ghost?”, breathed Mike in Peter’s ear.

“You mean the Demon King?”

“Ass, there isn’t one in Aladdin. I mean the one that haunts the theatre- you know- the real ghost”.

“Oh yeah! There aren’t any real ghosts”

“Ah, youngster”, said a hoarse voice behind them. “There’s a real ghost in this ‘ere theatre”. It was Evans, the watchman, who was supposed to be working as a scene shifter. “Aye, in this theatre, I tell you. The Ghost of the girl who never played. They were going to put on Aladdin, and she was the Princess. Her first big part. But just before she went on, there was an accident. Something fell from the flies- right up there –“He pointed, “and killed her. So she never played Aladdin….and nobody’s ever played it here since. ‘Cause if they did, she’d come on and haunt them”.

He glared onto the bright stage, where the Princess sang with her attendant girls, “and they shouldn’t play it now, ‘cause she’ll ‘aunt them. She will. I tell you.” He slunk away into the darkness.

Peter shivered.

“Do you suppose there’s anything in it?”

“Course not!” said the unimaginative Mike.

Peter gazed raptly and sentimentally at the Princess in her glorious robes, the jewels sparkling in her hair and tound her neck.

“They’re only imitation, of course” said Mike loftily. But, Peter thought, as they flashed like coloured fire, they were remarkably effective imitations.

“Abanazar comes on next”, said Mike. “He’s a speciality act, really, on the music halls. Does conjouring tricks and has a performing monkey. Later on he brings it all into the show.” He watched distainfully for a moment. As one whose uncle was in the theatre business, he felt that boredom was the proper thing to show. So he brought out his orange and noisily began to suck it. He did not realise that in the reflection from the footlights, he was in full view of Abanazar. Consequently, as he sucked with gusto at what was a particularly juicy orange, he wondered why Abanazar should stop to gulp so often.

But, though still puzzled, he thought it best to fade away as Abanazar made his exit. He found himself in semi-darkness, amid painted wood and canvas, with a maze of ladders leading upwards. He climbed one of these, and arrived in a little cubby hole high over the prompt corner, and gazed at the stage below.

The two funny men entered, but Mike did not find them at all funny. The drum-shaped affair on the little platform, and various switches there, looked much more interesting. He fiddled restlessly about the platform, and somehow set things going. Light blazed from the drum. The spotlight glaring straight down to the back of the stage showed a startled stage hand having a quiet moment with a glass of beer. A wild and incoherent roaring from the auditorium made him hastily try to correct things. All he succeeded in doing was to direct the vivid beam on to a gesticulating producer in the stalls. He dazzled that excited gentleman so effectively that he tripped over the seats and disappeared. Except, that is, for a pair of wildly waving legs showing above the seat-backs.

Mike, now panicky, wobbled the drum wildly round, so that the beam flickered about the theatre like lightning in a storm. Suddenly, it switched out again. Mike gulped in relief, and then as wrath and revenge echoed up, from stalls and stage alike, he fled up ladders, along gangways, and down more ladders. At last, feeling himself safe, he slowed down in a wide corridor, and wiped his brow. Then he started. Something chattered and rustled near him. He saw what it was, and grinned. It was Abanazar’s monkey, in a cage against the wall. “Poor chap”, he said, “not much room to move about, have you?”

He looked around. All was deserted. The catch which held the door was easily undone, and the monkey was not slow. It was, in fact, so quick that Mike sprang back in alarm. He gaped at the scuttering shadow as it disappeared along the catwalks. Then he shrugged, and went the opposite way, which led, as it happened to the Dressing rooms. As he came up, Mike realised something serious must have occurred. There was an agitated group round the Principal Girl’s dressing room, and a policeman stood like a statue at the door.

He looked round for Peter, and saw him on the outskirts of the crowd.

“I say,” blurted Peter, as he came up, “they were real- her jewels I mean”.

“What do you mean?”, growled Mike. He seemed to have been missing things.

“The Princess”, whispered Peter, “They’re talking of arresting her. The big jewel in the middle of her crown, and the ruby in her necklace were real ones, and worth- ooh, I don’t know how much!”

“They’re stolen ones, and they say she must have taken out the ordinary imitation ones and put those in to hide them”

A police officer was in earnest conversation with the manager. Suddenly, everywhere the lights went out and there was utter darkness. “It’s that boy again!” roared a voice, “Let me get at him!”

“It’s that blessed monkey of yours that switched it off”, he told Abanazar.

“Well, old Monk’s got the thief”, chuckled Abanazar, “look!”

Down from the flies came a small procession. Evans, very sullen, followed by a policeman, with a handful of shining  jewellery, and Monk chattering on his shoulder. Abanazar ran to take him.

“Cripes, Evans a burglar?” gasped Mike.

“Yes”, said the inspector. “but he hasn’t got the nerve to be one really. Got the jitters, eh, Evans” he said contemptuously to the miserable creature. “Too scared to keep the jewels yourself, and thought you were clever putting ‘em in the crown. Thought nobody would look for ‘em there; but the rest were on you. That’s why you were as jittery as a scared rat. Not a nice specimen, eh?”.

Evans did not look it, shivering in the hands of the burly policeman.

This page was last updated 9th June 2002

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