‘Ghost Stories’ chills and thrills

Journalist Tara Bennett screams amongst her surroundings before watching the horror play “Ghost Stories.” (Bonnie May)

Hellions, poltergeists and ghosts abound at West End’s terrifying staged play entitled “Ghost Stories.”
Written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, “Ghost Stories” is defined as a horror play reminiscent of the long-running show “The Woman in Black,” which used to be the only example of the horror theatre genre.
The advertising for “Ghost Stories” carries heavy warnings for its shock value. The show is unsuitable for anyone under the age of 15 and it is strongly suggested that anyone with a nervous disposition is advised not to attend due to the moments of extreme shock and tension.
According to Dyson and Nyman in the play’s guidebook, the idea of “Ghost Stories” began with a simple wish “to create the scary theatre show they had dreamed of seeing since they were kids.” Inspiration for the play came from such movies as “Paranormal Activity” and “The Blair Witch Project.”

The play revolves around a professor of paranormal psychology, a ghost skeptic who believes that things have to be believed to be seen. He introduces three tales of ghostly phenomena that draw from his own case studies including a night watchmen alone at work, a teenage boy driving in the dark woods surrounded by mist and a businessman who witnesses odd occurrences in the nursery. There is a trick to the ending and how these stories are all connected, but in the style of Alfred Hitchcock, Dyson and Nyman ask at the end of the show not to reveal the secret of “Ghost Stories.”
Though the play’s original intention is to scare its audiences, “Ghost Stories” also has a factor of education. As the professor introduces each story, he explains the phenomena of believing in ghosts and how it might tie to a manifestation of guilt. He also explains the terms and definitions linked to ghosts. This includes the type of ghosts or haunting, etc.
Before the play even begins, the Duke of York’s theatre is designed to set the atmosphere for the show. The walls are covered in gray, with caution tape wrapped around a grotesque figurine in the front lobby. Upon entering the theatre itself, dim lights flicker with a menacing sound playing all around. A curtain on the stage drips with words “safety curtain” in blood.
According to Dyson and Nyman, the show has scared over 50,000 patrons when it was originally staged in the Lyric Hammersmith in Liverpool. Could it be the smell effects, the dry ice, the sound design or the magic tricks, which Nyman himself designed that assisted in the audiences terror? How does it compare to watching a horror movie with the lights turned off?
“It was better than a lot of the more recent horror films I have seen,” said audience member Tiffany Baptiste. “Plus, with it being live, the way they decorated the theater and used special effects helped set the tone that many movies fail to do now.”
Baptiste was not alone in her thoughts as other audience members screamed throughout the duration of the play.
“Horror movies today don’t do what this show has done,” said audience member Samantha Price. “The buildup towards the scare was really what got to me. During the scene with the teenage boy I felt like I was actually in the woods with him and somehow I could have warned him. It was very real and very frightening.”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to go to sleep,” said audience member Richard Worth, “I have never been so freaked out by a play before.”

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