I had an early start this morning to get to the train by 8am so that I could meet up with this tour in the city. Having lived outside the city boundary since I came to Victoria, I have much to learn about the city of Melbourne. A school friend, Alice, supporting a neighbour who is starting up a tour business, invited me to join her. Her cousin, Fran, whom I hadn’t seen since childhood, was also there, an added bonus.
We were Mea’s first group, and being such a small number meant it was informal, informative and fun. Booking can be made on 0406 59 33 88, or on http://www.meandermelbourne.com.au
So here I begin with some photos of the hidden
architectural treasures and a taste of her entertaining stories. We began at the Princess Theatre on Spring Street. I shall copy out a handout, reproduced with the kind permission of the Princess Theatre staff about their ghost:
“Melbourne’s Princess Theatre has it’s own ghost. Or so nearly thirty well-authenticated sightings would have you believe.
The story began on 3rd March 1888, the opening night of Williamson Garner and Musgrove Opera Company’s production of Gounod’s Faust. The theatre was then known as the New Princess Theatre. Fredrick Baker, an English baritone who found it expedient to go under the Italian sounding stage name of Francesco Federici, played Mephistopheles. Baker who came to Australia under contract to George Musgrove, was a singer of standing, having created some of the Gilbert and Sullivan roles in the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company in England the America.
As the opera ended, the approving audience saw Mephistopheles throw his scarlet cape around Faust, whereupon the pair disappeared into sulphurous smoke and fumes to descend via the stage trapdoor to the nether region.
As the trapdoor disappeared from sight, the audience saw Federici raise his arm feebly before his eyes, but they put that down to exhaustion from the very fine performance he had just given. But Federici had succumbed to the heart disease that had been troubling him for nine years. As the trap reached the cellar floor he collapsed. He died in the theatre’s green room soon after.
The legend of Federici’s ghost started that very night. Some of the cast claimed Federici was there with them to take his curtain call on that and succeeding nights. Stagehands and players began to tell of strange presences brushing past them in empty corridors and backstage, and of unaccountable lights.
But there were even more sightings. George Musgrove himself once took exception to a lone figure in evening dress that he had seen at rehearsal, despite all his instructions that nobody was to be admitted. By the time Musgrove had completed his complaining, the figure had gone!
Subsequent sightings were usually made by firemen left to patrol the empty, half-lit theatre after the crowds had gone. In 1917 one of them even called out to the wardrobe mistress who was working late, to share the experience of a sighting with him. They both claimed to have seen a figure sitting quietly in the second or third row of the dress circle, about the centre of the row. Most of the firemen took their experiences calmly enough, as if it were only to be expected on the Princess Theatre job. But when one summers night the great dome of the theatre was left open because of the heat, the one fireman saw a figure in full evening dress standing in a shaft of moonlight on the stage. When he failed to send his hourly ‘all’s well’ signal to Eastern Hill Fire Station, the brigade rushed to the theatre. They found the fireman huddled in a corner petrified with fright.
Even to this day, each production that plays at the Princess, at least one member of the company has an encounter with Federici. It is never a frightening experience though; we say it brings the production ‘Good Luck.’”
This story provoked much discussion over lunch, at the end of the tour. Now I shall just add some photos from the tour, not divulging more stories about the prostitutes who had very colourful stories, hopefully to entice to you take the tour!