Thursday, 23 July 2015

He felt those icy fingers reach out to touch him.

William Terriss was murdered. Due to perform in the play "Secret Service" on a December evening in 1897 he was stabbed by a jealous rival actor at the stage door of London's Adelphi Theatre.

Richard Arthur Prince had been helped on many occassions by Terriss both in finding acting roles and with gifts of money. He started drinking heavily, became erratic and could not find employment. He and Terriss started to argue and on 13th December, unable to raise any funds, Prince waited at the stage door. As Terriss arrived, he was stabbed in the back, his side and chest . He died in the arms of his lover, Jessie Milward, a member of the same company of actors. His dying words were "I'll be back".

Tried at the Old Bailey, Prince made the most of the publicity. He claimed that he murdered Terriss out of revenge. His defence tried to prove insanity calling on the evidence of doctors and family. He was found guilty and sent to Broadmoor. Here his stage career was more successful for he regularly entertained the inmates until his death in 1936.

William Terriss was as good as his last words for he has been back many times. He regularly haunts not only the Adelphi but has been seen many times at Covent Garden underground station across the road. He looks quite distinguished wearing a grey suit an old fashioned collar and white gloves. At other times he has been witnessed wearing a sombrero hat and flowing tie and once dressed as a soldier. He has been seen by a number of actors and has even appeared on stage. Often he will knock on the door of the dressing room that was occupied on the fateful night by Jessie Millward. On one such occassion he even attacked the occupant, a young actress.

One member of staff at the station has met him 40 times and has grown quite used to the apparition although one of his colleagues was terrified when in the dark, he felt those icy fingers reach out to touch him.

Terriss is at least in good company at the Adelphi for Ivor Novello also treads the boards of this theatre.

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