Picton’s iconic Regent Theatre in desperate need of a ghost

All the great theatres have a ghost.

Stories abound of phantoms roaming the old theatres of Europe, but even here in Canada, we are treated to the paranormal. In London, Ontario’s Grand Theatre, millionaire theatre magnate Ambrose Small, who disappeared a hundred years ago, allegedly visits his balcony box from the spectral plane.

Toronto’s Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre reportedly has a lady in white who floats over the grand staircase, and a “Lavender Lady” haunting the hallways. The Royal Alexandra has several reported ghosts including a phantom lady in the audience who takes in the occasional show.

It’s unknown if she purchased a Mirvish subscription.

This surplus of Toronto ghosts might ring familiar to us here – it won’t be long before a dead realtor suggests they move to the County where the afterlife is quieter and ‘hauntable’ real estate is still a comparative bargain.

Before we transplant a Toronto ghost, let’s consider some dead County folk for phantom in residence at the Regent: Harvey McFarland, Picton’s long-serving mayor seemed to have an interest in everything around here. He cast a long shadow in life, and in death left an undeniable legacy in the County. Surely he’d like to keep an eye on modern-day Picton. He would make an imposing ghost, too – imagine a pair of glowing eyes behind his thick-rimmed spectacles.

Al Purdy, acclaimed poet, who rightfully should be haunting his A-frame cottage in Ameliasburgh. He might be tempted down to Picton by the Regent’s mix of screen and stage fare. But how would we keep him from haunting the library next door?

Edna Pearce Gordon, the Regent’s great benefactor, who saved the theatre from financial ruin, but kept her generosity private during life. Such humility might not be typical of a theatre ghost, but now that she is publicly honoured with a plaque, perhaps she’d enjoy the acknowledgement. It couldn’t hurt to have a spirit who had the Regent’s best interests at heart.

Gord Downie would be a very big “get”. The loss of the beloved singer/songwriter/activist (and sometime County resident) is fresh, and the Regent would be a surprising place for him to haunt, but why not? A high-energy ghost in a feathered top hat would guarantee a full house every night.

Sir John A. Macdonald died before the Regent was even built, and would make an unlikely ghost, but Picton goes to great lengths to market his connection to the town. His legacy would spark debate, but just as problematic would be his legendary alcohol consumption: a regularly intoxicated dead prime minister might present problems for the theatre’s liquor licensing.

You. Yes, you. The person reading this right now. You could be the Regent’s ghost. Sure, you’re alive and well for now, but the Regent is entering its second century and needs to plan for the long term. It takes money to maintain an old theatre. Perhaps a large donation could secure the exclusive haunting rights at the Regent after you die. Spook the tourists. Scare the heck out of your grandchildren – all for a good cause.

-Benjamin Thornton