Someone is watching

I expect that most people have had the sensation of being watched at one time or another, but at St Albans Odeon, this phenomenon had decidedly nasty overtones.

When I started there as a trainee, the Chief told me never to go down to the boiler house alone. If I wasn't on duty with him, he always took one of the floor staff along. He said this was in case of accidents; if you fell down the steps you could lie there for hours, or at least, until someone noticed the film hadn't started. This seemed perfectly reasonable to me, and I had no reason to think of any other reason why you might not want to go there alone, until one day after I had gone on shift and there was no-one about who could be spared. I did what I considered the next best thing; told them where I was going, and how long I would be, then set off.

Now to get to the boiler house you had to walk down the side of Odeon Three, through an exit way, then across the back of the stage and down some steps. I never much liked going across the stage; it was dark, and my over-active imagination led me to think about all the things that might be lurking up there above the screen frame, waiting to pounce. But that wasn't where it happened.

I'd done what I needed to do and was on my way back up the exit way when I had the unpleasant feeling of being watched. I could feel eyes boring into the back of my neck; two points of intense, malevolent heat, and all I wanted to do was to run and just get out of there. When I did my heart was pounding.

Asking around after this, I found that the floor staff hated going up that exit way to put the chains on the door last thing at night - they tossed a coin to decide who had to do this. And the manager's dog always refused to go into Odeon Three.

I only ever went up there alone a few times while I worked at St Albans. Each time I dreaded it. Others (including the Chief) had experienced the same phenomenon, but we could find no explanation as to why - as far as we knew, nothing untoward had ever happened on the site since the cinema had been built in the 1920's.

While still at school, I went to "help"out at my local cinema. I started working there when I was 13 (in 1988) and left when the building closed as a cinema in the summer of 1991. I never actually saw anything, but have had a few odd experiences.

My late uncle was a projectionist there for around 25-30 years and it's thanks to him that I learnt my trade. I find it hard to believe I was making up Ads/Trailers/Programmes and running shows at 15!

The cinema was in Belper, North Derbyshire. The original building was constructed in the early 1800's as a prison and the cellars beneath still have bars on the windows, and cells. It was rumoured that many a prisoner had been executed there as a punishment for stealing to feed their families. So the building was thought to be haunted.

When you were rewinding in the projection room after a show (we were on change-overs), now and again the hairs on the back of your neck would stand on end and you had this feeling that you were being watched. Sometimes you could go for months without having that feeling.

Also during this period, you would find lighting switched off or on, particularly in the Rewind Room. This would usually happen every 2-3 months.

Today, the upstairs of the building (which housed the Cinema) is derelict, but the old stalls is now a Bingo Hall. I have spoken to the manager on numerous occasions and he has asked me about this feeling of being watched and lights turning off or on themselves.
Roddy Buxton