Things that go bump
Century Cinema, Cheam
There is a haunted cinema in South London: the Century at Cheam where members of the staff and visitors have heard noises that they cannot account for. When the cinema was built in the 1930's a workman disappeared mysteriously without collecting his wages. His lunch bag and coat were found hanging on a nail near the part of the building that became the stage. He seems to have disappeared without trace and there was speculation as to whether something happened to him that never came to light.
At all accounts, shuffling footsteps were heard from the direction of the empty stage late at night by several members of the staff, including the manager, Mr Lilley. The noises were heard so frequently that the cinema personnel would take little notice of them, merely remarking, 'There goes Charlie again.'
Mr Lilley is reported as saying at the time, 'There is no earthly explanation for the noises. I have heard them on several occasions while working late. It sounds as though someone is shuffling about, either under or across the stage. The first time I heard them I thought a burglar had entered the building, or someone remained in the theatre after closing time, but I always found the doors and windows securely fastened, so no one could have got in or out without being noticed.'
Three reporters from the Epsom Herald spent a night in the cinema in 1955 and reported afterwards that they had heard the shuffling noises. The complete silence of the night was disturbed by the sound of heavy, shuffling footsteps from the right-hand side of the stage. After the noise had been heard three times one of the reporters switched on a torch to reveal an utterly empty theatre. An immediate and minute search of the whole cinema failed to reveal any explanation for the noises.
Imagine that you are a manager, trying to finish the monthly stock return late one night. You are in the office suite directly below the main projection box. The projectionist has long since locked up and gone home, saying goodnight on his way out.
There is a sudden scraping noise from above. It sounds as if a heavy object has been moved across the concrete floor of the projection box. A couple of seconds later, just as your heartbeat is beginning to return to normal, it happens again.
You get up from the desk and walk to the office door, intending to go upstairs to investigate. Rational thinking persuades you that this is sensible - after all, unlikely though it seems, someone might have broken in on the third floor. You don't really believe this, though.
You open the door. The familiar landing beyond is infused with a sense of menace. The iron stairs up to the projection room cast weird shadows across the red-painted floor. It is dark up there. You don't want to go up. As you stand indecisively hovering, that noise happens again. It's louder. Angrier. Something up there doesn't want you to pry.
You go back into the office, snatch up your papers, shove them into your case and exit swiftly.
Careful questioning later reveals that others have also heard this sound. Its one of those things no-one likes to mention, because in the cold light of day, it seems pathetic that a mere noise could be so frightening. Legend has it that sometime back in the nineteen fifties, a projectionist hanged himself up in the top box. The heavy steelwork across the ceiling would make this possible. Legend has it that the noise is his ghost dragging something across the floor - whatever it was that he jumped off in order to do the deed.
It's not possible to confirm the truth of this as no-one currently at the cinema was around back then. But the projectionist says he always bids 'George' goodnight, and that at certain times of year strange things sometimes happen, such as pins jumping out of the Cinemation matrix board.
These incidents happened in a London suburban cinema, during the 1980's. They may still be happening today.