Fire Banner

Thursday, May 26, 2011

100 Years Ago... The Empire Theatre Fire

“On 9 May 1911 there was a disastrous fire on stage during a performance by The Great Lafayette. The theatre was full to its 3000 seat capacity for the performance by the popular illusionist. Disaster struck during the finale of his act, the “Lion’s Bride”, which involved the use of tapestries, cushions, tents and curtains to create an oriental setting.

As The Gre
at Lafayette took his bow a stage lamp fell and ignited a st age-drape. The audience was a bit slow to recognise the danger, b eing used to Lafayette’s illusions, and only evacuat ed the auditorium after the safety curtain was rapi dly lowered, and the band struck up the National Anthem.

All 3000 members of the audience walked to safety. The fire on stage took three hours to get under control however and eleven people died, including The Great Lafayette. To add to the mystery days before Lafayette’s death he buried his much loved dog Beauty in Edinburgh. This was only allowed on the condition that he was buried alongside.

Unfortunately for Lafayette, the body of his “double”, who was used in his stage show to aid with the illusions, was buried in his place for a while before his body was found in the theatre and laid to rest with his dog. It is rumoured that his ghost still haunts the auditorium and the Scottish Power Gallery…

After the fire, the stage was rebuilt in three months, and the stars returned, but by 1927 the Empire decided to brace itself for the threat of the talkies by equipping itself for bigger shows.”


No comments: