Richard Prince. Prince had briefly courted theatrical fame but due to sluggardry and alcoholism had had his employment terminated and ever after bore a baseless grudge against the profession upon which he acted with fatal consequences for Terriss. Eyewitnesses account that on death Terriss’s face took on an entirely forlorn expression much in contrast with the cheer with which he faced other adversity off the stage. After the murder of Terriss, Prince was sectioned to Broadmoor where, until his own death he passed the time writing his own plays (in which he, of course, played the heroic lead) to be performed by fellow inmates. Ironically these went down a storm with thrillseekers of the day who, in a less-politically correct age, would take day trips to point fingers and laugh at the lunatics like children today marvelling at the funny chimpanzee. With the death of Terriss the stage lost one of its most respected proponents, and society lost a man who managed to combine abashed chivalry with mischievous buffoonery.
An example of the former is the episode recounted in the memoirs of his erstwhile co-star Ellen Terry: Upon entering the Lyceum theatre one evening sodden with water a stagehand quipped: “Is it raining, Terriss?” The laconic reply came: “Looks like it doesn’t it?” It only emerged later that on his way to the theatre from South London the actor had dived into the mighty Thames to rescue a small child who was thrashing in the water. Thus with Prince’s cold deed a hero was lost, both by the stage and society. Or was it...?
Almost daily during his career on stage Terriss would step by a bakery at the corner of Long Acre and James Street to pass the time of day and get a bite to eat, this was very much a routine for him and it seems, one he has continued after his worldly demise. Covent Garden tube station, on the site of the bakery has for many decades been used by commuters and visitors as well as theatre folk, like Terriss himself. On several occasions, after dark, members of the station staff and nightwatchmen at Covent Garden, knowing the station to be empty, would encounter disembodied gasps and sighs which could have no worldly explanation. This was until 1955 when a ticket collector, Jack Hayden, seemed to fall into favour with the spirit world; an elegant phantom, ‘with a very, very sad face and sunken cheeks’ attired with opera cloak, cane and pale gloves appeared to him walking the platform or ascending the spiral staircase, the workman’s questions of the spook always went unanswered but for forlorn wails. On one occasion in the old staff messroom in the station, the undead Terriss strode through the closed door and remained silent and motionless for a good couple of minutes before departing the way he had entered leaving members of staff who had witnessed this agape.
It was all too much for a young porter Victor Locker who immediately requested a transfer after having encountered the phantom. He described the experience as like having an oppressive weight pushing down on him leaving him utterly immobile. Hayden himself left Covent Garden in 1964 but Terriss still makes sporadic cameos in the underground, his spectre has since been witnessed by rail workers sauntering through the tunnels from Covent Garden towards Holborn. Maybe he got tired of waiting for the ghost train and decided to walk.