Vandaag is het 120 jaar geleden dat de populaire Britse acteur William Terriss in het Adelphi Theatre werd vermoord door een minder populaire rivaal, die krankzinnig jaloers was geworden. Sindsdien wordt er verteld dat de geest van Terriss nog altijd rondwaart in het theater, maar – straffer nog – hij wordt ook vaak opgemerkt in het nabijgelegen underground-station van Covent Garden, dat pas na zijn dood is gebouwd.
William Charles James Lewin was an English actor, known for his swashbuckling hero roles, such as Robin Hood, as well as parts in classic dramas and comedies. He was also a notable Shakespearean performer. He was the father of the Edwardian musical comedy star Ellaline Terriss and the film director Tom Terriss.
Athletic as a child, Terriss briefly joined the merchant navy and tried several professions abroad and at home. Adopting the stage name William Terriss, he made his first stage appearance in 1868 and was first in the West End in Tom Robertson’s Society in 1871. In the same year, he had major successes in Robin Hood and Rebecca and quickly established himself as one of Britain’s most popular actors. In 1880, he joined Henry Irving’s company at the Lyceum Theatre, appearing in Shakespeare plays.
In 1885, he met 24-year-old Jessie Millward, with whom he starred in The Harbour Lights by G.R.Sims and Henry Pettitt. They toured Britain and America together. Terriss played the hero parts in Adelphi melodramas from the late 1880s until he was stabbed to death at the stage door by a deranged actor, Richard Archer Prince, who, because of his drinking and mental instability, had become unemployable. Although Terriss had helped him in the past, Prince blamed his plight on the West End star and had lain in wait to carry out revenge. He was put on trial for murder and found guilty but insane. He was sent to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, where he spent the rest of his life.
Terriss seemed to have cried out: “My God, I am stabbed! Arrest him!” A number of theatre staff rushed to his aid and, according to one newspaper report, “formed all too late a bodyguard.” Terriss was carried into a passage behind the stage door and propped up on pillows but he could not be saved. As he died, his lover, actress Jessie Millward, heard him whisper: “I will come back.”