Did A Woman Really Have a Heart Attack During THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA?
I’ve heard this one for as far back as I can remember. I don’t even remember where and when I first heard it, that a woman had supposedly had a heart attack during the infamous unmasking scene in Universal’s 1925 silent masterpiece THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA starring Lon Chaney. I decided to do some checking, and I cannot find any mention of it, where it happened and when, exactly. This would lead me to suspect that it is a myth, an early precursor to the “urban legend.”
I did uncover reports of people fainting during that scene, although these, while sometimes reported by newspapers, are also lacking in details. No names are given, or locations where this fainting allegedly occurred. This does not in any way mean that the fainting didn’t happen, just that no one thought it important to get the names of the victims, which is totally understandable. The same thing happens today. I for one don’t doubt that people passed out during that scene, or fled the theater, or got sick. It’s possible that someone did suffer a heart attack. But if anyone had actually died during the showing of the movie, surely there would be accounts of it, and we probably would know that person’s name. If the Phantom did scare anybody into a heart attack, then, the victim probably survived it. (Today there’d be a big-ass lawsuit over it.)
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS, specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced, and directed (and occasionally acted in) over two dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and True Crime genres. He obtained a doctorate in Occult Studies from Miskatonic University and is an active paranormal investigator. Is frequently told he resembles Anton Lavey. And Ming the Merciless.
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