Posted by R. Berg on October 24, 2003
In Reply to: Ghost walk posted by ESC on October 24, 2003
: : I am looking for the origin and meaning of the phrase "ghost walk" in theatre meaning to get paid. I have heard it many times and have no earthly clue as to where it might have come from or why it comes to have that particular meaning. Any ideas out there?
: I have a vague recollection of a discussion where someone said it's a reference to the ghost of Hamlet's father.
That discussion may be in the archives, but I couldn't find it. From Eric Partridge's "Dictionary of Catch Phrases":
'The ghost walks on Friday'; 'the ghost does not walk'; 'when will the ghost walk?'; 'has the ghost walked yet?' There is - or is not - any money for salaries and wages; when will there be - has there been - such money? These are theatrical catchphrases, dating from the 1840s; the first printed recording was in 'Household Words', 1853. The origin: . . . 'Hamlet', I, i. [Robert Claiborne's] suggestion, 1977, 'Could it be that, given the last cast of that play, the company business manager often "doubled" as the ghost?' may be right.