The Royal Albert Hall is a musical Mecca, one of the most famous and cherished venues on the planet.

Since opening in Kensington, London, in 1871, some of the world's biggest stars have only been able to dream of performing on its stage.

It was built by Queen Victoria to fulfil the vision of her consort, Prince Albert, of a hall that would promote appreciation of the arts and sciences. However, it has a far more wacky and wonderful past than many might imagine.

Now, for the first time, visitors can enjoy a tour of its secret history. From the super-strength toilets for sumo wrestlers to a ghost that's haunted Michael Bolton, there's much to see.

Tickets for The Secret History Tour cost £12.25 per adult, £5.25 for a child and £10.25 for concessions. For more information or to book visit

The day the Krays took to the ring

Heavyweight champions Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno all have fought at the Royal Albert Hall.

Lennox Lewis stops Glenn McCrory in the second round (1991)

But another trio once appeared on the same boxing bill in 1951 - The Krays.

An old programme shows gangster twins Ronnie and Reggie fought Bobby Manito, of Clapham, and Bill Sliney, of King's Cross. Older brother Charlie took on Lew Lazar, of Aldgate. Charlie lost, Reggie won and Ronnie was disqualified for head-butting his opponent.

It wasn't the first fisticuffs. In 1911 Gerald Macaura, who said his vibrating massager could cure all ills, was labelled a fraud and hounded from the hall by medical students who poured chemicals over the seats.

Michael Jackson's debut.. as a personal assistant!

One of the few superstars never to grace the stage was Michael Jackson, although he did visit once in 2000 to act as Dame Elizabeth Taylor's personal assistant.

The actress, then 68, had been in hospital but was desperate to attend the charity gala she had organised to raise money for Aids research. She told the hall she would be confined to a wheelchair but would be bringing someone to help her get around.

As the clock counted down to the start of the ceremony there was no sign of her assistant and staff began to panic that no one would come.

That was until Liz arrived at the stage door with her carer for the night, Jacko, who fetched her drinks and wheeled her wherever she wanted to go!

Bag a Beatle!

For what would have been the Fab Four's third film, Up Against It, in 1967, playwright Joe Orton wrote a script that suggested the band should all dress in drag and gun down the Prime Minister at the Royal Albert Hall.

Unsurprisingly, the movie was never finished. But John Lennon and Yoko Ono did go on to wear unusual outfits for a performance at the Royal Albert Hall in December 1968.

The couple climbed into huge white bags before having a chat on stage.

It was the birth of bagism, their philosophy that by living in a bag a person could not be judged on their appearance, only by what they had to say.

ABBA sold it out 660 times over!

No show in the venue's history has proved as popular as Swedish supergroup ABBA.

When the band played in 1977 more than 3.5 million people applied for just 5,300 tickets, meaning ABBA could have sold out the venue 660 times over.

But no pop act has been invited back more than Sir Cliff Richard. The Devil Woman singer has notched up 200 appearances, yet his fans still want more.

When he announced a concert in 2010 the box office got 900,000 ticket applications, including one from a Japanese businessman who sent £500 in £5 notes asking for as many tickets as the cash could buy.

Extra-strong toilets and the indoor marathon

In 1991, the Royal Albert Hall hosted the only official sumo wrestling tournament held outside Japan.

The biggest draw was Hawaiian wrestler Konishiki, the heaviest sumo star in history at 37.5 stone.

To accommodate the supersized guests, the venue's toilets had to be reinforced and the showers in the dressing rooms widened.

The hall also held the first indoor marathon in 1909, which meant stripping out all the seats. The winner was an Italian, the only man to complete all 524 laps.

An audience with Arthur Conan Doyle - from beyond the grave...

If one ghost wasn't enough, it seems there could be another spirit haunting the hall as well.

One week after Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died on July 7,1930, a seance was held at the Royal Albert Hall to contact his spirit.

Thousands attended, including his second wife Jean Leckie and the author's five children.

They even put out a chair i for the writer, left, who was a ' firm believer in mediums and the spirit world.

Many in the audience claimed to feel his presence among them. It was not the first time Conan Doyle appeared at the Albert Hall. In1896 he judged the country's first I body-building concert. The event was organised by his close 'friend, the Prussian celebrity strongman Eugen Sandow.

Loved by Einstein, saved by Hitler

As the world marched towards the Second World War, physicist Albert Einstein gave one of the greatest speeches in the history of the Royal Albert Hall.

He fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and just months later took over the hall to ask: "How can we save mankind and how can one save Europe from a new disaster?"

It helped rally many movers and shakers of the day against the Nazis. But despite this, Hitler refused to bomb the venue during the war as he wanted to use it after invading Britain. This meant he missed a chance to annihilate the Cabinet, which in 1943 attended a talk at the hall on women's roles in wartime.

The one-off funeral

The regal venue has even staged a funeral - a magnificent send-off for Bramwell Booth, the second General of the Salvation Army. Special permission was given because the charity used to hold regular fundraising concerts there. More than 10,000 people went to pay their last respects on July 29,1929.

Booth was buried in Abney Park Cemetery, North London, alongside his father William, who founded the Salvation Army in 1878.

In 1928, the hall hosted the baptism of 50 people in a tank decorated to look like the banks of the Jordan.

The ghost who loves Michael Bolton

The venue is said to be haunted by the ghost of Henry Willis, who designed its Grand Organ - the second largest pipe organ in the UK.

When the 150-tonne organ was refurbished in the 1930s, and again in 1990, workers said they saw a pale figure in a "skullcap standing in front of the organ, gazing at it".

Michael Bolton

Audiences have spotted the spectre too. In 1990, staff received letters complaining about a ghostly figure passing back and forth in front of comic Jasper Carrott while he was on stage. And just last year, several hundred people reported seeing a grey figure sitting in a supposedly empty seat during a concert by singer Michael Bolton.

How the Royal Albert Hall helped win the war

The hall held a Great Patriotic Concert in 1914 when the performance of Elgar's Land of Hope and Glory prompted such emotion that the crowd stood and waved flags, starting a tradition repeated every year since at the Last Night of the Proms.

Near the end of the First World War, agents from the War Office dropped newspapers folded in different ways from the top of the 135ft dome to test how best to distribute propaganda behind enemy lines.

You're banned! How Pudsey bent the rules

Of the 23 rock concerts held at the Royal Albert Hall in 1971, all but one caused damage. This led to a ban on rock bands from 1972 to 1982. The first gig cancelled was The Who's rock opera Tommy.

Pink Floyd managed to let off fireworks without warning during their show.

But a bar on performing animals lasted much longer. It was introduced in 1926 after the Chelsea Arts Club brought in an elephant.

The rules were finally relaxed so that Britain's Got Talent winner Pudsey could take part in the Royal Variety Show with owner and trainer Ashleigh Butler in 2013.

Originally published on Mirror Online.