‘Ghost vs. Pope’ plans dissolve in complications of Center City ‘traffic box’

 Ghost, a Swedish heavy-metal band (Image courtesy of bbgunpress.com)

Ghost, a Swedish heavy-metal band (Image courtesy of bbgunpress.com)

Security measures related to Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia on the weekend of Sept. 26 and 27 are forcing many of the city’s museums, theaters, and concert venues to close.

They have also forced the anti-Pope to postpone an appearance.


Ghost, a Swedish heavy-metal band, was booked to play the Union Transfer in Philadelphia on the papal weekend. The band presents a highly theatrical show, dressing the stage as a satanic mass with most of the band members — the Nameless Ghouls — wearing horns and silver masks. The lead singer, Papa Emeritus III, appears in skull makeup wearing a black miter — the peaked papal headpiece.

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In the time-honored traditional of heavy metal, Ghost plays with imagery of demonic religion. To promote its new release, “Meliora,” the band will tour North America at the end of September. The opportunity to play a few blocks from the real pope was too rich to pass up.

To promote the Philadelphia show, the band produced mock-evangelistic videos of an older, sinister woman preaching from a pulpit.

“Children of Philadelphia. You are a special city,” she says with an ominous grin. “We have been pleased with the growing instability toward Frankie’s visit next month.”

The booking was no coincidence. Promoter Sean Agnew saw potential in billing the act as “Ghost vs. Pope,” a religious head-to-head, a “Battle for Philadelphia.” The concert sold out almost immediately.

“The band wanted to get really creative, and have their own Ghost motorcade where the singer would go around the city,” said Agnew, who runs R5 Productions. “We had these great ideas to create an alternative to the pope. But more and more stories started to come out about the lockdown. We had to scale back.”

In the end, the real pope won.

The Union Transfer, on Spring Garden Street, is inside the “traffic box,” the zone created by the city of Philadelphia to restrict traffic. While the front door of the venue is technically outside the box, parking in the rear lot or anywhere near the building will be nearly impossible.

Not only will loading-in the band’s large stage props — suggesting a black mass — require divine intervention, curtailed train service throughout the city will smite the travel plans of most fans.

Citing logistic complications, Ghost has postponed its Philadelphia concert to a friendlier time, the following Tuesday.

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