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Baseless child-sacrifice claim spreads about Sicilian theater

January 24, 2023 GMT

CLAIM: A video shows a hidden entrance to a theater in Sicily where children are sacrificed by “elites.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The theater in the video is Teatro Donnafugata, a venue built inside a castle in Ragusa, Sicily, that hosts musical performances and plays. The original footage was posted by an Italian quick-change artist in 2021 and makes no mention of child sacrifice. The hidden entrance to the theater shown in the video is used to reach its central box seats, Teatro Donnafugata said in a statement to The Associated Press.

THE FACTS: A video of the theater’s hidden entrance is spreading widely on social media, with the false claim that it is used for sinister purposes.

The footage shows a woman opening a door disguised as part of a wall, and a panel concealed in the floor, to reveal a staircase that leads to a private box in a small theater. “Bend Over,” a 2016 song by rapper B.o.B. that includes the lyrics “Celebrities and politicians/ Just to name a couple members/ Rituals and pedophilia,” plays in the background. Emojis of children and drops of blood appear above the footage.

Text over the footage reads: “This is where elites Sacrifice kids.” One Instagram featuring the video had received more than 20,000 likes as of Tuesday

But the theater and its hidden entrance are used for nothing of the sort.

Teatro Donnafugata is built inside Castello di Donnafugata, the former home of a noble Italian family bought by Vincenzo Arezzo, who was then the baron of Serri, in 1648. The theater dates back to the first half of the 19th century, undergoing restoration in 1997 and 2004. One of the smallest theaters in Europe, it seats 100 and now hosts musical performances and plays, including shows for children.

Arturo Brachetti, an Italian quick-change artist, posted the original video in 2021, with dialogue not present in the version currently circulating. “Where are you taking us today?” a man asks in Italian from behind the camera. “Take a look,” the woman in the video replies. After the man enters the theater, he exclaims: “Oh my god, it is not possible. There is a theater here. An Italian theater, wonderful, under a villa. Fantastic.”

Brachetti also posted a longer video a few days later explaining in Italian where the theater is and how he imagines the former owner of Castello di Donnafugata might have used it to surprise dinner guests with an invitation to the opera.

In a statement to the AP, Teatro Donnafugata confirmed that its venue is the one in the video. The theater explained that the hidden entrance is used to access the theater’s central box seats and that there is also an external entrance on a public road from which guests can enter the performance space.

“The video is from Teatro Donnafugata, it is a video made by a famous artist visiting the theater and then published on his social channels to speak well of the theater, but then the video was stolen by someone and spread with that naturally false information,” the statement, originally written in Italian, reads. “It is a normal theater that is always open to the public, where shows and concerts are held, including with famous Italian artists.”

False claims about elites abusing children are part of a common misinformation narrative that has spread in different forms for decades.


This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.