CLAIM: Video shows hidden entrance to theater in Sicily where children are being sacrificed by ‘elite’.

AP ASSESSMENT: False. The theater in the video is Donnafugata Theater, a venue built inside a castle in Ragusa, Sicily, which hosts musical performances and plays. The original pictures 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 being used for sinister purposes.

The footage shows a woman opening a disguised door part of a wall and a concealed panel in the floor, to reveal a staircase that leads to a private box in a small theatre. “Bend Over,” a 2016 song by rapper BoB that includes the lyrics “Celebs and politicians / Just to name a few members / Rituals and paedophilia,” plays in the background. Children’s emoticons and drops of blood appear above the images.

Text on the images reads: ‘This is where the elites sacrifice the children.’ An Instagram featuring the video had received more than 20,000 likes on Tuesday

But the theater and its hidden entrance serve no such purpose.

Donnafugata Theater is built inside Donnafugata Castlethe former home of a noble Italian family purchased by Vincenzo Arezzo, then Baron de Serri, in 1648. The theater traced back in the first half of the 19th century, undergoing restoration in 1997 and 2004. One of the smallest theaters in Europe, it seats 100 people and now hosts musical performances and plays, including children’s shows.

Arturo Brachetti, a fast-changing Italian artist, posted the original video in 2021, with dialogue not present in the version currently in circulation. “Where are you taking us today?” asks a man in Italian behind the camera. “Take a look,” the woman replies in the video. After the man enters the theater, he exclaims, “Oh my god, that’s not possible. There is a theater here. A magnificent Italian-style theater under a villa. Fantastic.”

brachetti too job a longer video a few days later explaining in Italian where the theater is and how he imagines the former owner of the Castello di Donnafugata could have used it to surprise diners with an invitation to the opera.

In a statement to the AP, Teatro Donnafugata confirmed that his location is that of 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 exterior entrance on a public road from which guests can enter the performance space.

“The video comes from Teatro Donnafugata, it is a video made by a famous artist visiting the theater and then published on his social networks to talk about the theater well, but then the video was stolen by someone and released with this information naturally false,” read the statement, originally written in Italian. “It’s a normal theater that’s always open to the public, where shows and concerts take place, including with famous Italian artists. “

Fake complaints on elites abusing children are part of a disinformation narrative who has propagate in different forms for decades.

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

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