To anyone who has read my posts or any of my novels, it’s no secret that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying Anglophile. I’ve just returned from London where they’re gearing up for Halloween (and Christmas – but that’s another issue). When I first started going in the fall to London on my own there were a few pubs that had costume contests but the children weren’t into Halloween and all its festivities like they are in the U.S. That has changed over the years, and now it’s more commonplace for the children to go out trick-or-treating, cashing in on the American-style free candy and treats. Sadly, this year I won’t be in London for Halloween like I have been for the last couple of years, but it did get me to thinking about all of the spooky history there is in London and how they cash in on it all year round, not just Halloween.
Jack-the-ripper is one of the first things that pop into most people’s mind when talking about London’s sinister past.
There are books, movies, myths, and legends surrounding the Whitechapel murders. I, fortunately, took the Jack the Ripper tour last Halloween. With each step we took, we were one step closer to Victorian London’s East End, walking the twisted, cobbled streets and alleyways, perhaps treading the exact path of the world’s most notorious serial killer. Some of the tour guides have gone on to write books on the subject themselves, and they tell the story in an informative and entertaining way. I can wholeheartedly recommend the tour for any crime buffs.
There are several other tours that I’ve taken in the past – the forgotten underground (which inspired me to write my Blood Underground novels), the haunted pubs,
the London ghost walk,
several cemetery tours,
and the ghost bus tour. All of them are quite well-presented and lots of scary fun for young and old alike, although some of them do carry a warning that smaller children might find the tour disturbing.
More disturbing in my eyes are two very popular tourist attractions in London – Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (more specifically the Chamber of Horrors & Scream!) and The London Dungeon. Fortunately, I had a two-for-one coupon for Madame Tussauds this recent trip, so I didn’t have to go it all alone.
The Chamber of Horrors is pretty much your standard fare; electric chairs, ghouls, the rack, etc. Once you leave the chamber and enter SCREAM, you are in the deep bowels of a maximum security prison that has been taken over by the inmates. Live actors enhance the experience, turning this one into a good old-fashioned spook house experience.
The London Dungeon takes the spook house experience to a whole new level. The tour is an amazing mixture of sights, sounds, sensations, and smells featuring nearly two dozen actors covering over 1000 years of English history enhanced with state of the art special effects and includes two underground rides.
A small sampling of the attraction includes Henry VIII’s boat ride where traitors are sent to the Tower of London, the plague doctor, Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett, Jack the Ripper, and the Drop Dead ride that is a thrill in and of itself.
The whole tour and rides take about an hour and a half, but once you’re done it feels like only an instant and a lifetime all at once. I guess you have to undergo it for yourself to get what I’m talking about, but believe me, it’s well worth it.
So if you’re ever fortunate enough to go to London, don’t forget the haunted, spooky side of things. There’s plenty of it there, if you’re not afraid to look for it, mwah ha ha.
Happy Halloween everyone. Cheers!