There was certainly something strange going on in London. From Jack the Ripper, to torture at the Tower of London, to sites around the capital that were mass graves London was a veritable city of murder and mayhem in bygone times. It was grim but the visitor who likes the slightly macabre or ‘dark tourism‘ might be interested in learning about the ghosts that haunt the city.
A few weeks ago I was invited by Ghost Bus Tours to attend a theatrical sightseeing tour show casing the darker side of London. It is seamlessly blended comedy horror theatre while on board a classic 1960s Routemaster bus and takes in central London.
I didn’t know what to expect when I entered the bus but getting to ride an old Routemaster was already a treat. I also wondered how scary it could be because it was still light out when the tour started at 7:30 pm. This isn’t just an old Routemaster, it used to be owned by the London Necrobus Company who started running funeral bus services in 1957. The company ran until 1967, when a fire in the Necrobus depot destroyed all but one of their vehicles.
With the history of the vehicle being told by our conductor as we started the creepiness of knowing we were riding a bus once used to transport the dead set the scene. It isn’t exactly clear when but soon after setting off we are joined by Mr Hinge, a mock safety inspector allegedly from the tour company. His presence startled many of us (me included) as we were paying attention to the sites going by when he jumped aboard. Looking like he was straight out of Victorian times Mr Hinge and the conductor’s banter throughout the tour was thoroughly entertaining.
As we pass Big Ben, Westminster and Parliament Square we learned that Churchill’s ghost apparently haunts 10 Downing Street. Passing Theatreland we find that more than a few of the theatres are haunted. Further along still we find out that public executions took place at Tyburn, with the prisoners processed from Newgate Prison in the City, via St Giles in the Fields and Oxford Street. Prisoners were given a drink to calm their nerves for the walk down to their execution and it is said that this is where the term ‘one for the road’ derives.
This tour is like no other that I’ve done in London. There is so much history packed into an hour and 15 minutes with tons of creepy surprises throughout. If you scare easily you might want to take a pass because there are many succesful attempts to give passengers a fright. I’d recommend going in winter when its colder, darker and all together more atmospheric but that didn’t take away from the fun. There are curtains on board to shut out the light when the time is necessary. The event at the end of the tour is a great way to conclude but I don’t give that away, you’ll have to go to find out.