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Housed deep inside the bowels of County Hall, the London Dungeon is one of the the scariest attractions in the capital.
It uses mixture of live actors and Madame Tussaud’s waxworks to lead you through the story of the city, meeting lots of famous characters and criminals along the way, and introducing you to many torture techniques like disembowelling, hangings and beheadings – complete with sound effects!
The London Dungeon is almost like a theatrical experience, and your group will get led from scene to scene by live actors. You’ll see the piled-up rubbish in disease-ridden streets, swelter in the burning buildings of the Great Fire of London, and meet Jack the Ripper in a dark and dingy Whitechapel pub.
There are a couple of short rides at the London Dungeon, including a Tower of London barge ride through Traitor’s Gate, and up to the chopping block on Tower Green. You’ll also get strung up in a noose and experience the terrifying drop as they take away the floor!
This review describes the original attraction in Tooley Street. You can read about the new attraction in County Hall here.
The London Dungeon must be the most overrated attraction in the whole of London. By the time I’d bought a ticket and a guidebook I only had a few pennies left out of the thirty quid. Thirty quid for one person! I wouldn’t have minded if the inside was worth it, but it wasn’t. It was rubbish. Let me explain…
When I went there as a kid I’m sure it was more like a museum, and you could walk around at your own pace looking at all the gruesome exhibits on display. But it’s not like that anymore. It’s more like a guided tour now, and you get led from scene to scene in a group of about twenty people.
It just seemed like one long endless walk to me, and for pretty much every scene we had to stand around waiting at the door for the previous group to leave and for the actors to get their stuff together. I was actually quite glad when it was all over, to be honest. And not because I was scared – because this thing is not scary. Maybe if you’re a little kid then you’ll have a few nightmares, but no adult is going to come out of it shaking.
The first guy you meet is supposed to be a world-weary monk, I think, but he seemed more like a stoned hippie to me, and the first scene was a mirrored hall with a load of stone columns in it. I think it was called the Labyrinth of the Lost or something like that, and you had to find your way to the exit. The darkness of the room combined with the cage of mirrors made it look like the room stretched out forever, with bazillions of stone colums as far as the eye can see.
After that you end up in a little scripted scene about the plague. The actress spat out her lines quite well, and certainly looked like she had it. Then you had to watch a little movie about the Great Fire of London (very boring, nothing happens… it was just a movie).
I can’t remember the exact order of events after that because it went on for quite a long time, but I will try and describe as many scenes that I can… but first, here’s a word of warning. If you don’t like being picked on then you should definitely give it a miss. They are probably about five scenes where they pluck an unsuspecting victim straight out of the crowd and drag you up on stage to be garrotted, hung, drawn, quartered, disembowelled, and many more unpleasant things. And being a British group, of course, we just all stood there hugging the walls hoping not to get picked, because it’s embarassing having to scream whilst they pretend to spoon out your brains.
Because we were such a quiet group some of the scenes were shockingly bad. For example, one of them was like a Kangaroo court where the female judge passed sentence on the criminals down below (the crowd). But nobody wanted to stand in the dock, so she had to literally beg us to get involved. A German tourist eventually obliged but she couldn’t really understand what the judge was blabbering on about in her theatrical voice. I actually ended up feeling sorry for the actress.
Another scene involved a guy being tied to a stake as flames (red ribbons) licked around his feet. That same guy got picked on for the next scene as well, where he had to have his skull drilled into by a demon doctor. The worst scene was probably the Sweeney Todd one, because all that involved was us sitting in a darkened room whilst an unseen ‘Sweeney’ walked around behind us, snipping off our hair. Little brushes in the back of our seats revolved around a few times to make us think that someone was actually touching our hair for real, and then right at the end the seats suddenly tipped back about two inches to make us think we were falling down the trapdoor.
The best bits were probably the rides… but that isn’t saying much because they were rubbish as well!. The first one was a little boat ride which lasted about a minute (and that’s not an exaggeration). You go round a corner, see a robot bloke talking about the Tower of London, go round another corner, and then down a little incline and get splashed with water. That was it.
The second ride was even quicker – about about thirty seconds. It’s supposed to simulate the effect of being hung. Only it doesn’t… because all it does is rise up about five metres and then drop you down suddenly, making your stomach jump.
> Read Craig’s latest review of the London Dungeon “I hate the London Dungeon. I actually hate it, in the same way that cats hate dogs. I know that is a very strong word to use about something that is supposed to be fun, but there you go – that is the truth. The scariest thing about the Dungeons, to me, is the thought of having to visit it. I went there a couple of years ago and the best bit was walking out the exit. So when they announced that they were going to move it from London Bridge and rebuild it at the County Hall… continued.”
> Read Craig’s review of the Clink Prison Museum “The Clink was a proper prison. The kind of prison that actually punished you. These days the prisoners get a bedroom with a TV and a Playstation inside, but back then all they got was typhoid. Not that I’ve ever been to a prison, of course – although I have spent a couple of nights at the Covent Garden Travelodge, which isn’t far off. There’s hardly anything left of the original prison anymore. All that remains of the medieval gaol is a solitary wall which survived the fire of 1780. So it’s not a tour of the legendary… continued.”
> Read Craig’s review of the Jack the Ripper Tour “I’m actually a bit scared sitting here, waiting for the Jack the Ripper Tour to start. I could die tonight. Apparently this guy knows all there is to know about the case, so I’m wondering if he was in on it. Think about it… they never caught Jack the Ripper did they? And here is some bloke who supposedly knows all about the murder places and the grisly ways they met their maker. It all sounds a bit suss to me. When I came here the other day I saw his tour leave with twenty people on it, and when it came back two hours later there was no one left (seriously). I reckon he bumps… continued.”
> Read Craig’s review of a Ghost Tour at Hampton Court “Well this is pretty spooky already, and it hasn’t even started yet… I’m sitting by the river next to Hampton Court listening to the bangs and crackles of Bonfire Night. There is a battle of booms and rifle shots going off in the sky, but I can’t see a thing because of the wall of trees before me. There are no lamplights along the river so everything is dead dark. I can’t even see where the water meets the mud. The only lights are from a distant drizzle of cars heading across the bridge. The cracks are really something now. It’s like a fight in the sky. Loud booms and explosions are echoing off the buildings behind me. Now I’ve got some dog walkers coming up the path with torches, shouting out… continued.”
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The Clink Prison Museum might be better for the little kids because it’s less scary. Ripley’s in Piccadilly Circus also have a torture exhibit, and you can try the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds as well. Check out our scary events in London page for things like the Jack The Ripper Tour around Whitechapel, the Ghost Bus Tour and Medieval Banquet.
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