The date, April 3, marks the macabre anniversary of Jack the Ripper’s first recorded murder. Recent TV shows like Whitechapel and Ripper Street has shown that despite 125 years passing, the most infamous serial killer in the world still grips us with a ghoulish fascination. There were 11 Whitechapel murders in total, with Jack the Ripper thought to be responsible for five. The fact he remains uncaught has led to conspiracy theories and endless books as the murderer has taken on mythical proportions. But forget books and dramatic crime reconstructions, there is only one way to discover the facts behind the legend – and that is to visit the exact spots where these five gruesome killings took place – the dark streets of E1.
Stepping into the shoes of a serial killer
VisitEngland’s, Katie Rowe, bravely went in search of the world’s most talked about serial killer to mark the beginning of his reign of terror. Join her as she travels back to the 1800s for some CSI Victorian style, and a few gin cocktails to calm the nerves.
I went on a dark winter’s evening when a layer of fog descended and the scent of roasting chestnuts lingered in the air. A spring evening can be just as atmospheric, especially as the sun dips behind The Tower of London. Sunday is the best day to go, with the leading expert on all things Jack the Ripper, Donald Rumbelow, leading the tour; he’s there most Fridays too. There’s no Ripper-related query or question this man can’t answer.
As the tour began we huddled around Donald who sets the scene perfectly, and before I knew it I was back in Victorian London nervously wandering through murky back streets where poverty is rife, gin is king and there’s a demonic murderer on the loose. The amount of detail that Donald goes into, from blood-curdling police records of how each victim was butchered, right down to what they were wearing and the last recorded words of the doomed prostitutes or ‘dollymops’ is astounding. I could almost imagine the police pacing the cobbled streets, badly lit with the fuzzy glow of gas lamps, as the public rushed to inspect the graphic aftermath as Jack the Ripper makes a quick getaway down a dark alleyway.
The tour finishes up at the Ten Bells, a Jack the Ripper hangout turned trendy pub on Commercial St where gin is still the chosen poison for the East London crowd that sprawls out on to the pavements during the evening. After all that morbid talk of throat slitting and gutting maybe you’d like to order yourself a G&T to calm your nerves.
Pull on a cape and take a trip down murder lane for yourself….
The tours take place every night at 7.30pm (except 24 and 25 December) and 3pm and again at 7.30pm on Saturdays. For full details on the walk, check out: www.walks.com
Carry on time traveling at these cool Victorian and Victorian-inspired haunts:
Wilton’s Music Hall
‘The city’s hidden stage’ is the world’s oldest surviving music hall and as soon as you step inside you’ll be flung into a bygone era. At 163 years old it’s still going strong and puts on an array of events including magic shows, historic tours and music and theatre productions.
Worship St Whistling Shop
This eccentric cocktail bar in the heart of the trendy East End pays homage to all things weird and wonderful, combining Victorian squalor with the decadence of a gin palace. The mixologists use rotary evaporators, sous vide, vacuum technology and plenty of enzymes, acids, proteins and hydrocolloids to create a range of gin-infused tipples.
Order a pint in a Grade II-listed 19th-century pub in Bloomsbury which still has the original glass snob screens in place above the bar which allowed mischievous men and their mistresses to sit around the bar hidden from the glare of the publican.
Little Shop of Horrors
Step inside an eerie wonderland full of taxidermy, Roman-style busts and unexplainable art; nothing is quite what it seems in the Little Shop of Horrors. The shop-cum-museum, brainchild of artist Viktor Wynd, is a recreation of a ‘Wunderkabinett’, a collection of curious objects assembled at random on the basis of their aesthetic and historical draw.
Taken a tour? Let us know about your spooky experience by leaving a comment below!