TERRIFYING TOMBS IN LONDON! Lyn visits the London Tombs, winners of the UK Best Scare Attraction.
Emerging from London Bridge Station, I noticed a poster across the road, advertising The London Bridge Experience. It was subtitled London Tombs and showed photos of blood-covered demons and monsters.
Interesting, I thought, crossing the road.
I was directed down some steps and round the back of the buildings, then through a door.
It’s right next to London Bridge, and where the original London Bridge used to be.
Upstairs is an exhibition, with a long model of the old London Bridge, and information hung around the wall about the bridge’s history.
Suddenly there was a loud knocking on a door, making us all jump.
The door flew open and a dirty-looking woman stood there.
‘Halt, who goes there, friend or foe?’ she shouted. Nobody moved.
She repeated, ‘Halt, who goes there? Friend or foe?’
‘Foe,’ replied one wit.
Actually, it was me.
‘Wrong answer!’ she shouted. ‘Halt, who goes there, friend or foe?’
‘Friend,’ someone said, and she led us along a fairly dark corridor, smelling faintly of wee, to a small room with wooden benches.
There were eight of us, three English ladies and five Japanese.
We all sat down, and she introduced herself as Boudica, the warrior queen who defeated the Romans.
She told us a brief history of Bodica, then she told us all to give a loud war cry. Everyone sat quietly, then one of the English ladies nervously called, ‘Yee-ha!’
Suddenly there were loud explosions and the benches started shaking.
‘Quick, run!’ shouted Bodica and we all ran along a rickety wooden bridge, and round the corner into an empty room.
A man wearing a bloodstained apron with blood on his face popped out from behind a screen, making us all jump.
He introduced himself as the Keeper of the Heads.
When a prisoner was brought to him he had to gently boil and then tar the heads to preserve them. Then they were stuck on railings on London Bridge.
Imagine if they did that now. There wouldn’t be enough room for all the criminals! The bridge would be completely full of serial killers, terrorists, and Tony Blair.
Some of the infamous criminals’ heads included the Highwayman Jack Cade, Watt Tyler, Guy Fawkes, and Braveheart.
When the prisoner was dead, their chest would be cut open and the heart was pulled out and held up for the cheering crowd to see.
I’m rather pleased that they didn’t have video cameras then. The Six O’Clock News would have been a bit different to today’s news! Yuck.
The sudden background noise meant it was time for us to move on to the next room.
We were now in the 17th Century.
‘Move up. Squeeze in and catch the Plague!’ we were told.
The Japanese didn’t seem to have the slightest idea what he was talking about.
He told us that in 1212 a fire started on the south side of the bridge. Then the sparks flew across to the Northern side and started a 2nd fire.
3,000 people died in the centre.
In 1633 a fire started in the shop of Jonny Briggs, the Needlemaker. 1/3 of the bridge was destroyed.
Then in 1666, the bridge had over 100 shops on it, plus houses.
The Great Fire of London destroyed it.
A new bridge, designed by John Rennie, was opened in 1831.
On the 18th April, 1968, the Bridge was sold to the Americans.
The new bridge that stands there today was opened by the Queen on the 16th March, 1973.
Suddenly the sound effects started and our latest guide shouted, ‘Fire! Quick, run!’
We all ran out of the room and across another rickety walkway, with the smell of fire all around us and loud burnng noises.
Next, we were in the Star Inn in 1888.
The notorious Ben Crouch Gang used to dig up bodies and sell them by the inch to St Thomas’ Hospital for research.
Apparently they used to frequent the Star Inn.
Many people were so worried about having their bodies sold after they were dead that their coffins were manacled to walls, and one man had three lead coffins, one inside the other.
It’s quite possible that Jack the Ripper used to drink in the Star Inn as it was near to his area.
Oh, sound effects again! It was time to move on once more.
This time we made our way along the Vortex, which is an optical illusion that makes you think you’re going to spin right over. But of course, you won’t. It’s all done with cameras!
Then we had our photos taken, which the Japanese loved.
We were now warned that anyone with bad hearts, nervous dispositions, or any health problems shouldn’t go any further.
As we were all OK, or maybe the Japanese didn’t understand him, we were led into the Hellevator, which was a wobbly, off-centre lift that took us down to the next level.
Now the real fun began!
Again we were warned about our health and fears before we went any further, and we were told to place our hands on the shoulders of the person in front.
It was sheer Cheese! Darkness, flashing lights, ghoulish bloodstained actors popping up everywhere, demonic laughter, cobwebs, bits of body dangling in front of us, rubber walls that we had to squeeze along, and much more.
The two English ladies and me were in fits of laughter. It was great fun! We didn’t know what to expect next!
But the Japanese plodded obediently along, with their hands on each other’s shoulders. They didn’t jump, laugh, scream, or show any reaction. They were as funny as the actors! I’d like to know what on earth they made of it all, and whether they regretting coming to this crazy place!
At last we burst out into the souvenir shop where we could purchase copies of our photos. Of course the Japanese loved that!
I spoke to Lauren, the Group Sales Assistant.
The London Bridge Experience has been open since February 2008.
It’s built under the arches of the original London Bridge, and on top of one of the plague pits from 1665. Lots of bones are still there, and the floor is concreted on top of them.
Upstairs is an exhibition of interesting facts about London Bridge, although it’s hard to read them as it’s so dark in the room, and downstairs are the London Tombs.
The performing staff are all self-employed actors, and I must say that they were all brilliant!
There are 7-8 actors used per day. They use part script, and part improvisation. They have to learn some names and dates.
Downstairs are secret doors everywhere. Disabled people or people in distress can be whisked away and reappear a minute later, further along.
I asked about large people trying to walk along the Big Squeeze. Apparently it expands a lot more than you realise!
The London Tombs has passed all the ‘Ealth & Safety checks, and of course it has Public Liability Insurance. There are members of staff hidden in every area.
Of course it’s an old building, but I mentioned that it did smell a bit in various places.
And – you’re going to love this – Lauren told me that they buy Smell Pots, like the Ambi Pur scented plug-ins. They have smells of wee, popcorn, and Dragon’s Breath.
(If you fancy a plug-in smell of wee in your house, you’ll have to do your own research. I don’t know where you can get it!)
They have won the award for UK Best Scare Attraction, 2009-2013.
Family of 4 £78
It might seem a bit expensive, but if you’re planning a trip to London, it’s great fun, and unforgettable!
Shows are every 10-20 minutes, so you don’t have to wait around. And there’s a lot to look at in the shop.
The London Bridge Experience is at
2-4 Tooley Street,
Tel 020 7403 6333.
Opening times Sun-Fri 10am-5pm. Sat 10am-6pm.
Closed on Christmas and Boxing Day.