Ever wondered what secrets lie within one of London’s scariest attractions, the London Dungeon? Then check out these top London Dungeon facts, brought to you by the team at the London Pass.
Transporting visitors through 1000 years of gruesome London history, this immersive walkthrough experience features the likes of Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd and Guy Fawkes. But it doesn’t stop there: 360-degree sets, 2 underground rides, 19 interactive shows including the Torturer, the Whitechapel Labyrinth, the Plague Doctor and the Great Fire of London can all be found here, for ages 12 and above.
1. Back from the dead
The London Dungeon has been scaring visitors with its knee-trembling recreations of British history and legends for over 40 years. The entertainment tour, now based in the County Hall near London’s South Bank, first opened its doors on Tooley Street – a short walk from London Bridge. The move brought a fresh new face to the Dungeon and plenty of new thrill-seeking things to do. Rebuilding the house of nightmares took 12 long months and a scream-worthy £20 million.
2. Dungeon mania
The London Dungeon is actually one of eight dungeons around Europe and America. The chain, owned by Merlin Entertainment, was the first of its kind to be opened and was originally founded by Annabel Geddes in 1976. The wax works at the Dungeon might be no coincidence since Merlin Entertainment also owns Madame Tussauds, not to mention Legoland and Thorpe Park.
3. Going down
Hiding under the building are treats for all those with a need for adrenaline: the Tyrant Boat Ride and the Drop Ride. The Tyrant Boat Ride recalls Anne Boleyn’s daunting journey along the Thames to the Tower of London. Or if you prefer, the Drop Ride lets you plummet eight metres into the pits of darkness. Another newer attraction is the Tavern waiting for you at the end of your adventure. Relax and have a drink at this 18th century Victorian-themed pub. Opened in 2015, meet some ‘Victorian’ characters (like the landlady and landlord), enjoy authentic piano tunes, card games and stories, told around the tables.
4. Behind the gore
Behind the gory make-up are 20 trained actors. The plague doctor, Jack the Ripper, Henry VIII and Sweeney Todd are just a few of the interactive characters. Their makeup was created by M·A·C, the professional cosmetics brand, and rehearsals take place live in the Dungeon. In the past, actors have taken inspiration from movies such as Little Shop of Horrors, Beetlejuice and gruff characters like Big Chris, played by Vinnie Jones in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The job was actually voted number 2 in the Weirdest Jobs in Britain Survey! (2014, Yesterday TV)
5. Underground fright
Ready for more London Dungeon facts? The London Dungeon isn’t just known for giving visitors a scare. In 2010, the attraction put up digital advertising screens in London Underground depicting a normal-looking Queen Mary suddenly turning into a zombie-like face. They were so frightful they had to be taken down!
6. Real or fake?
Dotted around the London Dungeon is a jumble of artificial props. In 2011 it was discovered that one of the skeletons was actually made up of real human parts – a rib-cage and backbone to be exact. The remains are thought to have been there since the Dungeon opened its doors. And before the move to the South Bank, some props were even sold at car boot sales – including severed heads and a pillory. You might want to watch where you walk too, because scuttling around the medieval halls are live rats and cockroaches.
7. What is that smell?
A lot of work goes into recreating the horrible conditions of old London. A 300-strong team of engineers, designers and script writers helps to get it scarily close. Fiery special effects, aroma machines that send gunpowder and meat pie smells through the air and sound effects that will make you jump are all part of the behind-the-scenes work. Creative Director Alisa Easton based the props and sets on historical research gathered from consultants and experts at the Museum of London.
8. Plagued with fame
One of the highlights of this creepy show is being sentenced to death by Henry VIII. But what you probably didn’t know is that the 3D projection of the terrible king is played by actor Brian Blessed, the Blackadder star. He is just one of many talented actors at the London Dungeon leaving visitors with an impression so good you can’t help but scream.
9. Gallows humour
An attraction like no other, the London Dungeon has been turning normal tourist trips into not-so-boring educational walks through history that will be sure to keep you on your toes. But as Richard Quincey, Head of Performance and Show Development, points out, this attraction isn’t just about making people jump and dressing up in ghastly costumes, it’s also a roar of laughs. The show has been refreshed to bring more humour to the stories and more interaction between the characters and visitors. Chuck in some Victorian slang and clever idioms, and you get a realistic but fun retelling of truly horrible history.
10. Home, sweet home
The London Dungeon is situated in the County Hall by the Thames. The building was created by architect Ralph Knott during the 19th century, influenced by Edwardian Baroque-style art. It stands opposite the Houses of Parliament – the same building Guy Fawkes attempted to destroy back in 1605. As well as housing the Greater London Council, it has been home to many attractions including of course the ever-popular London Dungeon.
Whether you’re considering your first visit or your 100th one, there are always plenty of interesting stories and London Dungeon facts to tell. Why not check out the attraction’s gruesome Halloween programme? Full scream ahead!