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Most Tour Participants Female ( 2007 )

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  • Most Tour Participants Female ( 2007 )

    Miami Herald
    October 23, 2007

    For a chilling tour, creep out with Jack the Ripper in London
    Author: ROSEMARY MCCLURE, Los Angeles Times

    The cobblestone street is dark and slick from rain; the clouds are heavy and low.

    But light spills from Ten Bells pub. Inside, lagers and ales are poured, and a dozen patrons are drinking, laughing and lounging at the dark-wood bar.

    More than 100 years ago, during what came to be called the Autumn of Terror, serial killer Jack the Ripper stalked this small pub in London's East End. Two of his victims were thought to have walked out its door.

    Today, the pub has become the centerpiece of one of London's most popular walking tours -- the Jack the Ripper Walk.

    "I've tried to figure out why the tour's so popular," said author and guide Richard Jones, who leads nightly walks through the area where the 19th-century Ripper murders occurred.

    "It's a very sordid story: five women brutally murdered," Jones said. "You know what's really strange? The majority of the people who take the tour are women."

    Jack the Ripper's gruesome offenses would qualify him for membership in any hall of infamy, even in London -- a city with more than its share of grisly crimes and haunted locales. With its long history of murder, mayhem and macabre incidents, London has the daunting distinction of being the most haunted capital city in the world.

    I explored the city's sinister streets one night last spring on a Haunted London tour. With London's dark, narrow streets and ancient alleyways as a backdrop, it didn't take much imagination to hear ghosts wailing in the wind, see headless soldiers in the shadows and feel a chill down my spine when I heard tales of haunted palaces, theaters, prisons and cathedrals.

    The tour piqued my interest in the city's colorful history, so I made a few calls. One was to the Tower of London, grim scene of executions and torture and the source of legends and ghost stories.

    Almost a millennium old, Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress -- its full title -- is a symbol of the nation, looming over the London skyline for centuries. Its checkered history, combined with the British crown jewels displayed there, draws nearly 2.5 million visitors each year. Most want to hear stories about the Tower's famous prisoners, such as Anne Boleyn, Guy Fawkes and Sir Walter Raleigh, and the beheadings that took place.

    "Head chopping is what it was called," said Tower Beefeater Chris Morton, Morton is the Yeoman sergeant in charge of the warders, or Beefeaters, who guard the Tower at night.

    "Heads were chopped off with a block and an ax," he said. "Head chopping continued until 1747, when it was thought to be barbaric. Then hanging became the favorite method of execution."

    Yeoman warders like Morton -- known for their colorful blue and red jackets -- have guarded the Tower since the 14th century. Thirty-five share the duty today, living in Tower apartments and houses with their families -- 120 full-time residents at one of London's spookiest addresses.

    "A bit like living in Disneyland," Morton said. "You can never get away from your work."

    "But what about the ghosts?" I asked.

    "Some people live here for years and never see anything; others are here only a short time and say they feel or see things. Not me, though," he quickly added. "I've never seen anything."

    Among those who have felt an otherworldly presence is Janice Field, wife of the Tower's resident governor, Geoffrey Field. It's the couple's home -- called the Queen's House -- that is said to be haunted.

    "It may be a female ghost," Morton said, "because if a woman goes into certain rooms, the ghost appears and physically throws her out. It's happened to Janice several times."

    Some storytellers say Boleyn, beheaded by order of her husband, Henry VIII, in 1536 --it was not a "head chopping" because she apparently was slain with a sword -- was imprisoned in the house until her death and often appears there. Others say she haunts the Tower's Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, where she is buried.

    "A lot of those stories were made up by the Victorians," Morton said. "They just wanted people to visit the Tower."

    "Tourist stories?" I asked.


    London has its share of skeptics who appear on TV and the lecture circuit debunking paranormal activity and disparaging those who believe in ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night.

    But for every skeptic, there's a true believer, and such organizations as the Institute of Paranormal Research help further the stories. The institute in London investigates UFOs, occult activity and ghosts throughout Britain.

    Jones, who has written 11 guidebooks including one on the Jack the Ripper tour, is popular on the TV and lecture circuit too.

    "Jack the Ripper bought my house," he said.

    He guides tours several nights a week, introducing thousands to the sordid crimes of Jack the Ripper.

    "It's hugely competitive," Jones said. "More than a million people take the tours each year. On any one night, you can count 20 to 30 groups going out."

    London is one of the world's best cities to explore on foot. The walking tours add the expertise of a guide and the security of visiting the area in a group -- the East End of London still can be a dicey place to walk at night, as it was in the Ripper's era. The tours generally last about two hours and cost $12-$13.

    On one tour, we started at dusk in Southwark, across the Thames River from the City of London. The area boasts the resurrected Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, which opened in 1997. But for the most part, the streets and buildings are old, historic and creepy, especially at night.

    At Clink Street, we walked beneath a model of a gibbet and a decomposing body. Unfamiliar with "gibbets"? It's a gallows with a crossbeam: Criminals were hung from it in chains, and their bodies were left to decompose.

    This gibbet marked the location of Clink Prison. The Clink -- hence the origin of the phrase "in the clink" -- was a notorious prison that burned down in the late 18th century. A prison museum marks the site.

    We also stopped at the Church of St. Bartholomew the Great. Founded in 1123, it is London's oldest parish church and is said to be haunted by a monk who is seen in his cowled robe sometimes in the pulpit, at other times lurking in the shadows.

    Even without the legend, the dimly lighted church is eerie. It's a setting filmmakers appreciate: St. Bart's was the location of the fourth wedding in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral and of some scenes in Shakespeare in Love.

    Our final stop was in the East End, site of the Ripper's five murders. Some of the women haunt the area, our guide said.

    I wondered why Jack the Ripper's crimes had become so well-known.

    Jones' theory: Jack the Ripper was the first mass-media killer. His murders were reported by newspapers around the world. For 10 weeks in 1888, terror reigned, wrought by the knife of Jack the Ripper.


    Kensington International, 4 Templeton Place, London; 7370-4333, This 58-room hotel has small but efficient rooms in a nice Earls Court neighborhood. The hotel was once a Victorian nobleman's house. Close to shops, restaurants and the Earls Court Tube stop. Doubles from $236. Breakfast included.

    Mayflower Hotel, 26-28 Trebovir Road, Earls Court, London; 7370-0991, The Mayflower, a town house in the Earls Court area, has 48 small but stylish rooms. Doubles from $160, including breakfast.



    ** London Walks, 011-44-7624-3978, More than 300 different walks are available from this 46-year-old company, which claims to be the "original walking tour company in London." Jack the Ripper tour guide Donald Rumbelow is the author of The Complete Jack the Ripper. Two-hour walking tours about $12.

    ** Jack the Ripper Tour, 011-44-8530-8443, Author and longtime tour guide Richard Jones specializes in Ripper tours and other ghostly walks. Two-hour walking tours about $13.

    ** Ten Bells, 84 Commercial St.; 011-44-7366-1721. This small pub in the city's East End is the focus of many Jack the Ripper tours. Some of his victims were last seen there. It's still open, more than 100 years later, serving only brews and other drinks.
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  • #2
    The female of the species...

    I used to give a series of lectures on crimes and forensics. The idea was I would present a certain crime and then follow that up with how it was solved using various forensic methods. These talks were divided into what I call the professionals, police, students and people from the legal profession and 'civvies', the difference being the slides that I used to illustrate the talk.

    One day I was giving a talk on the Buck Ruxton case and an old lady in the front row noticed that I was only using one pile of slides, she asked what the others were. I explained that they were of a far more gruesome nature and not what I considered fit for the present audience. Turning to her female companions she protested that they should see them and all the old ladies nodded their agreement. Right I thought - you asked for it. I put on the next slide.

    "And here you can see Mrs Ruxtons skull after her husband had gouged out the eyes and hacked off all the flesh - the maggots you can see give some indication how long the remains had been lying there." I was most gratified to hear vomiting noises coming from the audience, but when I turned round it was the men who were looking all queasy - the woman were lapping it up.

    "Oh that's horrible" my nemesis exclaimed " Got any more?"

    Dickens got it right when he wrote about Madame Defarge knitting while the guillotine dropped.

    As part of my degree I had to write a dissertation, my chosen subject was Darkside Tourism. I used questionnaires to gather information and one of the things I asked was 'How long after a murder do you think it right to visit the scene?" I then gave various time limits, all the males ticked 20-50 years, nearly all the women ticked 0-5 years.

    Remember what Kipling wrote " For the female of the species is more deadly than the male"


    • #3
      Bob kindly sent me his notes for his Dark Tourism lecture some years ago as I was booked to give a talk on the subject at Surrey University. It made for some enlightening reading.

      Yes, it's always the ladies who have the stronger stomachs and the greater bloodlust on the tours. It's also the ladies who turn away, though. The men seem stoical.

      I have a couple of copies of that medical book about the Ruxton case with dozens of photos of the remains. One of them is in nice condition, and the other one is falling apart but did come with some unpublished amateur photos from the case (very badly water damaged) and... erm... a button from the maid's blouse that was used to wrap some of the remains.

      Tour guides do it loudly in front of a crowd


      • #4
        Thank you Bob for that very interesting post.
        I've suspected women are a little more interested in the blood and guts than they let on for some time youngest daughter is a horror film lover and Nina enjoys horror films very much....while I am not that enthusiastic about them. The WM victims photos still "get" me.
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