Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The London Dungeon: An Innovative Historical Education

Our group had a free day today, so we decided to conquer the "big three" - the London Zoo, the London Eye, and the London Dungeons. I didn't know what exactly I was getting myself into when we booked a show at the London Dungeon. As we walked into the entrance area, we encountered actors who were paid to entertain us while we waited. Once inside, we learned that the entire show involved us walking from room to room, encountering scenes from some of London's darker time periods. It was an hour of terror and entertainment!

The first scene that we walked into was in medieval times, when everything and anything was punishable by death. We talked to various actors who talked about Henry the VIII and a few of England's rulers at the time ( I apologize for not remembering the names. I was more worried about looking for people popping out around corners.) We met an "executioner" and his friend, who was a head on a stick. We saw some cool medieval torture tools. If I haven't mentioned it yet, the entire tour was quite creepy and not for people who easily jump.

The next scene was the time period when the plague was a problem in London. There were people "sneezing" and "puking" blood. It was quite nasty. We saw people who were hiding in coffins to avoid the plague. Our group even walked down a tunnel where "rats" (which was actually just very well positioned air hoses) crawled over our feet and "infected" us. We watched how they treated the plague, which involved bleeding people out and leeches. We also watched a fake autopsy of somebody who supposedly died of the plague.

The next scene was not an actual historical event. However, the time period was actually when Sweeney Todd (the play/musical) supposedly took place. We met M. Lovett and she talked about her pies. Then we went into a room where we sat in barber chairs. The lights turned out and the "voice" of Sweeney Todd talked while the chairs worked so that we felt like we were being touched by the barber (hair moving, chairs tilting, air on our necks - CREEPTASTIC!).
Following Sweeney Todd, we went to Jack the Ripper and met some of the "prostitutes" that he killed. In the final scene of this period, we sat in a pub where the last victim frequented. Supposedly, it was the year anniversary of Jack the Ripper's final kill. The lights went out and some guy came out and waved a knife while some fake lightning flashed in the background. This was probably the most terrifying part of the tour just because he popped out of nowhere and I was sitting in the front. I definitely screamed!

In the final scenes, we encountered the time period where hangings were popular. We took part in a trial and then we met a prisoner. The final part was an actual ride where we sat in seats and then they dropped out. It was like the Tower of Terror, but not very far down. The worst part was the fact that the entire chamber was dark and we didn't know how far down we were going to go.

I took you through the entire tour not because I wanted you to know every detail of London's dark history. I explained what happened because I found it an innovative way to experience history. I learned so much about London's history while we were in that tour. I really didn't have a clue about most of it because I haven't taken the time to study it. I was thoroughly creeped out, yet wildly entertained and educated. This tour made me realize that England has a history that is extremely expansive and not all of the history is Kings, Queens, and royal babies. London has some dark history. And now I'm going to dream about finger pies and Jack the Ripper - FANTASTIC!!

This is a picture for a London Dungeons advertisement. Image courtesy of Google Images.

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