London Dungeon in London
The London Dungeon is a popular London tourist attraction, which recreates various gory and macabre historical events in a grimly comedic 'gallows humour' style, attempting to make them appealing to younger audiences. It uses a mixture of live actors, special effects and rides.
Opening in 1974, it was initially designed as more a museum of "horrible history", but the Dungeon has evolved to become an actor-led, interactive experience. The Dungeon is operated by Merlin Entertainments.
The first segment set in the pre-17th Century crypt of All Hallows Church, an actor introduces him/herself as the crypt keeper and speaks about strange goings on that they have previously seen.
Labyrinth of the Lost
Opening the crypt entrance, visitors are led into a mirror maze where reflections are seen everywhere and where they have an encounter with a skeleton shaking a metal gate and a wasted woman in black in a rocking chair.
On occasions visitors may also encounter period costume actors jumping out for scare tactics.
The third segment is set in 1665 during the Great Plague of London, where the city, scattered with decaying bodies, is depicted as having succumbed to Bubonic Plague.
Visitors meet a ‘survivor’ of the plague, who describes the situation and leads the visitors down a dilapidated street filled with cries of pain, bell tolls and "Bring out yer dead!", whilst animatronics and live actors as citizens interact with guests.
Great Fire of London
The fourth segment is set to the Great Fire of London in 1666, where visitors stand inside a small room themed to the Pudding Lane bakery. A short educational film, previously narrated by Tom Baker and featuring Thomas Farynor (owner of the bakery), explains the events.
As the film plays on, smoke effects and smells are piped through the bakery room, and visitors are encased with glowing red lights.
This section was drastically shortened several years ago, with space transferred to Bloody Mary and Extremis (see below).
Surgery: Blood & Guts
The fifth segment takes place within a surgery, where a doctor operates on a stolen dead body: pulling out the intestines, the bladder (which squirts supposed urine at the audience) and the heart.
A visitor, chosen at random and normally male, is then 'operated' on. This involved being trepanned, having their 'blood let', and having a hand amputated (during which air jets and water are used).
The Torture Chamber
The sixth segment is one of the most graphically implied in the entire Dungeon. The torturer picks two visitors from the audience: one sits in a cramped cell, whilst the second sits on a chair surrounded by torture devices, such as a red hot tongue puller, a neck hook and an appendage cutter. The torturer 'demonstrates' these on the chosen guest.
The seventh segment takes place in a 18th Century courtroom, where three chosen at random by the judge and are put on trial. On occasion the judge is joined by a second actor, who will read out the list of crimes that the first two guests have 'committed'.
Some of the humorous crimes listed are "Doing unspeakable things with a bucket of fish", "Dancing naked", "Doing a wee-wee in the Thames" or "Because your girlfriend is ugly."
The third guest is often convicted as guilty by the judge directly after being asked where they are from.
The eighth segment is a walk through a dark ‘bedlam’, aligned cell bars going in a zigzag fashion with strobe lighting effects. On occasion there will be scare actors hiding in the darkness, ready to pounce at the visitors.
This segment is similar to fellow visitor attractions; Scream at Madame Tussauds and the vampire section of Terror of the Towers at Alton Towers.
Traitor: Boat Ride to Hell
The ninth segnment of the Dungeon. Visitors come to the Execution Dock where they find a board saying humorous but true crimes. Visitors sit in eight seater-boats and travel down the Thames to Traitor's Gate. Here they see animatronics of Criminals, Boxes of stolen items and Hanging Cargo.
They then go up a lift hill and turn round 90 degrees to face an Executioner (an animatronic) and they reverse down a drop into the sewers.
They then exit onto Fleet Street.
This tenth segment is the first of only two fictional events in the London Dungeon, which opened a year before .
Visitors stand outside Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop where they are greeted either by Mrs. Lovett herself or by her male assistant, who quiz them on the type of pies they bake with implications to murder. The character then leads visitors into Sweeney Todd’s barber shop, which is filled with seats surrounding a single seat next to a table holding many implements.
The lighting is then extinguished, as the voice of Sweeney and his footsteps comes in. He stalks around the visitors, admiring their looks and suggests quick haircut as well as a very close shave, during which time 'neck-ticklers' give the sensation of something being run against the back of guests necks. Unexpectedly, the chair is pulled back as if falling into a cellar, at which point the exit opens along with voices of the Police, who have come to arrest Sweeney.
Vengeance 5D Laser Ride
This eleventh segment is the second of only two fictional events in the London Dungeon, set around a séance at 50 Berkeley Square, which was touted as the most haunted house in Victorian London. This is the UK’s first 5D ride, incorporating a 3D film, 4D special effects and 5D rider interaction with Victorian-Style Revolver laser guns. It is the latest Attraction opening at the Dungeon and opened May 2011.
Visitors enter 50 Berkeley Square's Main Corridor and see a screen witch has writing describing the strange goings-on at 50 Berkeley Square. They are are then briefed by an actor about the ride before entering a room, picking up 3D glasses and are seated on a large round seating Platform in Victorian Gothic-Style Armchairs (each equipped with a Laser Gun). On the first screen, guests meet Florence Cook, a Medium with two volunteers.
She begins a séance which goes terribly wrong, Florence becomes possessed and kills the two volenteers. She then summons a host of ghosts and demons causing the use of the revolver-type guns. The lights soon extinguish, and the Platform spins fast several times until it meets a second screen which shows Florence Cook channelling an evil spirit. Revolving once more guests see more dangerous ghosts and rats running down corridors.
Visitors then exit onto a street in Whitechapel.
Jack the Ripper
The twelfth segment is set in the Whitechapel area of London, where Jack the Ripper committed his murder of five prostitutes in 1888. Since Vengeance was built, this section of the Dungeon has been drastically shortened, maiking it more compacted. A new scene was also added.
The segment begins on a street where the mutilated body of a prostitute lies as an actor describes what has been happening with the strange murders. Visitors then go into a bedsit where the most gruesome murder took place: that of Mary Jane Kelly. A video describes the murders in more detail, including an animated representation of what happened in the bedsit.
Visitors are then led into a pub ten years after the murders in 1898. Most of the prostitutes were said to have spent their evenings here according to the bar keeper, who also sees 'images' of some of the girls. The lights strobe as Jack the Ripper suddenly appears with a knife behind a door, reaching out to the visitors before disappearing.
Bloody Mary: Killer Queen
The thirteenth segment goes back pre-17th Century in a Chapel, introducing the story of Mary Tudor, also known as Bloody Mary.
An Actor appears and tells visitors that Heretics will be executed if not believing in the same religion as Mary. After he finishes, Mary herself appears. A visitor is then chosen at random and taken to a burning post, and is charged guilty of heresy against Mary and her government. As the room is filled with smoke and flames, the visitor is switched with a model of a corpse.
Extremis: Drop Ride to Doom
The final, fourteenth, segment of the Dungeon is Extremis, in which visitors are treated as criminals to be hung at Newgate Prison. They are taken to a ride which elevates them towards the ceiling and models of judges and an executioner reading the charges. A noose drops in front and as the hangman pulls the gallows lever, and guests drop down in the dark.
Visitors then exit into the London Dungeon Gift Shop.
The Hamburg, York, Amsterdam, Edinburgh and Warwick Castle Dungeons are all part of the same chain.
The London Bridge Experience, located across the road from The London Dungeons features some similar themes, though is not affiliated with the Dungeons.
There are also many seasonal experiances including Kentwell Hall's Scaresville.
The dungeon has been the subject of mixed reviews by visitors and travel writers. Rick Steves described it as "just a highly advertised, overpriced haunted house" and an "amateurish attraction". The "Rough Guide to Britain" describes it as best enjoyed by "young teenagers and the credulous".
Criticism of advertising
In July 2010 the Advertising Standards Authority banned a digital poster advertising the London Dungeon. The poster featured an image of Mary I of England which transformed into a "zombie-like character". The poster was deemed too disturbing to be seen by young children.
- Merlin Entertainments
- The Amsterdam Dungeon
- Hamburg Dungeon
- Torture Museums
- York Dungeon
- The London Dungeon (site includes other attractions run by the same company)
- Official Full Review of Vengeance 5D Laser Ride