I did a “Jack the Ripper” tour in Whitechapel and it was scary

On a cold evening last week, I ventured out to Aldgate East to take a walking tour of Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel.

With Halloween almost upon us, I thought this would be a great time to combine my love of all scary things with my love of history and learn a bit more about this chapter in London history.

I chose to go with the London Discovery Tours Jack the Ripper Tour, but beyond what they said on their website, where they promised “a ride like no other”, I didn’t know not quite what to expect.

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The Jack the Ripper murders have gone down in history as some of the most gruesome murders the UK has ever seen, when at least five women were murdered by one or more unknown people in 1888.

Although Spitalfields and Whitechapel have changed dramatically over the past 130 years, some landmarks of the case remain and are a source of bloody fascination for tourists not only to London, but also from the UK and around the world.

The tour was to last two hours and pass through twelve locations associated with the Ripper.

We were met at the station by Angie, our guide for the night, who was dressed in a dark trench coat and a black top hat.

We started around the corner of the White Hart pub, a stone’s throw from Aldgate East station, down an atmospheric lane covered with old cobblestones that glistened in the light drizzle.

From the start, I was impressed with the amount of information and context provided by our guide.

Although the first stop has no direct connection to the Ripper case, Angie used the location to set the scene for what Victorian London looked like and the kind of life Londoners lived in Whitechapel slum. in the 1880s.

Throughout the tour, Angie carried a large plastic file with her, from which she extracted relevant photographs, both of the victims of the Ripper and of Victorian life at large.

Among the twelve stops we stopped at was the Ten Bells Pub, one of Whitechapel’s most popular pubs in the 1880s and believed to be where Ripper victim Annie Chapman was seen for the last time before his sudden death.

The Ten Bells pub, which was apparently frequented by several of the Ripper victims

The tour struck a good balance between the macabre and respect for the dead, which was surprising and pleasantly unexpected given the degree to which the story of Jack the Ripper has entered popular history.

Speaking to our tour guide, Angie, ahead of the tour, she said she wanted to remind visitors that the victims of the Ripper were women with families who loved them and lives that had been cut short, and therefore should not be glamorized.

She made an explicit effort to flesh out each of their stories, providing plenty of information about their life before their murders and what brought them to Whitechapel, as well as creating detailed images of the circumstances of their deaths.

Her efforts to reframe the stories of Ripper victims away from drunken prostitutes into vulnerable women targeted precisely because they were vulnerable seemed poignant, especially in the wake of the cases that have plagued London in recent months of assaulted women and killed in the streets, like Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa.

While this added a sadness to the story that is usually forgotten during discussions of the Ripper murders, it was fitting and refreshing to hear about it in this way.

Our tour guide, Angie, holding her photo file at one of the tour locations
Our tour guide, Angie, holding her photo file at one of the tour locations

However, that is not to say that the tour lacked dread or gore, quite the contrary.

Angie’s portfolio of images, including post-mortem photographs of victims and photos of crime scenes, contributed to the overall sense of horror she developed with her storytelling.

In particular, I felt shivers down my spine as we stood near what was once the entrance to Dorset Street, where ripper victim Mary Jane Kelly was killed and mutilated in her bed.

With Angie’s gruesome crime scene depicting the meanness with which Mary Jane had been killed, it was especially frightening to stand where the Ripper had likely passed.

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Likewise, when we passed Goulston Street and entered Miter Square, in a dark corner where Catherine Eddowes was murdered by the Ripper in a short ten minute window, I had the acute sensation of really following the traces of the Ripper.

Catherine Eddowes was the second of two Ripper victims killed on the night of September 30, 1888 in a short window between police patrols, which took place every 15 minutes at the time.

A bloodied fragment of his apron was later found by police in Goulston Street under now infamous graffiti: “The Juwes are the men who will not be blamed for anything.

Although the graffiti may have proven to be vital evidence in the case, it was quickly cleaned up by police who feared it would trigger anti-Semitic retaliation in the Whitechapel area if the news broke.

The passage to Goulston Street has now been sealed off and is part of a restaurant called
The passage to Goulston Street has now been sealed off and is part of a restaurant called “Happy Days” – it can be identified by the narrow shutters, the center and the walled-up window above.

Although horrible, I really enjoyed the Jack the Ripper walking tour, both for what I learned and to soak up the eerie atmosphere of Whitechapel after dark.

Tours take place every day of the week and I would highly recommend going after dark for the full atmospheric experience.

If you want a night out in London that will offer the spooky vibes of Halloween as well as plenty of interesting facts (and is just steps from some of London’s most delicious curry houses) then this walking tour just might be the one for you!

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