Back home, Halloween is a pretty big holiday for us. We decorate and carve pumpkins, and dress up and go to parties. This being our first year in London, though, I really wasn’t sure what kind of celebrating to expect. As it turns out, we’ve got a great group of kids getting together tomorrow to go trick-or-treating in Chiswick, but up until a couple weeks ago we had no plans, so we took it on ourselves to find something spooky to do in October. After doing a google search for “spooky London”, it appears the entire city has been haunted at some point or another. (Even the pubs aren’t excluded from a random poltergeist attack!) But the recommendation I kept seeing everywhere had me thinking we might really enjoy celebrating Halloween at the London Dungeon.
Normally, this sort of attraction is not the kind I make a point to see. It is extremely popular with tourists. And if the long lines outside don’t give you pause, then the ticket prices inside surely will. Entrance for adults is £25 and a child’s ticket will set you back £19. If I hadn’t found a discount voucher making all three of our tickets half price, we probably would not have gone. Even with the discount, the London Dungeon cost much more than we usually spend on entertainment, but with our Halloween plans hanging in the balance, I made an exception so I could ensure we at least did something scary for the holiday.
After one failed attempt the weekend before (a 3+ hour wait was not going to happen), we figured out that the best time to visit for the shortest wait on a weekend was around 4PM. When we arrived, some of the actors were performing outside the entrance and a man was walking around with a giant rat for visitors to pet. (No, thank you!) We joined the queue outside and noticed right away that the London Dungeon attracts some rather interesting people. When I say interesting, I mean the sort of folks you see walking towards you on the sidewalk and you cross to the other side of the street to avoid passing in close proximity to them. (Don’t get me wrong – I like weird, but some of these people took it to a whole other level.)
After waiting outside for an hour, we made our entrance into the dungeons. Once inside, you take an awkward photo with the other people in your party and then stand in another long line to purchase tickets. (I can’t stress this enough – look for coupons first. They’re everywhere. We got ours from a Kit-Kat wrapper.) At least while you’re waiting in the queue for tickets, there are quite a few “scary”, sometimes downright cheesy, distractions. The scariest of these were the live roaches which instantly activated my gag reflex. After you’ve bought your tickets, the real “experience” begins.
The purpose of the London Dungeon is to take visitors through 1,000 years of London’s spooky history using a team of actors and elaborate sets to recreate events such as the Black Plague and Jack the Ripper. The actors were all quite good, especially considering how exhausting it must be to repeat the same lines over and over again everyday. Their exaggerated 1800’s-style English accents, so different than what I’m used to hearing in London today, were so terrible-sounding that I actually started to like them.
And the sets, although not realistic-looking, were on par with some of the nicer Disney attractions we’ve been to. Unfortunately, photography of the actors and sets was not permitted inside the London Dungeon, or as the actors say in character – no flashy boxes allowed! You’ll have to take my word for it since there aren’t any pictures, but the best part about this attraction is just how things look.
The London Dungeon is, to use a British term, far more cheeky than scary. Between all of the sexual innuendos that you’d have to be under the age of ten to miss and the scenes where visitors were pulled into the acts, I found myself laughing during this experience more often than screaming. In fact, the only time I ever felt even a little frightened was when we were in complete darkness for a few minutes on the Sweeney Todd set.
I had the most fun on the rides and walking through some of the transitions in between sets. There is a boat ride towards the beginning on the dungeon, but beware, you will get wet. Irritatingly, I kept finding myself in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting sprayed with water a total of three times on our visit. Most of the transitions between sets, you’ll just be walking through regular tunnels, but occasionally they get pretty fun. When we went through the swirly tunnel, I was convinced I was about to turn upside down, even though I don’t think we actually moved at all. And the maze of mirrors during the Jack the Ripper scene was totally trippy. I had to reach out and physically touch the mirrors to make sure they were there.
The rides, the shows – it all leads up to the end where you have been tried for crimes you didn’t commit and are sentenced to a hanging. You go on one last ride, a mini version of sorts of the Tower of Terror, as you are “hanged”. The whole experience, from the time you enter the London Dungeon to the end, is around 90 minutes long. (I have to admit, even though this wasn’t my favorite thing ever, the time did seem to go by much faster than that.)
Did I have a good time? I’d say good enough. Would I have done this if I weren’t looking for something Halloween-ish to do? Probably not. Between the rides, continuously being sprayed with water, the goofy scripts, and people jumping out at you – it’s all very theme park, haunted house-like. And I have a ‘been there-done that’ attitude about those sorts of things. But if you’re between the ages of 12 and 25, or you’re just really into haunted houses, you’ll absolutely love it. Lexie had a blast and said she never felt scared, but parents with younger children might need to be more cautious.
The London Dungeon is conveniently located right next to the London Eye and the Sea Life Aquarium in London’s South Bank area. Online tickets can be purchased ahead of time with a small discount, but require booking for a specific day and time. Half-price entrance vouchers, like the one we used, cannot be redeemed online. Happy Halloween!
The London Dungeon: Website
Address: County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB
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