The London Dungeon is like an extended fairground Ghost Train. But instead of a train, you’re herded in groups through a series of themed areas where actors covered in silicon rubber buboes or Addams Family-style make up tell you all about Jack the Ripper, the Great Plague and Fire of London, Sweeney Todd and mediaeval torture while accompanied by animatronic figures, sound effects and clever lighting. The reason we were there is that my friend Dave is building an annexe to his dinosaur exhibition in Ireland. He has a huge hall to play with and fancies creating a Gothic horror house where themed dinner parties and murder mysteries can take place. And if you want to know what works, check out the best.
The London Dungeon is hugely popular attraction and I could see why. While many of the figures are pretty shoddily sculpted and animated and the whole place is riddled with cliché, the subdued lighting (near darkness) and the reactions of the people around you create a great fun atmosphere. Our party consisted of about 20 Scottish schoolchildren aged 14-15 and two of the scariest Goths I’ve ever met. And I’ve met some scary Goths, trust me.
A few years ago Dawn and I went to watch an episode of Never mind the Buzzcocks being filmed at the BBC. We were sat among a group of Goths. Or should that be a Herd? Or a Tomb? Anyway, there we were sat among a Tomb of Goths … and these were hardcore. I’ve seen less metal embedded in people at multi-vehicle pile-ups. And they looked dangerously high on something. Of course, that didn’t stop Mark Lamarr taking the piss out of them at every opportunity. The man must have had a death wish. The Goths didn’t laugh. Or smile. Or do anything much. Maybe the weight of metal in their faces didn’t allow for much change of expression.
The Goths at the London Dungeon were friendlier – the female one delighted in comparing the size of her beer gut with mine - but were no less scary in appearance. And to my delight, I actually saw them scare one of the staff. The staff lurk around corners or stand about pretending to be exhibits that suddenly burst into life, prompting screams and squeals from delightedly frightened school kids. One of the Scottish kids reacted to this by punching the arm of one of the actors and was immediately reported to his teacher. Meanwhile, I saw the Goths round a corner in front of me … and scare the crap out of a young man dressed as a Victorian police officer. He jumped out of his skin. Priceless.
Entertaining nonsense and expensive, but it’s worth going once for a laugh. Just one piece of advice – book before you go to avoid queues.