St. Paul's Tube, exit 2 | Map
"Fear came upon me. And trembling." The Book of Job, 4:14
"The civilised human spirit cannot get rid of a feeling of the uncanny." Doctor Faustus, Thomas Mann
At night the ancient City is deserted. And eerie. Exploring its shadowy back streets and dimly lit alleys we might be in a medieval citadel, in overpowering stone. The very street names – Aldersgate, Cloth Fair, Charterhouse, Threadneedle – take us far back. We're alone... Or are we? For this is the hour when the She-Wolf of France glides through the churchyard, the hour when the dark figure on Newgate wall rattles his chains, the hour when the Black Nun keeps her lonely vigil, and something inexpressibly evil lurks behind a tiny window. We're on their trail... Or are they shadowing us? "How easy it is to awaken the unwanted attention of things that should sleep quietly in their tombs or hiding places..." Guided by the Duke of Darkness or the Shadow Walker or the Woman in Black.
The Ghosts of the Old City walk takes place every Tuesday (except Tuesday nights in Jan. and Feb.) at 7.30 pm and every Saturday (year-round) at 7.30 pm. Meet the Duke of Darkness or the Shadow Walker or the Woman in Black just outside exit 2 of St. Paul's Tube. N.B. the walk ends back at St. Paul's Tube. The Duke of Darkness is Shaughan. The Shadow Walker is Adam. The Woman in Black is Karen – she's merely "the world's greatest guide", according to the Travel & Leisure rankings. (Karen's Travel & Leisure coronation was of course presaged by her winning the London Tourist Board's Guide of the Year Award.)
Ghost walks are tricky to guide. Get it wrong and it's embarrassingly bad. Cringe-making fake "scary" voice, that sort of thing. It all comes down to the guiding. Now the immediately striking thing about the London Walks' Ghost Walks guides "line up" is that all the guides – Adam's the exception who proves the rule – are actors. Important? Or a coincidence? Yeah, you guessed it – it's the former. The reason, quite simply, is it takes a special set of skills to make a ghost walk work. What are those skills, those "ingredients"? Well, you can guess – the great voice, presence, perfect timing, conviction – let alone the sixth sense about exactly how far the envelope needs to be pushed. Actors have those abilities – most of the rest of us don't. Or at least don't have the whole package. Which is why if you get some amateur fronting a ghost walk it's not just a disappointment – it's worse, it's an embarrassment. It's just common sense, really. All you need to do is think back to your childhood – hearing ghost stories round the campfire. It was only the born storytellers – the ones who had the gift – let alone the great voice – who could bring it off. The upside is that when that sort of thing is done brilliantly – by pros, by people who know what they're doing – well, it's as good as it gets. That's why we've got professional performers fronting our ghost walks. And the proof of the pudding – well, see the JR note below. Or listen to Shaughan, the Duke of Darkness, at the start of his Ghosts of the Old City video. Or Captain Spooky (Peter) at the start of his Ghosts of the West End video.
Want to preview the walk and the guiding? Watch the video. And watch this sidekick video. It's the Shadow Walker (Adam), setting the stage for the Ghosts of the Old City Walk. A born story-teller "can make you believe"
1. Three of the most splendid of Wren's spires in attendance upon St. Paul's dome
2. The sparking point of the City
3. The focus, the concentration of City life
4. A nine-foot-long dragon
5. A bare-breasted native American
6. A perfect example of a 1672 house (lived in by one of our greatest poets)
7. The City's most delightful hidden network of streets, shops and restaurants
8. A tent-like structure that seems to grow out of the ground (the rainwater collected by its roof is used to flush toilets and irrigate the nearby planting)
9. 350-year-old cottages built for canons
10. A street that shows perfectly – its often used as a film location – the pre-Victorian scale of the City
11. The ebullient late Victorian building that replaced the grimmest structure in London (the one that featured carved manacles and chains and grim, windowless rustication)
And that's just for starters...
"London Walks has many copycats, but it's the best." Frommer's London by Night
"It's hard to remember how many times I've taken this walk [Ghosts of the Old City]. Every time I am taking a relative or friend around London with me, this is the walk I take. The scenery is straight out of a movie, and what can I say about Shaughan. He's definitely better than any write-up either I or this brochure could come up with. The stories, the tidbits, the drama – this walk has it all. I guess I've done this walk about 6 or 7 times. It'll be up to 8 the next time I'm in town . . ." JR New Jersey, USA
"Top Ghost Walks in the UK London, England: London Walks...their four ghost walks" Essential Travel
If you can't make one of the regularly scheduled, just-turn-up, public London Walks Ghost Walks do think about booking one as a private tour. If you go private you can have any of the Ghost Walks – or any other London Walk – on a day and at a time that suits your convenience. We'll tailor it to your requirements. And – always – we go to great lengths to make sure the guide-walker(s) "fit" is well-nigh perfect. Ring Fiona or Noel or Mary on 020 7624 3978 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll set it up and make it happen for you. A private London Walk is good value for an individual or couple and sensational value for a group. And the clincher: a private London Walk makes an ideal group or educational or birthday party or office (team-building) or club outing. Or indeed a fab present – be it a birthday or anniversary or get-to-know-your-new neighbourhood gift or Christmas present or whatever. Merchandise schmerchandise (gift wrapped or not) – but giving someone an experience, now that's special. Memories make us rich.