Short verdict: "London Walks has many copycats but it's the best' Frommer's London by Night
The Jack the Ripper Walk goes every* night at 7.30 pm from Tower Hill Tube.
On Saturdays The Jack the Ripper Walk goes twice. In addition to the 7.30 pm walk there's a Saturday matinee at 3 pm.
Bears repeating, The Jack the Ripper Walk. Everything else is an imitation. In the words of a certain Margaret Thatcher, "imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but an imitation is still a fake."
He came silently out of the midnight shadows of August 31, 1888. Watching. Stalking. Butchering raddled, drink-sodden East End prostitutes. Leaving a trail of blood and gore that led... nowhere. Yes, something wicked this way walked, for this is the Ripper's slashing grounds. We evoke that autumn of gaslight and fog, of menacing shadows and stealthy footsteps, as we inspect the murder sites, sift through the evidence – in all its gory details – and get to grips, so to speak with the main suspects. Afterwards you can steady your nerves in The Ten Bells, the pub where the victims – perhaps under the steely gaze of the Ripper himself – tried to forget the waking nightmare.
See for yourself. A click here takes you there.
"In 1888, the year of the sensational Whitechapel murders, male and female Londoners elected their first democratic city-wide government, the London County Council, and London got the world's first two-tier urban administration. J. B. Dunlop patented the pneumatic tyre, helping to transform cycling from an uncomfortable hobby for daredevils into a powerful force in popular leisure and transport, and preparing the way for efficient motoring. London's first halfpenny evening newspaper, the Star, was started, heralding the beginning of the age of mass circulation journalism. The first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, was published, and the Football League and the Lawn Tennis Association were founded. Charles Booth completed work on the first volume of his massive Life and Labour of the People in London, the first modern study of London's economic and social life. Annie Besant helped to organise the matchgirls' strike, a seminal event in the rise of modern unskilled trades unionism and the women's movement. A 14-storey apartment block, Queen Anne's Mansions, was built in Victoria, giving London (briefly) the tallest residential building in the world. Translations of three plays by Henrik Ibsen were published in London, introducing Londoners to social and sexual ideas which challenged the most cherished Victorian values."
Why was the throat of the first victim, Polly Nichols, cut twice – when she was already dead? Why, when the second victim, Annie Chapman, was murdered, was the pocket of her apron almost torn off? For what reason were a number of personal items arranged neatly by her feet? Why, and for what reason, was Chapman's uterus ripped out of her body and taken away by the murderer? When Catherine Eddowes's mutilated body was found in a dark corner of Mitre Square, why was the inverted letter 'V' carved into each of her cheeks and what did it mean? Why were her nose, ears, lips and eyelids slashed? And why had her uterus and left kidney been cut out of her body and removed from the scene of the crime? What sense can we make of the cryptic message inscribed on a black brick door surround and a severed part of a bloody apron dropped? deposited? there? Why did the murderer appear to have no sexual interest in his victims? Why did the murders end with the inconceivably savage disfigurement of Mary Kelly?
WARNING: only read the next three paragraphs if you have a strong stomach. "It surpassed Dante's vision of hell. Not in his wildest imagination could the supreme mediaeval poet have dreamed up a scene of such horror. There was blood everywhere: on the bed, on the floor, on the walls, and even on the ceiling. Pieces of skin, flayed from the victim's abdomen, and flesh from her thighs lay on a small bedside table; more skin and lumps of flesh, hacked from her arms and legs, were left on a larger table. Several feet of intestines and the young woman's spleen were strewn across the bed, where blood had soaked through the mattress and dripped silently into a widening, crimson pool on the floor. Her uterus, kidneys and one severed breast had been pushed under her head. The other breast lay beside her right foot. Her liver nestled between her feet on a coverlet caked in yet more blood. Her torso was torn open from her ribs to her private parts, her insides viciously ripped out. Her right arm was placed in such a way that her hand was pushed inside the now empty cavity of her belly. With her entire body hideously disfigured she resembled a slaughtered beast hanging on a butcher's hook rather than a human being, and certainly not a young, attractive woman.
"The stench of blood and gore was overwhelming – enough to make a person retch. The small room at number 13 Miller's Court was truly hell on earth.
"Anything else? Yes. The killer had taken something with him – Mary Kelly's heart."
"London Walks puts you into the hands of an expert on the particular area and topic of a tour..." The New York Times
"London's best guided walks" Time Out
"London Walks has many copycats, but it's the best." Frommer's London by Night
"The original and best – there are several companies offering walking tours of London but London Walks (London's oldest) is easily the pick of the bunch" London, Cadogan Guide
"London's best walking tours" Travel & Leisure
"London Walks was the first – and is the best – of the walking tour firms" Fodor's Great Britain
"The best walking tours are organized by London Walks" USA Today
"Best Tourism Experience in England" Gold Medal Winner Visit England
"Lonon's best city tours" The Telegraph
"The best walks are conducted by London Walks" Toronto Globe & Mail
"London Walks offer the very best walking tours of the capital" The Travel Channel
"the definitive guide to one of history’s most fascinating unsolved mysteries" Huffington Post
"the best is London Walks" Let's Go Europe
"London Walks is the best, hands down." Frommer's London
"all the guides are highly qualified, Donald Rumbelow is internationally recognised as the leading authority on Jack the Ripper" Chicago Tribune
"be careful about the Ripper tour, however, since there are imitations" The New York Times
"London Walks was acknowledged as the premier walking tour company in the entire world" American Tour Guides Convention
The Jack the Ripper Walk. Bears repeating: if you're not assessing you're guessing – buying a pig in a poke.
1. Because this is as close as you're going to get to nailing Jack the Ripper. It all comes down to the guiding.
2. Because you don't have to settle for second or third or fourth or sixteenth best. It all comes down to the guiding.
3. Because this – The Jack the Ripper Walk – is curated and regularly guided by the distinguished crime historian Donald Rumbelow, who is "internationally recognised as the leading authority on Jack the Ripper." It all comes down to the guiding.
4. Because you get from London Walks what you can't get anywhere else. Uniquely, London Walks guides are mentored by the world's leading expert** on Jack the Ripper. London Walks guides – and only London Walks guides – get the benefit of Donald Rumbelow's further deliberations and very latest research into the Autumn of Terror. And the only walkers who get to partake are our walkers – you guys. The Jack the Ripper Walk – because it all comes down to the guiding.
5. This is The Jack the Ripper Walk because it's been going for half a century. (Not years longer, decades longer than any of the knock-offs.) And why is that important? Because long experience, local savvy and contacts, in-depth knowledge – the fruit of years of husbandry, of sifting and winnowing and tilling and going over the ground, of getting to know your patch – is the coin of this realm. You don't come by it by reading Don's book, secretly taping his walk and then setting yourself up as a "Jack the Ripper walk guide" a month or so after you arrived in London. It doesn't work that way. It has to be earned. It all comes down to the guiding.
6. Because we're London Walks – "the first and best of the walking tour companies" (Fodor's). London Walks – the gold standard of urban walking tour companies. "London's best guided walks" (Time Out). It all comes down to the guiding.
7. Because we've got pole position. Best starting time – 7.30 pm. And best starting point: Tower Hill Tube. Got it because we got there first – decades before the knock-offs. Naturally we grabbed the best real estate. Who wouldn't?
8. Because "only by starting at Tower Hill can you unlock the truth about the Jack the Ripper murders" (Donald Rumbelow, author of The Complete Jack the Ripper). The Jack the Ripper Walk "begins at Tower Hill, right on the boundary between Scotland Yard territory and City of London Police territory. Only by beginning there can you understand the conflict between the two London police forces and their leading personalities. A conflict which blurred the investigation and made it easier for the Ripper to slip through the police nets." It all comes down to the guiding. To long experience and professional expertise. You want a walk guided by an amateur look elsewhere. Amateurs aren't London Walks' calling card.
9. Because of all the other howlingly obvious reasons. Convenience (no need to book). Cost (£10 or £8 for concs., kids go free). Concerns trying to get you to fork out £12, £16, £25, etc. for a Jack the Ripper walk when you can go on The Jack the Ripper Walk for £10 or £8, tell 'em to get real. Tell 'em to go find a turkey to try and pluck – you're going with London Walks. Reliability (we go whatever the weather, however many or however few people turn up. With London Walks you're not going to go all the way across town to be told by some clown "only six people, it's not worth my while, sorry [you think he's sorry?], it's cancelled tonight"). Group size (average London Walks group size is 15-25 people because we put two guides on and split the group as soon as it gets into two-guide territory). A real person to talk to at the end of a landline phone here in London (we're not a multi-national, not a corporate conglomerate headquartered in a foreign country over a 1,000 kms – or an ocean – away).
10. Because London Walks is aggressively non-commercial. That important? Pope Catholic? You can get schlubbers to do this for 20 quid. You can't get the world's leading expert on Jack the Ripper. You can't get top flight, professionally qualified guides. The way we're structured – Mary and I own London Walks but it's essentially run as a guide's cooperative. And the nitty gritty? When a walk bombs – a really poor turnout – the guide gets 100 percent of the gate. A normal turnout the split is roughly 2/3 to the guide, 1/3 to London Walks. That way of doing things means London Walks, uniquely, is able to attract and keep the best walking tour guides in London. Forget the hype, forget gaming Trip Advisor, forget too-good-to-be-true come-ons, forget gimmicks (projectors that can't be used six months of the year and that when they can be used skew the route terribly – do you really want to spend 20 minutes in a car park looking at low-grade images on a concrete wall?), forget hard-sell spiels ("you better book [and pre-pay] because we're almost sold out and you won't get to go").
11. Because no lies. No "too good to be true advertising."
12. Because London Walks guiding isn't a temporary. "just passing through," summer-job-for-a-college-student "gig." The elite guides who become London Walks guides do so 1) because they're good enough and 2) because they're responding to the deepest promptings of their nature.
13. Because great guides do it better. They're more experienced. They know more. They've got the gifts – the skill-set that can't be taught, can't be faked. Timing, presence, the great voice, etc. Utterly assured, magisterial even, they've got better lines and they say them better. (At climactic moments say them thrillingly: "Death sipped whiskey at the Ten Bells...he ached to make a volcano of their guts.")
14. Because we don't do gimmicks.
15. We don't do gimmicks because we do great guiding. It all comes down to the guiding.
The regularly scheduled, nightly*** (at 7.30 pm) Jack the Ripper Walk from Tower HIll Tube is eezy peezy. It's simplicity itself – just turn up and go. No red tape, no booking, no hassle. But if you want a private Ripper Walk – or any other London Walk for that matter – well that's also a snap to sort. Just give Fiona or Noel a ring on 020 7624 3978 – or email us at email@example.com – and we'll set it up for you and make it happen.
You go private you can have whichever walk you want whenever you want it – you don't have to cleave to the public walks schedule. We'll suit your conenience, tailor it to your requirements. You want it with pubs stops, no problem. You want it longer – or shorter – no problem. You want it with artefacts – no problem. You want it with Victorian costume – no problem. Well, you get the idea. And what's perhaps most of all to the point, we'll make certain the guide--group "fit" is well nigh perfect.
Goes without saying that a private London Walk – with a world class guide – makes a brilliant – and unusual – Christmas present or birthday gift for a partner, family member, friend or colleague.
*Except Dec. 24 and Dec. 25
**Britain's most distinguished crime historian, Donald Rumbelow is the author of the definitive book on the Ripper, the best-selling The Complete Jack the Ripper. Donald Rumbelow's been the chief consultant for every major film and television treatment of the Ripper for the last three decades. (Donald Rumbelow took Johnny Depp on The Jack the Ripper Walk – the walk you'll go on – as part of the Hollywood star's preparation for the film From Hell.) Donald Rumbelow is the former Curator of the City of London Police Crime Museum. Donald Rumbelow's been the Chairman (twice) of the Crime Writers' Association. Donald Rumbelow's a Freeman of the City of London. Donald Rumbelow's a former high ranking City of Police officer. Donald Rumbelow's a top flight professionally qualified Blue Badge guide.
***And that's not to forget the 3 pm Saturday matinee Ripper Walk
"The greatest panic of all occurred in the autumn of 1888, when lurid accounts of the Whitechapel Murders obsessed London newspapers and their readers. Between 31 August and 9 November, the mutilated bodies of five impoverished street prostitutes were found in squalid rooms and alleys within 500 yards of Whitechapel High Street, where the wealth of the City met the poverty and mystery of the East End. The brutality of the killings, the taunting letters of 'Jack the Ripper' to his baffled pursuers, the failure of the police to identify the murderer, the element of prostituion and sexual depravity, the excitement of waiting for the killer to strike again, the dark and sinister location, so close to 'respectable' London, made this the newspaper story of the century. Public suspicion fell on doctors, butchers, foreigners and Jews, and confidence in the detective powers of the police evaporated. In future, fictional detective heroes were more likely to be private operators than Scotland Yard men. Sherlock Holmes, whose first appearance was in A Study in Scarlet in 1887, was the epitome of the new breed. Real detectives did not have Holmes's mental powers, and the 'Ripper' was never caught." Stephen Inwood