The term ‘dark tourist’ has become a phenomenon and more and more people are visiting sites all over the world that are associated with the macabre. Like most capital cities, London has its fair share of places to visit that will keep any dark tourist happy and this guide gives a brief look into a small selection of sites that will satisfy your curiousity.
The Tyburn Tree
After taking a tube from the Montcalm Hotel Barbican, head to Edgware Road where you will spot a small traffic island near Joe Strummer passage. This may not seem like an obvious dark tourist destination, but it is where the infamous Tyburn Tree once stood, a death spot that claimed the most lives in the whole of the UK. It was the place where many came to be executed but, before their death, they were walked to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park where they would make their confessions before they were hung. So, while it looks like a little plaque in a big city, it has a very dark history behind it.
Bart’s Pathology Museum
A 14-minute walk away from the Barbican centre parking lies Bart’s Pathology Museum, a place that harbours a unique collection of skeletons. Carla Valentine, the museum’s curator, restructured the entire museum to what you see today with its impressive 5,000 specimens scattered over 3 levels. You can peruse an array of medical specimens including the skull of John Bellingham, who assassinated, British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, and a skeleton of conjoined twins. Just a stone’s throw away from the museum is a dedication to William Wallace, the Scottish freedom fighter who was hung, drawn and quartered near the site where the plaque is placed.
Highgate Cemetery is every dark tourist’s dream destination as not only does it offer a fine selection of deceased famous people for you to visit, but it also has some fantastic superstitious stories surrounding it. It can be found a 40-minute tube ride away from the restaurants London City and you have a choice whether to explore the gravestones yourself searching for the final resting place of George Eliot, Michael Faraday and Karl Marx, or you can take a guided tour; entry to the west side of the cemetery is by guided tour only. The guided tour will also fill you in on the legends surrounding the cemetery such as the story of the vampire that roams Highgate, so beware!
London Hospital Museum
The London Hospital Museum is a place that is filled to the brim with death and intrigue, a dark tourist’s dream. One of its famous pieces is the replica skeleton of John Merrick, the Elephant Man, and it also has an impressive exhibition dedicated to this extraordinary man and his life. It is rumoured that the museum also holds a knife that was used by Jack the Ripper on one of his victims as his murder spree took place only a short distance away from the museum itself. Once you have explored the museum, you can head along to Whitechapel and take a Ripper tour around the sites where Jack committed his crimes before finishing with a drink at the Ten Bells pub, the original pub where many of the victims were last seen.