“Why the hell would I want to pay some bloke a fiver just so I can walk
round London? A Travelcard costs you less than that!”

This was my housemate’s response when I invited him to join me on one
of London’s many organised walks and to be honest I couldn’t think of a
satisfactory answer straight away, I wasn’t sure what to expect myself
let alone how to sell it to someone else. So, with my friend’s
elegantly worded refusal still ringing in my ears, I headed off to the
start point alone.

The walk I had chosen is just one of many organised
by The Original London Walks which is generally considered to be the
best walking tour firm in the capital. They offer walks that cater for
a wide variety of interests, everything from The Beatles to the Blitz,
Shakespeare to Sherlock Holmes. The focus of the jaunt I was about to
embark upon was something a little more sinister and far more
appropriate for the night in question, given the darkened sky and
chilly evening air. I was heading to the East End on a walk entitled
Jack the Ripper Haunts.

This walk is very popular and on this cold
Sunday evening in November, the English weather had done little to
deter a group of well over a hundred people from waiting patiently for
the tour guides to turn up. Just after 7.30 we were split into three
groups and off we went, winding our way closer to the East End’s
labyrinth of streets. I have to admit that at first I kept thinking
just how theatrical it all seemed and the backdrop of the ultra-modern
financial district round Liverpool Street did not help, being at total
odds with our guide’s well rehearsed monologues that told of Victorian
squalor in the self same streets.

I stuck with it though and was
thoroughly rewarded as the walk progressed and the story unravelled.
There are few physical remnants of East End life back in the late
nineteenth centre and yet thanks to the excellent story telling of our
guide, an eerie atmosphere hung over the group and followed us through
every twist and turn of our journey. It is a testament to just how good
a job these guys do that these walks continually attract such large

Due to the huge crowds it draws, the Jack the Ripper Haunts
walk is available every night of the week, though the guides change
from night to night so its very much pot luck as to who you get. I
should point out that one of the guides on Sunday nights is Donald
Rumbelow, a name familiar to Ripper fans the world over. Author of The
Definitive Guide to Jack the Ripper, Donald is widely regarded as the
leading expert on the subject so, unsurprisingly, when Johnny Depp came
to London to research his part for Ripper flick “From Hell” it was
Donald he turned to for a one on one tour of the East End.

The Ripper Haunts walk takes you to various locations that have a
factual grounding in the Jack the Ripper legend. Mitre Square, where
the Ripper’s forth victim was discovered, is still a haunting, enclosed
courtyard that oozes with a menace that even the presence of forty
other walkers cannot dispel. It is this combination of atmospheric
locations and the excellent knowledge and storytelling of the guides
that make this walk an enjoyable and entertaining experience. It’s
definitely a must for the more morbid tourist but it’s not all gore and
gruesome murders. In setting the scene and transporting us back to
Victorian London, the guides deliver a wealth of historical facts and
information that leave you looking twice at every building on your way
home and wondering what secrets it might hold from yesteryear.

after all that did I find an answer to my friend’s question? In truth,
yes I did. Why would you want to pay to walk round London on a cold
night? Because it’s fun, interesting and it might just open your eyes a
little and make you realise there’s more to London than the glittering
lights of the West End. I’ve lived in London for over two years now and
yet I’m only just beginning to learn how little I know about our
nation’s capital and its amazing history. I’m looking forward to some
of those other walks already…. Beatles Magical Mystery Tour! That
sounds like a good way to spend a couple of hours, Abbey Road here I