Walking the path of a serial killer: The Jack the Ripper tour Experience
Note: This blog can also be used as a self-tour guide. All streets related to the Jack the Ripper murders are mentioned along with their respective area codes to help you navigate.
Who is Jack the Ripper?
On the dark nights of 1888, the dingy gas-lit streets of Whitechapel became the favorite hunting spot for an infamous serial killer whose identity and whereabouts remain unknown till date. The stench of cigarettes and alcohol clung to the air. Prostitutes lingered in the corners of dark alleyways, waiting for men to offer them a few quid in exchange for their services. Whitechapel being the poorest part of 19th century London, housed the worst of the city’s slums which were home to over 1,200 prostitutes.
The legend of the serial killer popularly known as ‘Jack the Ripper’ lives on till today. After brutally murdering and mutilating 5 prostitutes, the Ripper suddenly disappeared after November 1888 and was never found. This created a worldwide media frenzy which resulted in the ‘Jack the Ripper case’ becoming one of the world’s most famous unsolved mysteries.
The ‘Jack the Ripper walking Tours’
Today, several tour organisations in London conduct Jack the Ripper walking tours which are fun, chilling and informative. Some tours such as the Strawberry Tours are free and also offer a variety of other tours such as the ‘Harry Potter tour’ and ‘London Ghost tours’. Few others such as the jacktherippertour.com offer detailed tours which cover every aspect of the Ripper’s case and are led by experienced tour guides.
The jacktherippertour.com organises multiple tours every day starting at 7pm and ending at around 9pm. On 27th September 2019, I booked and attended the tour through this website. The booking fee was 10£. We were instructed to meetup at Aldgate East Underground Station [Exit 1] at 7pm, following which we had to proceed with our respective tour guides.
Note: Keep in mind that Aldgate East Underground Station has exits at both ends of the platform. Hence, make sure to proceed to the exit mentioned on your ticket. Also, it is easy to get confused by the Aldgate Station which is a completely different station. You will definitely miss the tour if you wait around at the wrong station! So be prepared and arrive early!
Our group was led by Lindsay Siviter, a trained historian and researcher who has been studying the Ripper case for over 25 years. The group was diverse and consisted of both young and old people from different ethnic backgrounds.
We were taken to the actual murder locations of the Ripper’s cannonical 5 victims. From the order of murder, the victims included:
- Mary Ann Nichols
- Annie Chapman
- Elizabeth Stride
- Catherine Eddowes
- Mary Jane Kelly
Lindsay kept a bulky file tucked under her arm throughout the tour. As she explained to us in detail the death of these 5 women, she produced pictures and documents from the file which supported her statements.
1. Gunthorpe Street (Postcode: E1 7RW)
We were first taken through Gunthorpe Street which consisted of a narrow cobblestone alleyway which was lined with old stone buildings. The atmosphere was cold, damp and dark and instantly let you slip back into the 19th century.
2. Durward Street (Postcode: E1 5BA)
We then made our way through Durward Street, earlier known as Buck’s Row where the body of the first victim Mary Ann Nichols was found. We learnt that Mary had died a horrible death with her throat slit and her body severely mutilated near an old board school building which is still visible from the murder site.
3. Thrawl Street (Postcode: E1 6RT)
We were then led through Thrawl Street where the first victim had resided. The street which in 1888 was lined by shabby Doss Houses was now busy and bustling with restaurants and cafes offering continental cuisine. Lindsay pointed out that the room above the Bangladeshi restaurant ‘Shaad’ which overlooked Thrawl street was deemed to be haunted. She further explained that this building was earlier known as the ‘Ye Frying Pan’ where the first victim Mary Nichols enjoyed her last drink, unaware of her gruesome fate.
4. Fashion Street (Postcode: E1 6PX)
Our next stop was fashion street located in Spitalfields where two of the Ripper victims had resided.
5. Christ Church Spitalfields (Postcode: Commercial Street, E1 6LY)
We then made our way to Christ Church, Spitalfields which is located right across the popular ‘Ten Bells Pub’ on Fournier Street. This is one of the oldest churches which was built in the 1700s and is ranked to be one of the most important 18th century churches in Europe.
6. The Ten Bells Pub (Postcode: Commercial Street, E1 6LY)
The Ten Bells pub is where Jack the Ripper’s first victim Mary Nichols is said to have consumed her last drink before being brutally murdered. Moreover, the pub is rumoured to be haunted by the spirit of an old victorian man who has been sighted multiple times by the bar staff and locals. In 2001, mysterious voices and laughter rang out in the hallways despite the place being completely empty, suggesting mysterious poltergeist activity.
7. Hanbury Street (Postcode: E1 6QR )
The second Ripper victim Annie Chapman was murdered in Hanbury Street where we briefly paused while Lindsay explained and showed us the mortuary picture of the victim. She further explained that Annie’s body was mutilated beyond imagination with her intestines cut out and placed near her collarbone. The Ripper had also ripped open her abdomen and taken away her womb as a trophy of his murder. Today, Hanbury Street has become an artist’s paradise with its walls being adorned by murals and graffiti.
8. Berner Street / Henriques Street (Postcode: W1T 3LJ)
We were then led through Berner Street, which is now known as Henriques Street where Jack the Ripper’s third victim Elizabeth Stride was found dead by a street seller. Lindsay explained how Elizabeth’s body was the least mutilated among all his other victims, which initially aroused doubts as to whether she was a Ripper victim at all. However, their doubts were proven wrong and it was later assumed that the Ripper might have been distracted during his act of murder which may have led him to abruptly leave her body and flee.
9. Mitre Street (Postcode: EC3A 5BZ)
This also meant that the Ripper was left feeling incomplete and sought his next victim, which turned out to be the unfortunate Catherine Eddowes. We were led through Mitre Street where Catherine’s throat-slit, mutilated bloody body was found.
10. White’s Row (Postcode: E1 7NF)
We then proceeded towards White’s Row where the sliced open remains of Mary Jane Kelly, the last known victim of Jack the Ripper was found in her tiny ground floor room. We gasped in shock as we learnt the grisly details of her body, which was found cut open with her heart resting on her pillow, while all her other organs were scattered across the room.
This marked the end of the tour and a few of my tour mates offered Lindsay tips for being an excellent storyteller. Her deep voice and the cold September evening breeze had chilled us to the bone. I then enjoyed a cherry cider at The craft Beer Co. St Mary Axe located on Mitre Street along with two other girls whom I had befriended during the tour.
The tour was indeed an exciting one and I would definitely recommend it to those who are interested in reliving the Victorian Era in the 21st century! It also gives you the wonderful opportunity to socialise and meet like-minded people!
There are several different options to choose from since this tour and many other similar tours are offered by private walking tour organisations. Walking tours are extremely popular in London. So make sure to attend at least one of them while you’re here!
Hope you enjoyed this blog! Thanks for reading! Have a great day! Adios!