So you’ve been to the Tower of London- an excellent historic site and one of the best places that London has to offer. You’ve been to Madame Tussaud’s, got jumbled along in the crowd and can say you’ve been there. You saw Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and saw some of the best theater in the world. Great! Now what?
Well, you could visit the London Dungeon, and see horrifying waxwork figures dying painfully of the plague, being beheaded and being brutally tortured. So lifelike they are, with dripping blood and gore spilling off the figures and onto the floor. There are live actors as well, enacting some of the worst of British history, and live rats that have been loosed to run around inside the building. All of your horror needs are met in one convenient. Now we’re talking!
When you are finished with the synthetic horrors, it’s time to see the real ones. How about a visit to the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons? This is a gigantic display of mostly human specimens in jars. There are also diseased bones, animal tissues, cross sections of human parts, and much, much more! The collection ranges from the weird- huge tumors, to the interesting- the bones of giants and dwarves, to the gross- penises in jars. Probably the hardest to look at is the collection of embryos and stillborn babies in jars. There was a famous case several years ago of a British woman carrying octuplets- she eventually miscarried and her fetuses are all there in jars- including her gigantic placenta with eight umbilical cords eminating from it.
So now you are upset at the state of things and don’t want to talk about any it. Sure you do! Go to Speaker’s Corner! Speaker’s Corner is a good mix of locals and tourists, all there for the same reason. Located in Hyde Park, it is a peculiar British diversion of just hanging around and listening to people yell about stuff. If you bring a crate or box to stand on, you can yell about anything you want. For 150 years people have come to this spot to let off steam, rant, rave or just talk about issues that are important to them. Karl Marx came to talk about his own philosophies, and there have been many other speakers of importance in the mix of ranters. This was also the site of many, many political hangings, and Oliver Cromwell’s body was displayed there to warn others about trying to overthrow the monarchy. Overthrowing the monarchy is still a forbidden subject there, as much due to tradition as law, but anything else is fair game.
So now you’ve ranted, raved and seen all the horrors that life has to offer. So what about death? There are several fantastic ghost tours around London, most of them very good and very scary. As you walk around the dark streets of the ancient city, you are told tales of ghosts and specters that were spotted right where you are standing. Another intense tour is the Jack the Ripper walking tour that takes you around to all the spots that the bodies were found. All of the gruesome details are included, and you find yourself looking around the dark corners of the neighborhood, watching for a cloaked figure with a knife. Or the guy with the sandwiches. Or both?
London’s history is beautiful, gory, romantic and scary, all at the same time. There is something for everyone in this city of dreams…and nightmares. And sandwiches.