Jack the Ripper: one of the most notoriously bloody episodes in London’s history. For a few months during 1888, the Whitechapel district of East London lived in terror – everyone wondered whether they’d be next. The Ripper’s victims, always female, were found in alleyways, brutally murdered; the police received handwritten notes claiming to be the mysterious killer, yet to this day nobody knows who he truly was or what motivated him to commit these horrific crimes. Eventually, the murders stopped and the whole episode became part of London’s legendary past. Today, Jack the Ripper is part of the essential London visitor’s experience. The images reverberate in our consciousness: dark London evenings lit by gas-lamps glowing in the fog; dark figures stalking the cobbled streets of the slums; a scream in the night as a lone woman succumbs to the Ripper’s bloody knife.
Jack the Ripper walking tours are the best way to get an in-depth experience of this famous historical legend. Many of the places in Whitechapel where his victims were found are still there, unchanged and as spooky as ever. As well as macabre facts and anecdotes, you’ll learn about the fascinating history of Whitechapel – traditionally one of London’s poorest districts, where anything could happen to an unwary pedestrian at night. Now that East London is becoming gentrified, the legacy of those days is fast disappearing.
The walking tours leave every night at 7pm from outside Aldgate East station. Depending on the time of year, you might find yourself walking in bright sunlight or at night in drizzly rain. In November, the nights have started to draw in and chilly darkness hits at around 5pm, often with fog – the perfect atmosphere to raise the hairs on the back of your neck as you immerse yourself in this gruesome tale.
Whitechapel is just a short Tube ride away from Lancaster Gate Hotels. One such example is Park Grand Hotel Lancaster Gate Just hop on the eastbound Central line at Lancaster Gate, then change at Bank to the District or Hammersmith and City line to Aldgate.
The legend still inspires strong emotions in East Londoners: just recently, local protests cancelled the opening of a new Jack the Ripper museum. It was set to open on Cable Street near Whitechapel, and the owners had told residents that the museum would “recognise and celebrate the women of the East End”. But when opening day drew near and the true purpose of the museum was unveiled, Londoners were incensed. Instead of celebrating women, the museum focused on Jack the Ripper’s bloody exploits and the mystery of his identity. Protesters said that even though the murders happened a long time ago, it was disrespectful to his victims to sensationalize the Ripper and focus on his story. It’s fascinating that even after over one hundred years, this story still has the power to spur people into action. It just shows how important an event it was in the fabric of London’s history; its echoes will surely reverberate for many years to come.