Spooky London

This prg was broadcasted in 2000 on DW – full transcript follows – all rights reserved !

Erika: Are you scared of Ghosts?

Anke; Why?

Erika: We have a very frightening report coming up, and I need someone to grap hold onto..

Anke Come-on, there are n-no ghosts.

Erika: Well I am not so sure, have a listen to this, sent to us per bat-post from our correspondent Daniel Zylbersztajn in London. Anke – I am scared…


Be afraid, be very afraid: London has had a bloody and dreadful past, but in these bitter arctic winter days the latest definitely cool thing – and I mean freezing cool – is to walk into London’s past to find out that the city was much worse in the bygone centuries. There are various places where this past is in on exhibit, such as Torture Chamber of the Tower of London, The House of Detention, which is a former prison, and the London Dungeon, a ghastly museum of London’s most shocking events and characters. I consulted Declan Mc Hugh, a local historian and actor who runs the “Blood and Tears Walk”, to learn more. On a grim ice-cold and rainy winter night, he walked me to some of the many fearful places, and bravely I followed…:

[sound of burning] Here we are at Smithfield’s. People were burned alive here! Some of you know Henry the eight. He had a habit of inflicting some cruel executions on people. Fore example there was a cook called Richard Rose and he made a meal which killed 17 people. Now this might have been an accident – he was taken here, he was put into a large metal pot, big enough to contain a man. Filled with oil, lid a match underneath the pot, and two ours later he was boiled to death. That was he punishment for poisoning people. [sound of bubbling pot and bell from London Dungeon]

My guide wasn’t sure, if the unfortunate cook, and people like him, were later consumed by these hungry spectators, but maybe King Henry himself had the cook for dinner, with some pepper and Worchester Sauce. I don’t even want to consider what he did with his wives he had decapitated…

What makes events like this worse was the fact that masses of people of the day and age understood these sinister executions as a rather entertaining event to laugh and funny about. Sometimes so many curious people attended the executions, that the death-toll amongst the spectators could at times exceed the number of people officially executed, because there could be unfortunate onlookers who fainted or got crushed inside the pushing crowds. Such disgusting entertainment-shows, were very normal even only 150 years ago, yet I believe that if we had we similar events today, I am sure such executions would rather get masses of human rights campaigners onto the streets.

The next location that Declan showed me, was a Church, but it wasn’t just “a” Church:

Right, we are here at the Church of the Holy Sceptical . It has an amazing bell in a glass case, called the Execution bell. A man was paid to go with the bell in a passage way under our feet, across the road to where the Old Bailey is, the central criminal court, because that was the sight of Newgate Prison. The man was paid to ring his bell outside the cell, where the prisoners were waiting to be executed. Sunday 12 O’ clock Midnight all of a sudden these people would her a voice saying this:

Watch and pray! [ continues illustrated in a gruesome way]

The Hour is drawing near

That you before the Almighty

must appear!

All you that in the Condemned Hall do lie

Prepare You

For Tomorrow you shall die!

We then followed the secret path down to the old prison and court. Before the 18th century there seemed to have been terrifying methods to get an arrested person to confess:

“We’re standing in front of the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, but this was also Newgate Prison. It was a very terrible place to be. It was a grim dark dungeon. They had in here he press yard. The right for silence when you are arrested for something did not exist until 1722, before hat time you had to be heard to say whether you were guilty or not guilty so the trial could begin. Now if you didn’t say anything, they took you here to the press yard. They basically put increasing amounts weight on your body, until you said, guilty, not guilty, or you died. [sound effects with scream]

Now I was ready for a deeper understanding of the past, so I entered the London Dungeon voluntarily and paid for it on top. This is a strange place were today’s version of death fascinated spectators cues up to learn and be shocked by the way some very unfortunate people lost their lives through some exceptionally brutal and murderous persons. A gruesome tall man, with a large knife at the entrance, recommended that I’d go and see the Jack the Ripper Tour. Before I left him he warned me that I’d be aware of some of the visitors. He said, from time to time they had some weirdoes in the dungeon, like people who claim to be vampires and so, which then have to be removed by the police. Almost falling over some blood tainted wax-corpses on the way to the Jack the Ripper Tour, in this hellish dim dungeon, I was back in the 19th century with the history group of a secondary school, who apparently studied Crime and Punishment:

Whitechapel the East end of London, November 1888. Over a period of ten weeks, it did manage Jack the Ripper to murder five prostitutes. After the fifth victim on the 9th of November he was never heart from again. Down in front of you we have the first victim, whose name was Mary Ann Nichols, also known amongst her friends as Pretty Polly [fading out]

I wasn’t feeling very comfortable, so I asked, if the people around me felt likewise and if they were scared:

Are you scared? Boy: Not really, not at the moment!

[Girl screaming in the background]

No!. [scared] No

Somehow, I had a feeling these people were just trying to be nice to me, . but I assumed they were too embarrassed to admit, that really they were frightened to the bone … and the show continued…

Voice: The slaughter of 5 prostitutes, all within a mile of each other. Spreads fear and anger through Whitechapel. Everyone wants to know, who is Jack the Ripper?


Are you scared? Boy: I did jump!

Girl: It’s really scary, yeah I screamed, won’t come again! Too scary for me!

Girl2: It was scary! And it portrayed a good picture of how it was these many 100 years ago!

Anke: And this was the last we heart of Daniel Zylbersztajn who sent us this report from London! No, only joking. …