Continuing my research into guides, I booked myself onto the Jack the Ripper tour around East London. Positive reviews on trip adviser encouraged my spur of the moment decision. I didn’t take into consideration the temperature that evening: -2 degrees. Even my 6 layers and 3 pairs of socks didn’t let me forget about it. The tour itself was fascinating. I didn’t appreciate the outing’s popularity till we saw all the competing tour operators performing in the same spots with groups huddled around them. The rivalry seemed a serious matter, spurring on enemy spectators to slyly whisper “our tour’s better than yours” as they passed us. In Mitre Square known disturbingly as, ’Ripper Corner’ there were at least 5 other groups. I expected some kind of dance off between us at any minute.
One aspect I believe that led our tour to be superior was the guide’s ‘Ripper vision’, aka a mini projector. He had put the time in to edit the Victorian building facades onto photos of the existing buildings today, and also projected photos of the murdered women. Till I saw the pictures, I had forgotten how horrific the killings were. It made me question everyone’s morbid fascination with them, as well as reminding me of the tuna salad I’d eaten earlier, which unexpectedly made me quite nauseous. I do think the projector brought the tour alive, but the guide was also talented at recounting the stories and describing the Victorian east end. It was ‘the poor, the very poor or the homeless’ surviving on the lowest standards of living at that time. I will definitely never be able to see east London in the same way again.
The highlight may have been when we were stood outside a former women’s doss house, which is now part of London School of Economics. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a bored student watching us out the window, and as the guide was in mid-flow, the student had some sort of inspirational brainwave and began to re-enact a murder scene by pretending to earnestly stab one of his fellow peers. All in good taste.