Since high school, I’ve enjoyed reading true crime books and in particular, anything involving the mystery of Jack the Ripper. In the late 1800’s five prostitutes were brutally murdered in London’s Whitechapel neighborhood. A serial killer, whose identity has never been solved, taunted the police with cryptic letters signed “Jack the Ripper.” Not only is the identity of the murderer still a mystery, but he may have killed more than five people.
One of my London tourist goals was to take a Jack the Ripper crime tour. Even though his crimes occurred nearly a hundred and fifty years ago, the Ripper lore still captures the public’s imagination. To this end, there were many different Ripper tours to choose from. So many different tour companies in fact, that we shared space with other tours for a majority of the evening.
Naturally, a Ripper tour takes place at dusk for maximum effect.
I took the tour with my niece, Pippa, who lives in England. Pippa has been a great sport, joining me for various London outings. She was coming from class, so we met at the Whitechapel tube station. The Whitechapel tube station has several entrances/exits, on opposite sides of the street, so we had some confusion with meeting each other. If you’re taking the tube to a Ripper tour, I recommend allowing for extra time.
We planned to meet early enough for dinner and decided on sushi. I adore sushi and I have to say, we have awesome sushi in California. Even cheap sushi, is usually top-notch. I’ve not experienced good sushi in Europe or even within the US, when traveling outside of California.
Dinner was at a quick-serve chain restaurant called Wasabi Bento & Sushi. My visit was just two weeks after the royal wedding and I couldn’t resist trying the When Harry Met Meghan box. I have no idea what spicy tuna had to do with the royal couple, but it was a fun tie-in. That said, this was very much “not yummy California sushi,” but to be fair, it was also not freshly made.
For dessert, we had lattes and cakes at the ExMouth Coffee Company. I highly recommend this cute cafe, plus for a bonus, head to the bathroom where they have fun art on the wall and a nod to Jack.
Our guide was Ripper expert M.P. Priestley, who is also author of the book, Jack the Ripper: One Autumn in Whitechapel. As you might expect, he was selling copies of his book at the end of the tour. I like to always support authors, so I bought a copy, although I’ve not had the chance to read it. Throughout the tour, Priestley gave plenty of background information regarding the leading suspects, but when he gave the pitch to buy his book, he basically teased that the book would give his real, expert opinion on the true identity of the killer.
Here is Priestley in action, the guy in the grey cap.
I was pumped for this tour and after decades of interest, how could I not be? I’m not sure what I was actually expecting, but it definitely wasn’t even in the top twenty of favorite things that I’ve done in London. Priestley was a good tour guide: energetic, enthusiastic, and knowledgable. The walking tour lasted about 90 minutes and he was a good storyteller, setting the stage for the events as he took us to crime scene locations. In addition, he pointed out other London landmarks, like the Gherkin Building.
The Whitechapel area is certainly worth a visit. It has historic buildings and cobblestone streets that mix with modern businesses. Here are a few pictures.
As odd as it sounds to say this, I enjoyed seeing the crime scene sites and walking around Whitechapel. It brought to life everything that I had previously read. However, the tour didn’t add any new information to what I already knew. If anything, the information felt basic, like Wikipedia level and was perhaps best-suited for those with limited knowledge of the case.
Everyone on our tour was intrigued by the promise of “Ripper Vision.” We didn’t know what to expect, but it felt like it would give added value when compared to other tour operators. We were taken under a bridge and Priestley cast pictures from the Ripper case on to a wall. This was “Ripper Vision.” I guess it was nice, but they hype made me think it would be more impressive. It really wasn’t much better than if he had passed around a few laminated photos.
Behold! Ripper Vision!
The tour wasn’t very expensive. I think about twenty pounds each. I’m glad that I took it, otherwise it would have always been on my London bucket list. That said, I’m not sure that I would recommend it. There are so many amazing things to do in London, including great tours, that the Ripper Tour didn’t come close to matching with regarding to the quality or being memorable.