A heart-stopping day out

Date Posted: 21/05/2012

Following a visit to The London Bridge Experience & London Tombs, Melissa Cadby lived to tell the tale, but only just.

To be awarded the UK's Best Year Round Scare Attraction is an impressive accolade, but to take gold for four years running certainly sets that standard for all other fright venues.

Now boasting a revamp to the original show, I headed south of the Thames to The London Bridge Experience & London Tombs with high expectations (and somebody to hold my quivering hand).

Located within the vaults underneath the arches of London Bridge, the popular school group-friendly tourist attraction comprises two sections. The London Bridge Experience is an entertaining tour covering 2,000 years of SE1 and the surrounding borough’s history, whilst the London Tombs takes things up a notch with scary scenarios, costumed actors, and more than a few unexplained noises.

The scene is set with dimly-lit corridors and authentically-dressed staff, who led our group through to the Museum of London Bridge. A great place to get acquainted with its story, the room is home to a miniature replica of London Bridge in its heyday, complete with models of the homes, churches and shops which once resided upon the river crossing. Chronologically time-lining the structure’s heritage, from its inception in 63AD through to its new construction in 1971, though small, the museum held great appeal with me as I’ve a keen interest in London’s history.

Talented costumed actors are introduced on entering the next phase of The London Bridge Experience. Engaging visitors with living history, these narrators guide groups through the tale of Queen Boudicca's battle with the Romans; Viking King Olaf's rule as he pulls down London Bridge; a lesson on hanging, drawing and quartering by an expert executioner; a tutorial on the trades that took place on the shop-lined bridge; and a run-down on how the burning bridge avoided the great fire.

Realistic sets with more than a dose of humour thrown in by the performers, this segment is entertaining and educational, jumpy but not scary. However don’t let this lull you in to a false sense of security, as the nauseating experience of the Terror Time Tunnel lays way to the former plague pit – home of the London Tombs.

We were split into smaller parties and it was at this stage that I got separated from my companion. Who was to look out for me now? Nonchalantly pretending I was braver than in reality, I kept the concerns to myself and lined up with my group of eight, hands on the shoulders of the person in front. A word of wisdom to pass on to your most timid students – wedge themselves in the middle so as to avoid being first in the queue and actually having to keep their eyes open throughout, or indeed at the back, left exposed and vulnerable.

What came to follow was a blur of daunting scenarios, dripping blood, confined spaces, spiders, snakes, ghosts, ghouls, and many other terrors, as we raced through the maze in fear. Alongside the soundtrack of screams, supplied by all of the women and even some of the men in my throng, the whirr of the chainsaw sent shivers down my spine and still does.

Thankfully we made it out of there in one piece, before it was time to check out the photos that were taken along the hair-raising journey – my face was not a pretty picture it must be said.

Alongside the photo gallery, the gift shop is filled to the brim with every horror imaginable, from masks to practical jokes, so teachers should incorporate time into their itinerary for pupils to spend their pocket money.

Open year-round, The London Bridge Experience & London Tombs ramps up the fear factor over the Halloween period, so look out for the announcement of upcoming events to coincide your class visit. Guardian angel tours are available for younger guests, allowing them to experience the tombs in a less scary format. Key Stage 2 and 3 education packs are obtainable to download via the website, and school group discounts are accessible.

School Travel Organiser's Guide