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Many people ask the internet, is the London Dungeon scary? The answers usually come back, “no.”

But what about if you’re a trauma survivor like me? Just because the average person isn’t bothered doesn’t mean trauma won’t be triggered. So there’s a lot to reconcile…a love England’s history (the good, the bad, and the macabre) staying psychologically safe, and experiencing meaningful travel experiences that challenge your fears and promote self healing.

If are you thinking if The London Dungeon is too scary for you, before you decide, give yourself a chance to explore your brave and adventurous side. You never know…The London Dungeon just might be the historical haunted house that reminds you how fearless you are.

I had the distinct pleasure of spending five days in the iconic city of London during winter break. Traditionally, I celebrate the holidays experiencing festivities closer to home. However, I definitely experienced the best of the best. Hands down, the London Dungeon was my very favorite.

Keep reading for a complete guide for your London Dungeon excursion. As you may know, the tour forbids any photography and therefore part of the allure is the mystery that exists behind the closed dungeon doors. However, I put all your ‘need to know’ details in this ultimate guide for you.

Empowerment Through Facing Fears

Surviving trauma means remapping your brain and emotional body from a condition of hypervigilence and anxiety to one of calm presence. This starts by retraining an overactive fight or flight response that is common for trauma survivors. With awareness and intention, this can be reversed. In time, this pattern can heal and evolve into mindfully feeling triggers and processing through them using a variety of strategies.

Is Fear Bad?

Fear is a reaction to stimuli. It’s a chain reaction of core beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and eventually behavior. It is neither good or bad, when balanced. However, an over abundance of fear response, such as PTSD, is overwhelmingly the primary by product of trauma and can prevent positive quality of life.

Proactively facing fears in safe ways is an excellent strategy for building up the self trust that is required for healing. What better way to start your mindful travel experience than on vacation and having fun?

Using the London Dungeon To Heal 

In this review of The London Dungeon, I provide insight on ways to use mindfulness resources and receive a deeper connection to your experience and your self healing goals. I’ve reviewed the attractions to help you capture the most meaningful experience for your personal journey, while also learning English tradition, history, culture and hilarious entertainment. For the trauma survivor and mindful traveler seeking self-healing, you’ll be delighted to discover courageous memories that empower you even more.

Is The London Dungeon Scary? An Overview

Embarking on the London Dungeon an attraction that blends spine-tingling thrills with three hundred years of grisly history. 

The dungeons, already known for their immersive storytelling and inspired narratives, keep you on the edge of your seat with unexpected twists and turns. It is a rare opportunity to step into a dark, yet strangely festive, theatrical production. Expect ninety minutes from start to finish.

Connect To The Brave Child Within

To use this attraction for self-healing, think about the thrill of spooky movies, dressing up at Halloween (akin to The Nightmare Before Christmas), or telling scary stories around a campfire. Using mindful determination, you’ll experience a unique connection to remembering that you can be safe, even if it’s a little bone chilling at times. This boosts your sense of trust in yourself and increases healing in a fun way.

The interactive nature of engaging with the actors brings the stories to life. Straightaway, you are told that “No one will touch you.” For the trauma survivor, this goes a long way. Throughout each episode, even in pitch blackness, no one will touch you. Therefore this declaration grants you permission to let go and enjoy the moment, free from fear.

Tour Logistics

The tour is organized into groups of approximately twenty people at a time. You continue with this same group and will always be guided by the actors when it’s time to move to the next room. The wait time was practically nonexistent.

The staff provided excellent customer service. Before even entering the venue, I personally experienced it. Thanks to a techno glitch, my QR code wouldn’t work for admittance. The manager patiently helped with the download disconnect and quickly scanned my ticket. With a long line of people waiting to enter amid a downpour, that interaction could have gone very wrong. But instead it was great. This is important not only for my mental health, but also my physical health. Keeping calm is important for those of us with autoimmune diseases.

There is a bathroom, and it is very clean and spacious. There are handwashing stations everywhere, hand sanitizer, and lots of messages reminding you to wash. They take their cleanliness as seriously as their macabre. Even the toilets are in character with monologues playing over the intercom.

London Dungeon bathroom

Once you pass the ticket scan, if the attraction is at full capacity, it’s about 10 more minutes. You’ll be required to place your belongings upon a shelf while you pass through a checkpoint, similar to the airport. If you bring a backpack, they will check that too. When I observed this, I immediately concluded the level of safety and security is exceptional.

London Dungeon

Once through that process, you proceed down a very dark hallway that’s both creepy and authentic. You’ll arrive at a prop room where you can choose to have one or two photos taken. At the end of your tour, the photos are available for purchase. 

After your picture is taken, you’ll continue along a hallway with cathedral windows and lighted candles on stands. Throughout this dark corridor you’ll observe statues (or are they live people waiting to scare you) in very creepy, medieval hooded robes.

This is where the actual tour starts. Of course the first order of business is rules and regulations. You’ll gather in a room to listen to a jester with a scar across his cheek explain that you are a traitor. Because of this you will be executed. Just kidding. Then he says you must turn off your cell phone. He says he’s serious and pauses awkwardly, but he doesn’t check any phones. 

After a few more harrangues, he’ll escort the group to what looks like an archaic bridge hung by chains. The door slams closed behind you and strobe lights flash. The visual effects suggest you’re descending to the dungeon. Upon entering this new destination, the temperature has changed and a sweet dankness fills the air.

King Henry

One of the first attractions is the Tyrant Boat Ride, a log flume ride carrying you along a watery corridor with virtual reality rats crawling up and down the walls. Around the bend, you will see a holographic Henry VIII, declaring your death. The special effects are impressive. The ride operator tells you that you will get wet, but I was in the second seat and stayed dry. it seemed the whole boat was dry.

When you leave here, you will go through a series of five or six staging rooms. Some are simply monologues where you are told that you are a traitor, or different reasons why you are guilty. Most of the acts depict historical people, places and events in London’s past. Even the few monologues are not boring, because most are interactive.

The Gunpowder Plot

There are a few story lines on King James betraying King Henry. Particularly, a recounting of the Gunpowder Plot, where an attempt by Guy Fawkes conspires to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. During this clever skit, the beheaded Fawkes entertains the audience. His head, displayed on a post behind the famed Thomas Knyvet who led search party to capture Fawkes, starts to dispute the details of his demise. It ends with the disembodied Fawkes thwarting Knyvet and carrying out his gunpowder plot to blow up Parliament after all.

The Great Plague

This historical backstory is a comprehensive view of the Bubonic Plague. First, you’ll walk down along a corridor portraying a 17th Century London with all of its poverty and filth. A mechanical woman throws a pot of urine out the second story window, and fake water is splashed on you. Bursts of air at your legs creates the sensation of pretend rats crawling on you. A mechanical man vomits out a ground-level window. Dirty rags hang from clothes pins, and you’ll need to move them to the side to pass. The audio is of people pleading for medical help.

London plague

Is this scary? Despite the fact that being scared is a subjective experience, The London Dungeon consistently uses creative approaches to go beyond a mere jump scare. The Great Plague display is the perfect example of one such story line.

The plot retells of the Great Plague of 1665. It’s explained to us that we (the audience) are ‘quarantined’ and must remain quiet to escape being discovered infected. This, and the pretend rats along the corridor, are the only schemes to scare you. Here the mood shifts. Facts such as how this devastating epidemic is being carried by fleas on rats is worked into the script.

Furthermore, a detailed explanation of the disease symptoms, and a backstory of how London nurses were accused of killing victims and robbing them. The actor coughs fake blood into a cloth, and explains he needs to flee from us quarantined hopeless souls.

At that point the room goes dark and for longer than usual. Audience members listen to audio over the intercom of conversations of the condemned infected. There’s sounds of coughing, agony and misery. Is this scary? Not quite.

Instead it is a understated memorial to the London victims that succumbed to a horrendous fate. The writers of this narrative managed to embrace the universality of suffering and death amidst entertainment and laughter. Not an easy feat. Moreover, my experience of this as a present day person with privilege, created a palpable sense of sadness and compassion. Scary? No. Moving and relevant? Absolutely. For the trauma survivor seeking depth and meaning from pain, this aspect of The London Dungeon delivers.

London plague

Witch Trial, Autopsy, Torture Tools

 Within this stretch, there are built in seating times. One is for a witch trial, which is a standout in terms of special effects and acting. It’s done exceptionally well and captivates your attention.

witch

Another opportunity to sit has you observing an autopsy of a doctor who unfortunately has become infected and died from disease. The mood is light, hilarious, and full of surprises.

Another room takes you through a demonstration of various torture weapons. There are two individual prison cages, of which I was placed in one. Lucky me? Between the stand up cages is a center staged torture chair whereby an audience member is used to demonstrate each instrument. The visceral response is powerful, especially for male audience members.

Mrs. Lovett and Todd Sweeney

The next room is Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies, set in a typical London bakery of the 1700’s. A baker by trade, Mrs. Lovett is a legendary figure. She’s reputed to be a suspected accomplice and business partner of Sweeney Todd, who is a barber and serial killer from Fleet Street. She is rumored to make meat pies from Todd’s victims.

Mrs. Lovett’s character is a mixture of humor and insanity, and contains superb acting. Historically, her story first appeared in the Victorian penny dreadful serial The String of Pearls (1846-1847). It is debated if she was based on an actual person or not.

Sweeney Todd Barber, who first appeared as the villain of the original tale, then became a feature of 19th-century melodrama. In this rendition, you’ll leave Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop and get a fake shave in the twisted barber shop of Sweeney Todd. The experience includes sound effects as well as sensations of hair being cut which are derived from the chair at your back.

Jack The Ripper, Newgate Prison Gallows, House of Mirrors

One of the last dramatized stories is a recounting of Jack the Ripper. Set in a tavern, it includes dialogue recounting the actual facts as well as magical haunting effects. Because of it’s relatively recent occurrence (1888), as well as the nature of the violence against women, this narrative requires mindfulness. It is a reminder that in reality, the world can be a place of darkness, and special care should be taken to protect yourself.

For the trauma survivor, if you feel the possibility of being triggered, simply stand in the back where you provide safety for yourself. During the skit, remind yourself that you have everything you need to make proactive decisions to keep yourself safe. In addition, affirm that you are a survivor, not a victim, and refuse to allow anyone to steal your sense of safety from you.

No doubt you have heard about the Drop Dead ride at the end of the tour. This is to mimic the Gallows at the once most notorious prison in London. Commissioned in the 12th century by King Henry II, Newgate Prison remained in use all the way through to 1902. There are informational signs on the walls while you wait to enter, detailing the history of the prison. There are also multiple nooses hanging above your head. This is a definite trigger warning for any trauma survivor who has history around suicide by hanging, so take heed to be mindful of that.

The ride itself, titled Drop Dead, is very quick, lasting only 10-20 seconds. You’re dropped only once, and then you dismount the ride. Was it scary? Not compared to any free falling drop ride at any minor or major amusement park. By the time you let out a startled scream from gravity’s effects, it is over.

The House of Mirrors is a childhood favorite, a welcome curiosity. It reminds me a an antique Irish mirror my grandmother gave me. The maze lasts approximately five minutes, and if you tire of trying to figure your way out, simply follow the crowd. The illusion is enchanting, the number of times you can be tricked by your own image is amusing.

London Dungeon

Tavern

When you reach the tavern, you’ve come to the end. You’ll walk through a small gift shop with reasonably priced gifts. Then you have the final exit through old-fashioned Tavern complete with a player piano. You can buy drinks here, alcoholic, as well as non-alcohol. When you exit, you will be in a warehouse type of area known as the County Hall. You’ll be sheltered from the outside, but there is no seating. Up the stairs you can go to the London Eye Lounge. There are radiators generating a little heat in the winter, but mostly people are standing.

London County Hall
County Hall is perfect place to regroup for your next London adventure attraction
food in County Hall London
You’ll love the fast service and yummy food after your time in the Dungeon

Is The London Dungeon Scary Or Transformational?

The London Dungeon offers visitors historical narratives that showcase a creative approach for both storytelling and historical fact. The visual and sensory elements in the dungeon are made more eerie with temperature changes, scents of leather and other incense, and misty dampness to complete the setting. The juxtaposition of the dark, historical ambiance with the lively and festive decor create a unique and unforgettable experience.

For the trauma survivor, experiencing The London dungeon is an opportunity to practice self soothing and empowerment. It provides the choice, moment by moment, how you want to react. With intentional planning, this attraction offers a chance to examine core beliefs, and decide if your own personal chain reaction of thoughts, emotions, and behavior are serving your best interests. If they are not, you’re free to change them.

courage London Dungeon to heal trauma

Finally, it’s a tool for self-healing, reminding yourself that your are safe, brave, and deserving of joy and happiness, in all forms, in your life.

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