Time is a wonderful filter for making things a bit more acceptable. We’ve the luxury of seeing the “story” from the great distance of years, happy in being buffered from the reality. Storied characters such as Vlad Dracula, Elizabeth Bathory, Emperor Nero were real. Yet, their lives happened so long ago that their history has become that of legend. These people existed. They did bad, bad things that fuel the imagination of horror. As they say, the truth is stranger than fiction.
While in London this past May, I found one of those places in the world that reminds you. Some tales that we consider “legends” and “horror stories” have a concrete foundation in reality. The infamous Ten Bells Pub was a short tube stop away from our lodgings. Naturally I wanted to see the local haunt of a villain that spawned so many tales of horror - Jack the Ripper.
Located on the corner of Commercial Street and Fournier Street in Spitalfileds, London, The Ten Bells is still an operating public house. Established in 1752, the pub was renovated in Victorian times and named after the battle between Christ Church and Saint Brides on the quality of their bells.
What makes this otherwise innocuous pub so intriguing is its connection to two of the Ripper victims, Annie Chapman and Mary, as it is supposedly the location where he met them then lured them to their deaths.
Little of the original interior remains from the era of the crimes, save an elaborate and rather beautiful painted tile wall. From the mid 1970′s to 1988, The Ten Bells was known as The Jack the Ripper and glorified the crimes with memorabilia of the case on prominent display. Thought to be in poor taste (it was), the pub was returned to its Ten Bells name. For those familiar with the horror film and graphic novel, From Hell (2001 and 1999 respectively), The Ten Bells makes an appearance in each. Today, The Ten Bells is a very active pub in an area of London now trendy among the art scene. Those looking for a spooky bar glorifying Jack the Ripper? This isn’t the place for you. If you descend the back stairs to the bathrooms you’ll see the only Ripper memorabilia the bar sports. A couple of old newspaper illustrations regarding the Ripper crimes. But if you’re looking for a little bit of history and a good English brew, sit back and have a pint.