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Where in London? 5 scary stories set in the Big Smoke

By Sophia Wood-Burgess

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London’s distinctive personality weaves its way into some of our best horror stories. To celebrate Halloween in style, here are 5 great stories – be it film, novel or murderous musical – that would have been entirely different had they been not set in London:

Photo: Fleet Street and St Pauls by Bex Walton | CC BY | Flickr

Sweeny Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Many classic stories of London in bygone eras described a city where the polar opposites of society are thrown together; a place with grand avenues where one could indulge in culture and art around the corner from seedy alleys to carry out a more sinister trade. Out of this sprung the story of Sweeny Todd, an enterprising barber whose unluckiest customers became the secret ingredient in partner-in-crime Mrs Lovett’s meat pies. This local tale of mystery meat became a sweeping global sensation, yet it seems (as we’ll discuss) a London speciality to blend dark humour and horror.

Where in London was Sweeny Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street set? This one isn’t rocket science. Sweeny Todd’s barber shop was on Fleet Street, a major street in the City of London. In the story, it’s next to St Dunstan’s Church, connected to Mrs Lovett’s pie shop in neighbouring Bell Yard by a secret tunnel. This story was, in fact, a local urban legend before making its way into penny dreadfuls, the stage, radio, television, comic books and Hollywood.

Photo: Heygate Estate – Elephant and Castle by SomeDriftwood | Public Domain | Flickr

Attack the Block

One of multiple comedic horrors on this list, Attack the Block gave a unique perspective to the classic alien-invasion-foiled-by-a-band-of-youths movie by setting it in a Brixton tower block. It includes a captivating performance by leading man John Boyega, before he struck it big.

Where in London was Attack the Block filmed? Filming primarily revolved around the (now demolished) Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle. The looming, brutalist concrete architecture had captured many imaginations in the film industry, appearing in the movie World War Z, the TV show Luther, and the music video “Hung Up” by Madonna, to name a few.

An American Werewolf in London

A weird and wonderful cult classic about an American backpacker-turned-werewolf wreaking havoc in London. The movie was such a strange mix of dark comedy, absurd tragedy and outlandish horror, it took Director John Landis’s success on other comedies such as National Lampoon’s Animal House and Blues Brother to finally get this film into production.

Where in London was An American Werewolf in London filmed? Many places, but a few favourites are Putney General Hospital where David (David Naughton) recuperates from a strange attack, the London Zoo where David wakes up in a wolf enclosure, Tottenham Court Road Undergrown Station where the dreaded beast prowls, and Piccadilly Circus – where the film crew stopped traffic in beautifully orchestrated two-minute bursts to film double-decker bus stunts.

Shaun of the Dead

There is something about the London value of ‘just getting on with it’ that audiences seem to love in a comedy/horror. Either way, nerdy and hilarious Shaun of the Dead is the third comedic horror on our list, (in fact, Wright cited An American Werewolf in London as a major inspiration for his filmmaking). In this film, Shaun (Simon Pegg) is the midst of a zombie apocalypse, demonstrating the classic Londoner’s response in a time of crisis – gathering his mates and heading to the pub.

Where in London was Shaun of the Dead filmed? There are also many London locations for this film, but here are a few. The Duke of Albany at New Cross Gate is the film location for the Winchester – the characters’ chosen place of safety in a zombie attack. Crouch End has multiple locations in this movie, including Shaun’s home – your average London terraced home, and a Crouch End Londis as the typical corner shop where Shaun sleepily overlooks the first signs of a zombie apocalypse.

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

A classic horror novella, in Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a London legal practitioner begins to discover some troubling similarities between his good friend Dr Jekyll and notorious criminal Mr Hyde. London is a city of so many small, distinctive neighbourhoods all crammed one on top of the other, which made it possible for author Robert Louis Stevenson to put Dr Jekyll in an upscale and respectable home in Leicester Square, and Mr Hyde just round the corner in the mean streets of 1880s Soho (wholly different than vibrant and friendly modern day Soho).

Where in London was Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde set? In an analysis for BBC Four: Ian Rankin Investigates Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, he finds Dr Jekyll’s home to be identical to a renowned surgeon of the time, Dr John Hunter, which puts Dr Jekyll’s home at 28 Leicester Square. While Mr Hyde’s specific address is not given, it was described as a lavish home in a dingy neighbourhood.

Gather your ghouls

Coppermaker Square sitting roomA frequent theme emerges in London horror stories, in how we all carve out our little communities to protect and cherish in this big city (well, maybe not American Werewolf in London, but it's an outlier in more ways than one). As we’ve said before, if you step in for a closer look, you’ll see that London is made up of many towns, villages and neighbourhoods – all incredibly unique, all intricately linked. And when people look for homes in the big city, community is quite often an important factor.

At Foxtons, we hire and train our Negotiators to be local experts, so we can help you find the best local community to suit your lifestyle, or the buyers who will be most excited to join the community your property belongs to.

Register your search on My Foxtons and we'll help you find your new home, or book a free valuation and we'll build you a custom strategy to sell or let your property.

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