I first noticed the distinctive routemaster “Ghost Bus” as it’s ominous black shape trundled along Northumberland Avenue on a winter evening. The Ghost Bus Tour aims to provide people with a unique view of the darker side of London by fusing history, theatre and comedy together with the aid of some creative embellishment. I tracked down Peter Davis, Creative Director of the Ghost Bus Tour in its appropriately atmospheric headquarters located in the upstairs of a shadily lit pub.
snipe: How did the idea for the tour come about?
Peter: It was two guys, they had been friends for years and they decided that there was a gap in the market for this sort of thing so they wanted to combine a sight seeing tour of London with a theatrical, spooky and funny experience. There are ghost walks in London and there are sight seeing tours bus tours, and they are both very popular but we are the only company that’s doing the two combined. Also, it’s not just a tour that we do, it’s a piece of theatre. We have two actors on board and we’ve created a whole show and script.. I don’t want to give too much away!
S: What drew you to be involved and where did you find the other actors?
P: I worked at the London Dungeon for quite a few years and met such a great team of actors there that we ended up using a few guys that had worked there on this. My background is acting, writing and also stand up comedy and this show is a comedic tour with horror elements in it – which are my personal two favourite genres, so it was perfect for me really. As soon as I heard about the idea I wanted to be involved and help get it up and running.
S: How did you research the tour?
P: We visited most of the places that we talk about and we talked to the people involved and got any first hand stories from them and also it was just a case of reading any books on the subject and going on line. when we first put the tour together we basically walked the route and went in anywhere we thought was interesting and had a chat with them to try to get some first hand information.
S: Do you believe in ghosts?
P: I believe that people find ghost stories very interesting and that’s good enough for me. I couldn’t say yes or no.
S: Do you have a favourite London ghost story?
P: I think the Drury Lane story. It’s my favourite haunted place where a ghost was once seen by the entire cast of a play. That’s probably the most solid proof that we have on the tour.
S: Was the ghost waking around on the stage?
P: He was on the upper balcony, he’s the “Man in Grey”. He’s been seen on a few different occasions at different productions. The cast of a play was rehearsing for a curtain call one day and they all looked up and saw this figure walking along the back wall and apparently he went straight through the wall at the end. They say that if he turns up while you are rehearsing it means you the play is going to have a successful run, so he’s welcomed when they see him.
S: The tour is presented in quite a light hearted way – do you think this the best way at looking at a subject which is ultimately about death?
P: I think that people respond very well to humour in any circumstance and people definitely react to that element of the tour. A lot of these stories involve odd and strange things that if you look at in the cold light of day they do seem a bit funny and you can make them either humourous or frightening as you wish and we try and do both during the show.
S: Why do you think people enjoy being scared? Do you think it’s a strange human eccentricity?
P: People just seem to really enjoy a good scare! I think in some cases it’s cathartic. People are so pleased that all these horrible things aren’t happening to them that they enjoy watching or hearing them happen to other people and it makes your personal life feel much safer as soon as you’re out of the scary situation. Obviously it’s a physical change that happens in your body when you get scared and you do get a rush and people respond to that. People love to be scared and then get back to their normal life again.
S: Do you think London with its dark history has more ghosts than other cities?
P: It does seem to. London has had a huge history and so many different things have happened here. It became such a massive city so early that it’s had an awful lot of bloodshed and horror, especially because this has been where Parliament and Monarchy has been, so any turmoil and unrest has stemmed from here and ended up here as well. Major figures have been sentenced to death or executed – all these things were done in London so that the most amount of people could come and see them.
S: Do you have any other plans for the tour?
P: The tours will be expanding. We’re hopefully going to do some walking tours as well and maybe a different route and we are working on a brand new show using the same company but it will be a show we run in the day time.
S: Do you like watching Most Haunted or do you think it’s nonsense?
P: I’ve never watched it really.
S: It’s basically a lot of people walking around in the dark, then a noise happens and everyone swears.
P: I’ve seen more spoofs of it than the actual thing. They went to the dungeon once when I was working there. So I did watch a bit of that but it was complete nonsense. I think their show is more theatrical than ours is.
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