REVIEW: Cambridge Ghost Tours

Or, Tab guide to fending off the bubonic plague

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You don’t realise how many creepy graveyards Cambridge has until you are dragged through them by people in fancy dress in pitch darkness.

Cambridge Ghost Tours offers a variety of themed events around Cambridge, exploring the darker history of the city. When we were invited to try out the currently sold-out ‘Plague and Pox’ tour, we were slightly apprehensive. A tour of Cambridge seemed like an unusual event to attend in comparison with all the other Halloween themed club-nights happening all over the town.

Lasting two hours, the walking tour covered most of the town, starting at the Mill Pond, where we were told witches in Cambridge were drowned, although this is yet to be fact-checked. The tour then visited landmarks in the centre of town, moving past Market Square and Trinity Street, all the way through to Jesus Green where it ended.

Creepy portraits are clearly a regular experience across Cambridge

Rather than a busy day-tour of Cambridge, surrounded by tourists, we were guided by two ‘residents of the 17th Century’ – including Cambridge related Samuel Peyps – making for a more intimate chilled tour.

The tour began after dark, at Cambridge Book and Print gallery. Here, we were greeted by creepy figures in masks who eerily gestured at us rather without any speaking, who then gave us each a goodie-bag full of Halloween treats and souvenirs. This was accompanied by a glass of mulled-wine which was welcomed on what was an otherwise chilly-October night.

Mulled wine is always a win

After this solid introduction, we found out we’d each ‘contracted’ diseases – scrofula (Rory) and black boils (Hannah), transporting us back to the 17th Century, and allowing each member of the audience to be fully immersed, and part of the tour. Indeed, the interactive nature of the tour was one of its greatest strengths, with the actors frequently welcoming contributions from the thirty-strong crowd.

Hannah hasn’t been the same since her diagnosis of the plague

It was admirable that the actors stayed in character the entire time, while keeping the audience on their toes, having joked that we were at Oxford’s Balliol College, which seemed to go down very well with the crowd. They were also unafraid to improvise, joking about a man who we’d seen on the River nearly falling out of his punt.

Referring to modern day things in historical terms and creepily gossiping, whilst wandering through several of the graveyards in Cambridge in the pitch black definitely added a scary touch.

Top marks for the actors

With the running time of two hours, the tour did feel overly-long towards the end. As it was a tour, there wasn’t particularly a plot to follow, with the actors simply relaying stories of who had died at each location. It was therefore a bit difficult to keep interest when walking between locations, and in the cold of late-October, a shorter tour may have kept interest better.

Similarly the target audience of the tour seemed to be slightly older, since we were the only students present. Largely it was an event that appealed to Cambridge residents looking to do something in the spirit of Halloween that didn’t involve dressing up and drinking (although a few keen people did dress up for the tour). At £9 for a Cambridge Ghost Tour, it does offer a nice alternative for people who want a less wild, but similarly creepy Halloween experience, or even for Cambridge freshers, may of whom may still be unfamiliar with the city and its history.

For the tour alone, the £9 would seem somewhat expensive, but with the reception of mulled wine, hot chocolate, goodie bags, and enthusiasm from its actors, it was a fun experience.

Overall, if you have no existing plans for Halloween and fancy learning more about the history of the city, it is worthwhile going.

But if you’re looking for ‘jump scares’, fancy dress and alcohol, then this might not be for you. 

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Visit the Cambridge Ghost Tours website for dates and prices of their events, which continue in November.