In the 1900’s, if you were to ask passers-by “Who is Sweeney Todd?”, you would be met with hushed whispers of how the Fleet Street barber terrorised family ancestors, nestled amongst numerous tales of mystery pies and the odd person adamant that they weren’t scared because it was all made up. Such was the mystery of the tale of Sweeney Todd, Demon Barber of Fleet Street – you never quite know what to believe. We investigate just why the Demon Barber is such a believable character and why is he still so popular today, with his very own walking tour of London to boot.
The fictional (or was he?) character of Sweeney Todd first appeared in literature in the 1940s. His tale, set in the East End of London, or Brick Lane more specifically; captured the imaginations and weariness of Londoners and the rest of the world wasn’t far behind. The barber with a grudge against the world preys on victims in his barber’s chairs and polishes them off by having them baked into meat pies.
This is a believable story for numerous reasons. Firstly, rumours of pies being made from cats and horse-meat were flying around London in the early 1900s. Secondly, storytellers such as Dickens added depth to the story by including the character in his books and plays on the popular tale opening with cautions that the story they were about to witness was based on fact. This certainly added weight to the notion that Sweeney Todd was, in fact, a real serial killer.
The believability of the story merely added to its reputation and the story had soon spread to the United States. More and more version abounded, and the rumours pertaining to it being a true story were now as commonplace as bread and butter.
Over the years, the story has been told and re-crafted many times; there have been books, musical plays, films, comics, radio plays and enchanting scores. The story has proven so popular throughout history that it was even inspired our very own Sweeney Todd tour – taking place weekly in the East End of London. Much like Jack the Ripper, this is fast becoming one of the best walking tours in London so don’t miss out; book your place today to discover the darker side of London.