Simon Osborne was born in 1970 in Cornwall, UK, and started acting professionally in British TV at the age of 10. At the age of 17, he played Prime Minister Pitt the Younger in BBC TVs Blackadder 3. He appeared in many productions before and after but is best known for Blackadder. Later, he studied history and has spent a few years working in heritage in Wales, UK.
NTK: Welcome to back to Chilling Chat, Simon! Thank you for joining us today.
SO: Thank you.
NTK: You recently participated in the Ghost Bus Tour. Could you tell us what that is?
SO: Yes, it is in a few cities, but it was the London one my wife and I recently took a tour on. It is an old Routemaster London bus, but instead of the usual Red, it’s painted Black. These Routemasters all date from the 1950s and 1960s, but they were still in use when I lived in London in the 90s. Some still run in the centre of London. This one has tables and lamps. The destinations displayed on the front are changed to make them sound more frightening such as ‘Drowning Street’ instead of ‘Downing Street’. The guides are actors and give you a tour of Central London while telling you some of the ghost stories that are related to each historic place you pass. There are some electronic special effects, and the whole thing is very entertaining, but also informative. Johnny Depp once went on the London Ghost Bus and recommended it!
NTK: What was the name of the bus you boarded?
SO: The London Necrobus which, according to the London Ghost Bus Company, was used to carry corpses across London at night until the 60s.
NTK: Why? Was it transporting them to morgues or cemeteries?
SO: Yes, ready for burial, but I think that maybe just a story the company give to set the scene. Corpses were actually moved around London by train.
NTK: Wow! That is so creepy! Did you have to buy tickets to ride the bus? How do you join the tour?
SO: You should book in advance, the bus wasn’t full when we were on it, but at busier times it is full. You can book directly with the London Ghostbus Company or many of the online ticket sellers.
NTK: What was your experience like? Was it scary? Funny?
SO: It was more funny than scary. I knew most of the history the guide was telling people, but I did learn a few things too. One of the stops was at a hidden graveyard near London Bridge. I didn’t know about this before we went there. It’s called Crossbones Graveyard, and it was used from Medieval times up to the 18th Century. They buried people who weren’t considered good enough for ordinary graveyards, such as ‘Ladies of the Night,’ there. When it stopped being used it was soon lost, but in the 1990s when an extension of the London Underground was being dug, they suddenly came across bodies! Archaeologists from the Museum of London were called in. They discovered that this was the lost graveyard that they knew was near London Bridge but had been lost for about 200 years! They found about 150 bodies, but they think that is only about 10 per cent of them. It is now closed off by high railings, but you can look in through the gates.
There are also stories of ghosts, Jack the Ripper, and executions.
NTK: Wow! Who was the tour guide? Was he the conductor of the bus?
SO: Yes, just him and a driver. He was very funny, and the special effects added to what was going on. It’s definitely more fun than scary, but you are learning real history, stories that are believed to be real ghost stories, and the lost graveyard was very real!
NTK: Could you give us an example of one of the ghost stories?
SO: There was one very funny one, which is supposed to be true. We stopped in a quiet but wide street near the Bank of England. Here, there had been reports from different people over many years of a ghost called Fanny who makes a scratching sound in the night. It all happened in just one building in a narrow street just off the wide street called Cock Lane. Obviously, you can’t help but laugh when you realise that the story is known as Scratching Fanny of Cock Lane. It most likely didn’t sound as funny when this ghost was first reported a couple of hundred years ago.
NTK: (Laughs.) That is funny! You mentioned special effects before. What kind of special effects were used on the bus?
SO: We sat upstairs, and the guide gives his guided tour from the stairs. So, everyone can see him, there are cameras around the bus and a screen at the front. The speaker system is occasionally ‘taken over by spirits’ and you hear them speaking rather than the guide. You are also asked to carry out rituals to send them away. I don’t want to give too much away as you don’t want to know too much if you get a chance to go on one of these tours.
NTK: How long was the tour?
SO: A little over an hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes. It leaves from Northumberland Avenue, just off Trafalgar Square. When the tour finished, we recovered by having a drink in The Sherlock Holmes Pub, nearby.
NTK: What was it like to drink in the Sherlock Holmes pub? Is there a lot of memorabilia in there?
SO: Yes, it’s full of Holmes memorabilia! I had walked past it many times when I lived in London, but this was my first time inside. I even had a pint of Sherlock Ale.
NTK: That’s great! So, aside from riding the Ghost Bus, what have you been up to lately, Simon? Any future plans Horror Addicts should know about?
SO: Still waiting for the Shadow Chasers series to be aired. As you know, I filmed an episode of that in Cardiff about four years ago, but it has been delayed by the Pandemic. I am about to start a business giving talks in historical locations. This will be mostly me dressed as a Victorian or Edwardian (which is how I dress anyway) and telling the history of the places and such things as the history of Gentleman’s fashions of the times.
NTK: Awesome!! Thank you for chatting with me about this, Simon!
SO: Thank you.