A Gothic Halloween in London, UK! Viktor Wynd cabinet of curiosities, absinthe bar, horror-themed afternoon tea.
Happy Nightmare before Christmas!
I’m not much of an X-mas person…. so in the spirit of Jack Skellington, this post is going to be about how to celebrate Halloween in London, United Kingdom!
Ye ol England was one of the original centers of Goth subculture, and remains one of the best cities for Gothic, bizarre and underground festivities. I spent Halloween 2017 with my friends in London, and it turned out to be one of the best All Hallows Eves yet.
Our dark bacchanal included the Black Devil Disco Club with the Satanic Temple (above), seeing The Exorcist stage play, enjoying monster-movie themed afternoon tea, and drinking absinthe at a cabinet of oddities. Keep reading for details of these London Halloween bars, events and parties!
But first, a peek at my Nightmare Before Xmas outfit. You won’t catch me wearing red and green this season. Instead, I like to layer faux fur during the winter, and break out my Sorel knee-high boots. (Click below to see where I got these items.)
Tis the season… for unique stockings and socks! My go-to source is always UK Tights — they ship worldwide, and have the largest online selection of legwear, including fishnets, patterned and luxury hosiery.
Since it’s now too cold to go barelegged, I’ve been reaching for above-the-knee or thigh-high socks. I love the alternative look of these Girardi Meredith hold-ups, especially when paired with a short black skirt and sweater. The faux leather cuff at the top stays securely, and is decorated with an adorable bow.
You can find these socks and other fashion legwear from my friends UK Tights. I’ll be wearing these and more all winter.
– Here’s a different spin on this look. I’m accessorizing with a holographic Cyberdog backpack, and Moat House wood sunglasses.
– My faux fur jacket is from Pretty Attitude, similar to this furry and this ombre jacket.
– I’m wearing these exact Sorel boots (the After Hours no tongue lace-up boots in redwood leather). For more info, click below.
Now, let’s descend into the London Underworld. When you see Baphomet and a pentagram… you know you’ve entered the den of the British Satanists!
This pre-Halloween event was organized by The Satanic Temple London & UK. It was the first edition of their “Black Devil Disco Club,” which brings together two of my favorite things (the devil and disco).
Established in 2016, The Satanic Temple’s mission is to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, to reject tyrannical authority, and to advocate practical common sense and justice.”
The members are atheist, and advocate for fact-based science, and marginalized communities. Everyone I met at the event was kind and inclusive.
At the Black Devil Disco night, the DJs played tracks by Patrick Cowley, Giorgio Moroder and other Italo Disco heroes. Between boogieing, you could get a tarot reading or “leave something witchy” in the candlelit back room.
The Satanic Temple of London and UK hosts gatherings like this year-round. Check out their chapters’s Facebook page to see what’s coming up next.
I wanted to do some “only in London” excursions, such as seeing a play in the West End. I’m not a fan of cheesy musicals, so I didn’t come across anything appealing… until I learned The Exorcist was opening at the Phoenix Theatre!
I reunited with my friend Vanessa, and we went to one of the first showings of The Exorcist. I was keen to see how they’d adapt William Peter Blatty’s horror novel and 1970s movie, for a live stage production.
We weren’t allowed to shoot photos during the performance, so I’m doing my best impression of Regan, the little girl possessed by a demon (voiced by Sir Ian McKellen.) The cast nailed their parts, especially during the battle against the evil spirit Pazuzu.
The Exorcist’s lighting and set were outstanding, especially the spooky candlelight confessions and blood writings on the wall. There were jump-scares, and fantastic effects — let’s just say, they’re literally hair-raising and head-turning.
If you’re in London and a horror fan, The Exorcist is the play for you. Tickets and info here — this is a limited run show, which ends on March 10, 2018.
What else is a rather British activity? Afternoon tea.
There are many London venues for tea and finger sandwiches. However, when I read that Royal Lancaster Hotel was offering a Halloween afternoon tea, I knew I’d found my place. (Address: Lancaster Terrace, London W2 2TY, UK)
I entered the recently-renovated modern hotel, and was delighted to see that the tearoom was decorated in the theme of 1960s horror movies! Royal Lancaster nailed the classy details: everything is in black and white, with celluloid-printed menus and a clapboard that read 666.
Out came a black-and-white themed tray, with a fog of dry ice! Royal Lancaster’s ArTea set included a mix of creatively-designed, delicious savories and sweets.
My favorites included the cucumber and pumpernickel sandwiches, sushi with black caviar, a scotch egg with black crust, and popcorn in a coffin (a nod to the film theme). The macaroons and checkered cake went perfectly with our pots of tea: we ordered a selection, including classic Earl Grey, and a ginger medley.
Royal Lancaster chose a 1960s classic horror theme since this year is the hotel’s 50th birthday. The tearoom set the mood with black-and-white footage from Hitchcock’s Psycho.
I loved the imaginative, classy take on the theme (this doesn’t feel like a kid’s kitschy Halloween experience). All around the room, there were carnivorous plants in homage to Audrey, the Venus fly trap from Little Shop of Horrors.
We ended our monochrome meal with freshly-backed black scones, with clotted cream, marmalade, and cake pops. Royal Lancaster ArTea offers seasonal afternoon teas year-round, but their Halloween one is especially a treat.
Also open year-round is the mysterious Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities. The glowing exterior looks like something out of a Victorian fantasy novel — and that just about sums up the experience of visiting Viktor’s lair. Push open these doors, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by bizarre, macabre and kitschy oddities from around the world.
(Viktor Wynd / Last Tuesday Society address: 11 Mare St, London E8 4RP)
Viktor leads tours that are a mix of story-telling and performance art. The space is a throwback to Wunderkabinetts of past centuries: mesmerizing collections of taxidermy, natural phenomena, tribal art, and other esoteric wonders.
In addition, the museum is home to East London’s Most Curious Cocktail Bar. A giant lobster overlooks the bar, stocked with tinctures for pre-Prohibition drinks.
My friends Zoetica Ebb and Trevor cuddled up with the top-hatted lion, and we enjoyed absinthe with a sugar cube and water drip. Behind them, you can see spellbinding works from the temporary “Of Shadows” exhibition on loan from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. (Next time, I’ll share our photoshoot in Highgate Cemetery.)
The charismatic Viktor leads his guests down a winding spiral staircase, and into a basement filled with thousands of strange objects. He begins at a glass case dedicated to dandies such as Quentin Crisp and Stephen Tennant. He especially admires Sebastian Horsley, and keeps his Saville Row suit and nails from his crucifixion down here.
The theme of decadence, excess and self-creation carries through all the cabinets of wonders. Viktor Wynd’s collection includes shrunken heads (he spoke of spending time with the tribes of New Guinea and Congo), Happy Meal toys, rare and perverse books, mermaid skeletons…
You can interact with many of the objects, and ask Viktor about their origins. True to the mad dandy personality, he’ll probably answer with a cryptic tale that has you thirsting for more.
For a dark dining experience, you can rent out the room on the right for a private meal. Guests sit on crimson banquettes, under a preserved sea monster, and feast on a sarcophagus table with a skeleton inside!
On the left, Viktor sits at a table that was once used for secret occult rituals. The Gnostic Temple of Agape was discovered beneath an old building, and brought here for preservation.
He writes in his guidebook (which everyone on the tour receives for free): “For hundreds, if not thousands, of years, The Temple, under the guardianship of the initiates, has been used as a place to celebrate the divine gift of love, to create spells, practice alchemy and summon angels and spirits from the other world.” The book of magic sits outside, beckoning you to decipher its spells.
Let your imagination soar at Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities and The Last Tuesday Society. Check out their site for special events, and I encourage you to come for a glass of absinthe and tour with Viktor for a delightfully bizarre experience.
London turned out to be one hell of a destination for Halloween! There was plenty of spooky decor, food and attractions all around the city (I didn’t get to check out the London Dungeon or Jack the Ripper walking tour, but both were also recommended by local friends).
I leave you with some snaps from Chelsea. Skeleton and skull cookies from Gail’s Bakery, and a staring statue of Lucifer.
And how fabulous is this Ouija board box of chocolate, from Artisan du Chocolat? They also had pumpkin-shaped and flavored chocolates.
I still have another Gothic post from London to come, about Highgate Cemetery. And if you’re looking for Goth and alternative shopping, check out my Camden Market and Shoreditch guide.
Did you know that London had these dark attractions? If I missed out on anything, let me know in the comments and I’m sure I will be back in Britain soon.