"If you look to your right, you will see Britain's most haunted building," claims The Conductor as we sweep round Tower HIll. A barrage of drunken quips ensues. The Conductor stares out the malcontents, awaits silence, then responds deadpan: "No, Sir, not Pret A Manger." Such was the banter aboard the Ghost Bus Tour, a theatrical journey around the capital's spookiest spots on a 'haunted' black Routemaster.
The Necrobus sets off from Northumberland Avenue and takes in all the places you might guess: Whitehall, Smithfield, the Tower of London, Crossbones... But while the spooks-by-numbers itinerary throws up few surprises, the onboard team do their best to put the willies up. The Ghost Bus Tour is a full-on theatrical production with sinister characters, a dubious back story and a creepy soundtrack.
'The Conductor' gives an entertaining account of London's most haunted as we make our way about town. His efforts are constantly undermined by Mr Hinge, a cranky health and safety inspector with a knack for finding bloody handkerchiefs and violent mood swings.
The mark of a good guide is how well he or she can cope when things don't go to plan. Last night, things did not go to plan. Thanks to the Tube strike, the tour got caught up in long tail-backs of traffic. "There are, ladies and gentlemen, only so many spooks I can tell you about," admitted The Conductor before launching into a stand-up routine that kept the whole bus chuckling. This isn't some dispassionate actor-for-hire, but a genuinely entertaining guy who can deal with frequent heckles and deploy an impressive selection of off-script London trivia.
Sure, it's tacky in places, and nowhere near as scary as catching a night bus through Streatham. But the humour and rapport of the crew make the Ghost Bus so much more than another tourist trap. And how often do you get the opportunity to hold a seance on the top deck of a Routemaster?
The Ghost Bus operates 7pm and 9pm tours on Thur-Sat. It's also available for private hire for weddings, celebrations and, of course, funerals.