Spooky Spat: London’s ‘Scare’ Attractions Face Off

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Andy Shaw/Bloomberg News

A fiendish feud has erupted in London: two of the city’s scariest attractions are going head to head.

The spooky specialists, the London Dungeon and the London Bridge Experience, are in the midst of a turf battle. The latter was set up in 2008, an independent newcomer to the scare scene. The former is a veteran spooker, set up in 1974, and part of an international entertainments company (Merlin Entertainments, who own attractions in the U.K., Europe and across the U.S.)

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Ever since the newbie arrived next door, the two neighbors never got along. Amid mysterious tales of tourist-poaching and ghoulish goings-on, some very real threats have been made. Back in 2009 an out-of-court “proximity agreement” was drawn up between the two attractions, stating the boundary lines  to which employees from either company had to adhere to: Neither the London Bridge Experience (winner of the 2010 Screamie award) nor the London Dungeon were allowed to “steal” each other’s thrill-seekers.

For a blissful period after the agreement, the two operations worked side by side, hand in severed hand, if you will. This all ended when, in November 2010, the London Dungeon allegedly sent out letters to ticket agencies stating that it would no longer accept a ‘shared platform’ with its rival – in effect threatening to withdraw cooperation from those who served both companies.

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According to James Kislingbury, General Manager of the London Bridge Experience, his company has never seen itself as a direct competitor to the London Dungeon. “We offer a unique experience,” he says, “which is why visitors from all over the world keep coming.”

“It’s like Orlando in the United States,” he added, “a cluster of tourist attractions in one area,” not so much competitors as mutual attractions.

In response to the letters sent by the London Dungeon, the London Bridge Experience has referred the company to the U.K.’s Office of Fair Trading, for undermining fair competition. “Our promoters have never gone beyond the arrangements set out in the 2009 proximity agreement,” Kislingbury tells TIME, so seemingly this step by the London Dungeon is unprovoked. “We draw our customers from the Internet, cooperating tour agencies and the street. All our promoters sign a contract to adhere to strict guidelines about how and where to attract visitors.”

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“We offer a unique experience — we are a high brow scare attraction,” he continues. “It’s good for people coming to the area to have a choice, just like  choosing between McDonald’s or Burger King.”

Sally Ann Wilkinson, head of corporate affairs for Merlin Entertainments, said in an interview with the Independent, that the group had “no problem with competitive businesses opening up” but that the London Bridge Experience was damaging the Dungeon’s reputation. The Office of Fair Trading is yet to comment but it is to be hoped that they’re not working on this case about the gruesome twosome with their hands over their eyes.