Pee at your peril at Amsterdam Dungeon
Having spent a good portion of my younger years frequenting some truly disreputable bars and clubs in the north of England, I certainly know a thing or two about scary toilets. In fact, a pub that I used to visit regularly was famous for having a toilet that literally no one would use, so terrifying was the thought of what you might find inside. But after a visit to Amsterdam Dungeon, I can safely say that the scariest bathroom I have ever been to is actually in the basement of the Dungeon’s grisly headquarters on the Rokin.
Blood-stained walls, blood-filled sinks, blood-curdling screams echoing around the cubicle as you make yourself comfortable – a visit to the lavatory has never been so stomach-turning. And that’s coming from someone who regularly overdoses on spicy food.
Photo: another victim submits to torture at the Dungeon
Now the toilets aren’t actually the reason I have come to Amsterdam Dungeon, but they’re a good indicator of what to expect for those brave enough to undertake its journey through 500 years of some of the most gruesome and horrific episodes in Dutch history. Featuring brilliant actors playing their grisly roles to perfection, an array of terrifying scenery and props, regular laugh-out-loud moments and enough jump scares to make even the toilets seem more than welcoming, the Dungeon is guaranteed to please both horror lovers and those looking for a fun and entertaining afternoon watching strangers jump out of their skins.
A trip through the Forest of the Dead
The actual reason for my visit is to try out the Dungeon’s new Forest of the Dead experience, a trip to Amsterdam’s historic gallows fields, where murderers and thieves were executed before their bodies were put on display as a warning to others. When we first arrive at the fields, one of our group disappears, and then we’re ordered to march through some ‘tunnels’ – where all sorts of creatures and horrors reside (no spoilers, promise) – until eventually we reach the forest. When we finally make it, we discover the lost member of our group, hung in a rusty cage while ravenous, beady-eyed crows circle above.
I won’t ruin the surprise of whether the unfortunate captive escapes or not, but I can tell you that the Forest of the Dead is a worthy addition to the Dungeon’s myriad (dis)pleasures. Taking around an hour and a half, the experience sees our group – the victims, say – take lessons in torture techniques from an enthusiastic abuser (can you guess which body part the ‘Chappy Chopper’ removes?), get sold by a soul merchant into life as a slave aboard an 18th-century VOC ship, be tried for a variety of crimes by a hilarious Spanish Inquisition judge, and endure a truly haunting experience at a tannery on Amsterdam’s Zeedijk.
Horror and hilarity in equal measure
There really is plenty for everyone to enjoy during the Dungeon’s trek through the Netherlands’ horrible history. For those looking to be really scared there’s moments of true terror, from a ‘ghost’ running at you through the dark to being plagued by ‘rats’ while crawling through tunnels. And for those looking for laughs there’s plenty of those too, mostly coming at the expense of one of the group you’re with: one ‘witch’ who was with us was forced to dance for her life in front of everybody else, while another poor soul was put on trial for ‘crimes against fashion’. History buffs, too, will take pleasure in seeing some famous faces and past ages being brought spectacularly to life.
Photo: Alex tries out some self-decapitation at Amsterdam Dungeon
But by far Amsterdam Dungeon’s biggest strength is its brilliant actors, who crack jokes and bones with equal glee, and inhabit the characters they play – from the scabby witch hunter to the gurning mortician’s assistant – so well you soon forget it’s all an act. With its weird and wonderful cast, sets and stages that look like they’re torn straight from the pages of a horror novel, and enough laughs, screams and scares to linger long in the memory, Amsterdam Dungeon is a brilliant way to step back in time and explore the seedier side of the country’s history. My only advice: pee before you go, or hold it in as best you can.
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