Expand Your UK IQ Sweeney Todd: Cutting tale of a brutal barber
October 24, 2007
While he may not enjoy the worldwide infamy of Jack the Ripper or other homicidal Brits, the man or myth known as Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber, has been sending chills up the English spine for nearly two centuries.
His exact place in history has never been concretely proven, but Todd’s crimes go something like this: Operating a barbershop on Fleet Street in London, Todd would slit the throats of his customers with his barber’s razor, according to the BBC Web site.
To make things ghastlier, it was rumored that Todd’s wife would go on to make the hapless victims into meat pies.
Tales of Todd’s macabre escapades first surfaced in 19th-century pulp novels known as “penny dreadfuls.”
But newspapers of the mid-19th century were also known to regularly report real-life horror stories that mirrored Todd’s alleged exploits.
In recent years, new research apparently showed that a man named Sweeney Todd actually existed, but historical indications point to the real-life bloke being a mere killer-for-hire, according to the BBC.
But regardless of the historical accuracy, such grim tales of an older life still serve a purpose, especially around Halloween.
“Sweeney Todd will never die,” Anna Pavord of the London Observer wrote in 1979, according to the BBC. “We all need bogeymen and he was bogier than most.”
The myth of Sweeney Todd was turned into a Stephen Sondheim musical, which premiered on Broadway in 1979. A film adaptation of the musical directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as Todd is scheduled to hit American theaters in December and open in the U.K. the following month.
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