From the second half of the 19th century until well around the 1950s, England and especially London were associated with foggy, damp environments where nobody could see anything in the mist other than shadowy figures. This Ominous Fog and Mysterious Mist made it an ideal setting for detectives solving murder mysteries in near darkness.
It was Truth in Television for many decades, especially in London, situated as it is in a river valley near where it turns into an estuary. That plus the typical wet British Weather makes for ideal fog conditions. But the traditional impenetrable London fog is not just fog, but actually smog — fog combined with smoke, which was especially common in London around that time from all of the coal fires. Unlike ordinary fog, which can shift in and out quickly and isn't too bad for visibilitynote (as an Englishwoman in San Francisco once commented), old London smog smelled awful and had a nasty green tinge, hence the common nickname "pea soup" fog. And it was a lot thicker than regular fog, too; you were lucky if you could see 10 feet in front of you.
The smog was a staple of Victorian London, when the city industrialized and both homes and businesses started burning coal for heat, but it got dramatically worse after World War II, when Britain began exporting its high-quality coal in far greater quantities to pay for its war debt, leaving the locals with poor quality sulphurous coal that made the problem worse. It culminated in the 1952 "Great Smog" of London, a smog so bad that 4,000 people died as a result, some because of accidents thanks to near-zero visibility, but many just from inhaling the toxic air and getting sick. Only then did the British government act to actually reduce the pollutants, starting with the Clean Air Act 1956. The last bad "pea soup" fog came in 1957, making this a Dead Horse Trope.
Because modern London doesn't see this level of smog anymore, the trope is usually used to set the stage of Victorian London or The Edwardian Era, especially stories about crime (no Jack the Ripper story is complete without a foggy crime scene). You can also expect works that date from around that time to describe a foggy London as well, such as the Sherlock Holmes books.
- Mobile Fighter G Gundam has an episode set in London, which just happens to fog up during former three-time Gundam Fight champion Gentle Chapman's fights. The fog is actually manufactured to conceal the fact that his wife is sending out dummy mobile suits to help him win, in violation of Article 5 of the Gundam Fight International Regulations that stipulates all Gundam Fight matches to be one-on-one.
- Miyuki from Nurse Angel Ririka SOS thinks that London is like this in her imagine spots.
- Pokémon: The Series:
- One Alola episode features a detective Show Within a Show seemingly set in the Galar region, complete with smog.
- Taken to a ridiculous degree in Pokémon Journeys. You know an episode is set in Galar all because the weather is foggy. Everywhere.
- Transformers: ★Headmasters depicts London as a wooded forestland where the locals ride around on horseback. Just to make this even worse, the series is meant to take place in 2011.
- Transformers: Super-God Masterforce has a commercial airline flight coming in to land at a London airport, with the pilots commenting about how thick the fog gets.
- Asterix: In Asterix in Britain, Asterix travels to Great Britain, where they are suddenly (as in, in between saying "the fog falls" and "fast") caught up in fog and can't see anybody or anything. Anticlimax says it is a natural phenomenon in his country.
- Blacksad: Blacksad is attacked by a knife-wielding man on a foggy evening, and dryly notes he had the Jack the Ripper impersonation down pat, down to the disappearing in the fog.
- Blake and Mortimer: Prevalent in The Yellow "M", where Blake and Mortimer walk in the London streets at night and are trying to catch a mysterious criminal.
- Nero: In Het Vredesoffensief van Nero (1951) (The Peace Initiative of Nero) Nero, Petoetje and Madam Pheip walk around in London where the fog makes it impossible to see where they are going or to whom they are talking.
- Spider-Man: Knight and Fogg were two British super-powered contract killers who appeared in The Spectacular Spider-Man #165-167 back in 1990. The latter saw himself as the personification of the London fog and could transform his body into a gaseous form that obscured his opponents' sight; his favorite method of attack was to strangle his targets from afar with his partially solidified hands.
- Zombies Christmas Carol: Fog is present throughout London, representing both the plague and encroaching death.
- Played for laughs in Nick Knatterton's London adventure "Ein Kopf fällt in die Themse" ("A head falls into the Thames"), where Nick's investigations are intermittently hampered by the fog. In one scene, he visits a suspect at her home, and when the conversation is finished he leaves. Opening the front door he asks in puzzlement: "Why is there a curtain in front of the door?" — "That's not a curtain, that's the fog."
- Asterix in Britain (the Animated Adaptation of the comic book) has Asterix ask Anticlimax if it is always foggy in Britain, to which he responds "Oh my goodness no, owe only have fog when it isn't raining". Cue the rain.
- Spoofed in a Credits Gag at the end of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. A World-Healing Wave is shown undoing the damage caused by the FLDSMDFR and returning various ruined cities back to their original state. Finally, we see London looking dreary, gray and permeated with fog. The magic wave then passes through, leaving the city still looking dreary, gray and permeated with fog.
- Generally, animated films from Disney taking place in London avert this, but The Great Mouse Detective plays this straight, what with taking place in the Victorian era and featuring rodent versions of Sherlock Holmes-esque detectives.
- Lon Chaney vehicle The Blackbird has perpetually fog-bound streets, which help set the atmosphere for London's notoriously sleazy Red Light District of Limehouse.
- In The Cannonball Run, Seymour Goldfarb (Roger Moore) says this when his car starts filling up with smoke after using the smoke screen and oil slick to get the pursuing police cars off his tail.
- The Case Of The Mukkinese Battle Horn opens with the screen filled with impenetrable London fog. But the narrator cheerfully points out that even in the thickest of fogs, there are some landmarks you just can't miss. Like Nelson's column, for example. *sound of car crashing* "You see? There's someone not missing it now!"
- Escape Me Never: All the scenes set in London are shown to be foggy and damp. This is plot-relevant as, when her little son Piccolo gets sick, Gemma blames it on the crappy London weather.
- Gaslight uses this as Ominous Fog to establish mood, like when Paula is being led away from the house after her aunt has been murdered, or later, when her evil husband Gregory is skulking through the streets and alleyways.
- In The Ghoul, Laing travels to London and attacks Betty on the street on a foggy night so he can steal her bag and plant a note in it.
- Most of the night scenes in Jack the Ripper (1976) are accompanied by a thick fog. One especially memorable scene has the Ripper pursuing his victim through a fogbound park.
- The Lodger, Alfred Hitchcock's first film, is subtitled A Story of the London Fog. A Serial Killer is stalking the foggy streets of London, and the new lodger at Mrs. Bounting's rooming house might be him.
- Mentioned in Love at First Bite, when Dracula reminisces about how he'd lost Mina Harker in the fog, thus explaining why he didn't wind up with her after his run-in with Van Helsing.
- Pandora's Box ends with Lulu meeting Jack the Ripper on the Ominous Fog-bound streets of London.
- Most movie adaptations of Sherlock Holmes have used foggy London as their setting.
- When Nellie Bly arrived in London on the round-the-world trip that she wrote about in Around the World in Seventy-Two Days, "a gray, misty fog hung like a ghostly pall over the city."
- Bleak House. When Esther arrives in London she ask a passer by what this dense brown smoke might be and thinks it is a great fire.
'O, dear no, miss,' he said. 'This is a London particular.' I had never heard of such a thing. 'A fog, miss,' said the young gentleman.
- It is mentioned all throughout A Christmas Carol.
- Near the start of the story, for instance:
Once upon a time—of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve—old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal: and he could hear the people in the court outside, go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement stones to warm them. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already—it had not been light all day—and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms. To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that Nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.
- Later when Scrooge returns to his home at night, where he will be visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley:
The yard was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew its every stone, was fain to grope with his hands. The fog and frost so hung about the black old gateway of the house, that it seemed as if the Genius of the Weather sat in mournful meditation on the threshold.
- And near the end, during the famous moment when Scrooge awakens and feels like a new man and opens the window:
Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious! Glorious!
- Near the start of the story, for instance:
- The Great Stink in The Difference Engine due to the profusion of Steampunk industry. Thanks to the politics of the time it gets blamed on Luddite sabotage instead.
- Ankh-Morpork, Discworld's Fantasy Counterpart Culture to London, is known for its "gumbo fog", which is like a pea-souper only thicker, fishier, and with things in it that you'd probably rather not know about.
- Lampshaded by one of the detectives in Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon, when they're sent to investigate a murder during a foggy Baltimore morning, "just like Sherlock Holmes".
- A Little Princess: "..the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted"
- In Mr Warrens Profession, Aubrey Warren almost crashes headfirst into an oncoming omnibus due to a combination of high emotion and thick fog.
- Despite its association with Sherlock Holmes the London fog is only mentioned in a handful of novels, but Ominous Fog of the rest-of-Britain variety nearly ruins Holmes' gambit in The Hound of the Baskervilles and leads to Stapleton drowning in the moor, and is discussed shortly beforehand.
Holmes: [...] and then, Lestrade, we will take the London fog out of your throat by giving you breath of the pure night air of Dartmoor. Never been there? Ah, well, I don't suppose you will forget your first visit.
- In Sorcerer Conjurer Wizard Witch, Edwin visits Shadow London, an otherworld where all the legendary places and characters of London's history live on. It is, naturally, shrouded in fog. Edwin notes the difference between the fog of Shadow London, "thick mist, odourless but damp, arranged in artful drapes", and the real London's fog, which is "yellow-green and foul".
- Terror Is My Trade: In this 1958 crime novel, protagonist Chester Trask gets out of a car in London and complains of the fog, "some fog" which he can feel stinging his eyes and taste in the back of his throat. This also serves as Ominous Fog as Trask is headed to a confrontation with gangsters that turns violent.
- In Ture Sventon I London the London fog is so thick that the detective Ture Sventon have to attach a thread with a safety pin to one of the crooks to tail him.
- In the Are You Being Served? episode "The Bliss Girl," the fog has entered the building, and into the elevator.
- Arrow. In the episode "Haunted", Oliver Queen rings up John Constantine for help, and establishing his Englishness somehow requires Constantine to be standing on a foggy street with antique-looking street lamps. Perhaps he started time travelling earlier than we thought?
- In one series of episodes of Batman ("The Londinium Larcenies"/"The Foggiest Notion"/"The Bloody Tower"), Batman and Robin travel to Londinium (the Bat-universe's analog to London; actually the Roman name for London) to battle Lord Marmaduke Ffogg and Lady Penelope Peasoup. Not only is Londinium depicted as very foggy much of the time, but Ffogg's weapons are also all fog-based.
- The smog is a plot point in a few episodes of Call the Midwife, particularly the pilot; set during the smog of 1957 (one of the last, and the worst one since the 1952 Great Smog), Nurse Jenny Lee's first patient trips over one of her children's toy fire engines while trying to hang the washing in the garden amidst the pea soup. A concussion and premature delivery result.
- The Crown (2016): The Series 1 episode "Act of God" depicts the Great Smog of 1952, which happened only a few months into Elizabeth's reign. Winston Churchill (Prime Minister at the time) initially dismissed it as "just fog" and presented a very limited policy response, to the consternation of the Palace and most everyone else. Churchill was later moved by the sight of one of the Downing Street secretarial pool killed by a lorry that couldn't see her in the pea soup.
- Get Smart:
- London is depicted with fog so thick in the "That Old Gang of Mine" episode that Max and 99 can barely see where they are going, so they ask directions of several people who come walking along. The punchline comes when Max reveals they've been standing in their hotel room the whole time.
- Again in "House of Max, Part I". Max and 99 are sent to London to investigate a series of murders by Jack the Ripper actually a wax dummy brought to life. At a foggy late night rendezvous, a Scotland Yard inspector tells Max, "The Ripper usually strikes when the city's heavy with fog. Therefore I don't think he'll strike tonight."
- In the short-lived UK crime series Jericho 2005, set in London during The '50s, a PSA at the cinema is warning the public to "breathe through your nose" because of the smog. Later while searching for the murderer of that particular episode, Jericho's car has to be navigated through the smog by a detective standing on the fender, wearing a gas mask and waving a torch.
- At the climax of the final season of Penny Dreadful, London is blanketed with a toxic fog that reportedly kills thousands of people (although the vampires might have had something to do with it as well) as the first stage in a fortunately averted Apocalypse.
- In one Sesame Street News Flash, Kermit has gone to London to report on the London Fog. He is interrupted by the London Frog, a Guardsman carrying the London Log, and the London Hog. Then the fog clears up, so they all dance the London Clog.
- A newspaper article reporting on a plan to install solar panels in London had to spend a few paragraphs debunking this trope, due to the obvious jokes.
- On a particularly foggy day, a British newspaper reportedly ran this headline: "FOG IN CHANNEL - CONTINENT CUT OFF".
- Shadowrun: London sprawl is commonly referred to as "The Smoke". Thanks to the relaxed environmental standards and the massive factory smoke provided by both London and Birmingham, the fog is back with a vengeance.
- In Fallen London, the weather changes every now and then, but it is very often foggy. Which is impressive, because in this universe, London is underneath the earth. On the rare occasions that the fog lifts, "For a moment it seems like London never fell."
- Sunless Sea: London is described as foggy a lot in the lore-text, with many of your encounters in the town ending with the other party disappearing into the fog. Gameplay-wise, though, London is one of the least foggy areas in the game.
- Sunless Skies: Albion (steampunk future space-London) is drenched in smoke, with most of the backgrounds you fly over being extremely smoky and foggy thanks to the pollution from the workworlds.
- The trope is namechecked by the "Foggy London" utility, which displays the internal state of the ZX Spectrum game Sherlock while a game is played.
- Bonneton in Super Mario Odyssey is heavily based on England and has very thick smog all over the place. The local Bonneters even speak in a diction faintly evocative of stereotypical British English.
- In The Princess Thieves, After robbing the Marquis of Cheswick, Robin and Oberon loose the watchmen by disappearing into the thick, London fog.
- Count Duckula: When Duckula goes to London to become a detective, there's so much fog the characters can't see anything more than a meter away.
- Danger Mouse strikes a deal with the Fog Monster of Old London Town in a bid to rescue Penfold from Baron Greenback (episode "The Four Tasks of Danger Mouse").
- An episode of The Impossibles from the 1960s played with this trope. In "The Terrible Twister" it takes place in foggy London. After he is caught, the Twister is employed to help dispel the thick London Fog, which the Lemony Narrator pokes fun at saying that Londoners can finally see each other.
- The Inspector Gadget episode "Gadget's Clean Sweep," where the main characters go back in time to 19th century London to stop M.A.D. from killing Gadget's ancestors of the time (Char and Chimney Gadget, both of whom are chimney sweeps). In many scenes, there is some kind of fog shown throughout London, and we even have characters disappearing and reappearing in the fog.
- Averted in "The Infiltration" and "Unhenged," both of which take place in London.
- In the Let's Go Luna! episode "London Frog", Andy, Carmen, and Leo are all in London, looking for Big Ben, but they aren't able to see it in the fog. Luna helps them find their way through the fog by listening for certain sounds.
- Popeye lampshades this in 1942's "Spinach Fer Britain" as he approaches London.
Popeye: This pea soup is like fog!
- In one episode of Peabody's Improbable History, Peabody and Sherman visit 1880 to assist Scotland Yard in the investigation of the disappearance of the Crown Jewels and the Tower of London with them. Fog is the predominant weather condition, and plot-relevant in that it's the only reason nobody could find the Tower until dawn.
- An episode of Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo named "The Night Ghoul of Wonderworld" had the gang go to a robotic amusement park designed after Victorian London. As a result this trope is there in all its characters-disappearing foggy glory.
- The Simpsons: In "Treehouse of Horror XV" the third segment is a parody of the Jack the Ripper time period, with Bart and Lisa acting as a Sherlock Holmes and Watson ripoff investigating crimes in Victorian London where the fog is looming everywhere.