29th October 2015: Alton Towers’ Scarefest & Sub Species: Operation Lockdown

Apologies for the lateness, the last week of October was absolutely hectic with regards to haunts, theme parks, and raves, and I pushed myself far too hard and ended up being ill all last week.

NEVER-THE-LESS I’m back and feeling just as good as I did before, so without further ado, here is my evening at Alton Towers!

I decided to combine Scarefest and Sub Species: Operation Lockdown as they both happened on the same night, so sit back: it’s fright time…

So the Thursday/Friday was rather… strange to say the least. I was up at 6am to get into work for 9am, then worked until 4pm when I had to leave to get my train, travelling from London to Alton Towers in Stoke-on-Trent (150 miles), to get to Scarefest, then did the return journey to get to work for 10am on the Friday. Needless to say, I was exhausted (and you’ll find out why further into the blog!)

My story starts as I pull into Stoke on Trent station – I could tell you about the 2 hour journey up, but it was me sat there going “come on train I need to get to Alton Towers!” in my head continuously which got extremely boring after the first 15 minutes.

Scarefest

So! I arrive at Stoke On Trent at 19:15, 15 minutes later than the train schedule. I quickly check in and jump into my private hire taxi, who drives me to Alton Towers. For those that don’t know, Alton Towers is set in the hills of a sleepy little village called Alton. During the day, it’s very olde English in feel, with long narrow roads that twist, turn, dip and climb as if they were a rollercoaster themselves. It’s usually very pretty, but I was travelling at night which increased it’s creepiness before we hit the fog that seemed to surround the Towers, reducing visibility to no more than 7 or 8ft in front of us.

We finally arrive and I jump out. I get to the gates at 20:00 and get told that I don’t wanna go in for an hour, but that’s the best bit of having a Merlin Pass: no guilt 😀

I rush for the box office, hoping to catch the last of the tickets for the extra charge/extreme haunts, but they had run out which was a major bummer. Instead, I took the time to ride Oblivion (the worlds first B&M Dive Machine) in the dark and fog, which really amped up the drop, as you couldn’t see the hole.

I rushed over to my favourite area of the park, Forbidden Valley, through a back path that very few know about. It is extremely dark at some points on this path, and has multiple basic attractions, such as a Pepper’s Ghost room, a crypt, and two gravestones that tell really awful puns (I freaking love this though – I always try and visit this during Scarefest if I can).

So, I eventually get to the Forbidden Valley and find they had set up a zombie/infection scare zone. Everything was lit up red, and they had air raid sirens going off while the infected lurch and run at/after you as you walk by. It was a tiny scare zone, but I watched (and laughed at) loads of people who were targeted by the infected.

I got a quick go on Air and Ripsaw, then tried to get a go on Nemesis but by then the park had closed, which sucked – another year without a go on my favourite coaster 😦

On the way back to the park entrance, I overheard some people talking about the haunts and asked their opinion on them without giving too much away, and this is what they had to say:

The Haunting of Molly Crowe was awful. They tried to get to you by putting hoods that you have to wear the entire time, but otherwise it was just people yelling “boo” at you and not much else.

Sub Species: The End Games was great fun and terrifying – one of the group had to safeword as they felt it was too much. It turns out that they were 30 seconds away from the end of the haunt, so I’m a bit annoyed I missed that (though I was wondering if it would have affected Sub Species: Operation Lockdown)

Terror of the Towers (a maze I did last year which I thought was awful) was pretty creepy. There weren’t too many jumpscares, but they used a mixture of statues and live actors to keep you guessing. They said this and Sub Species: The End Games were the best, and they couldn’t decide which to do.

Sub Species: Operation Lockdown

Now it was time for the main event. I asked at the front gates where abouts the meeting point was, and they said it was at the maze itself: a good half mile walk in almost complete darkness and fog, through a now near-empty theme park, on my own. Let me say right now that this is probably one of the scariest things I’ve done: the fog tinted an eerie green as the air raid sirens from the Forbidden Valley continue to play its haunting melody off in the distance.

I arrive at the meeting point where a few people had already congregated, a mixed bunch of mostly nervous guys and girls, but you could feel that little bit of excitement and fear hanging in the air. Two of the Phalanx came out to meet us and take us to the holding place, where we waited for the rest of the group to arrive, making polite small talk as we tried to calm our nerves as the Towers loomed over us, the looming amplified by the darkness.

Everyone finally arrived, and the doors to the event swung open with a Phalanx operative bursting through. We were made to stand in a single file line before being told that we had to be absolutely silence if we were to survive, and that were the world’s last hope. I scoffed at this and whispered under my breath, having somehow forgot this was an immersive experience, “we’re doomed then” to the guy next to me, but the operative heard me and came storming over, squaring up to me as he screamed in my face. I was made to yell “Yes Sir!” as loud as I could after being put in my place: needless to say, I didn’t rebel after.

We went down into a holding pen where we were had our game explained: we were entering a full body contact escape room. Before entering the event, we were told that if we wanted to survive, we needed to be quiet.

We were led into the Sub Species: The End Games maze (I was glad I didn’t do that at this point) and found ourselves in a briefing room. We started off by playing a basic team building exercise to get us in the mood: without saying a word, we had to put ourselves in alphabetical order by first name. Anyone that was in the wrong place got given a fake name they had to use for the experience: I was called Zach. This wasn’t going very well for me.

We were given white overalls to put on, then the event truly began. We were made to kneel as we were told that when the people of the Forbidden Valley uncovered the Nemesis, most were killed but a handful managed to make it into the sewers, living off rats and anything else they could find, sometimes escaping into the overground to scavenge for rabbits and the like.

This worked for a while, until they found unhatched eggs in the Forbidden Valley. The offspring hatched, and followed the underdwellers back to their hideout one day, killing off many. The Phalanx were created to combat the Nemesis and its offspring. A team that entered before us managed to plant a bomb that’d wipe out the Nemesis and its offspring, but they had failed to detonate it having been wiped out by the underdwellers; however, the bomb technician’s lifesigns were still being registered, so we had a chance to complete the mission!

We started the first game with a puzzle on wooden blocks. We had to find 12 pieces that, when assembled, read the message “use ‘unlock’ to unlock” on one side, and “o = 15” on the other – this would open the door to the sewer system. I quickly guessed that we had to use the patch panel we found the first puzzle piece in to spell out the word “unlock” by connecting the patches using wires. Only after that did I see that they meant the letter “o” and not a zero!

Someone did the patching as the rest of us hunted for wires, and before we knew it, the door was open. The lights went off and came back on and two underdwellers stormed into the room, disarming one of the Phalanx before threatening to kill us. They said they didn’t need help and that we were now all trapped in their twisted little game and sewer system. They quickly left, returning to the sewer.

The lights went off and came back on again, and there was an infected underdweller. She bit one of the Phalanx operatives who instantly began to deteriorate. We were told that there was an experimental cure hidden deep within the sewers that we could get to cure him, but the commander wasn’t happy with it, threatening to kill him on the spot. Everyone in the group agreed that we should at least try to cure him, so the commander let him live.

We were split into three groups two groups of 8 and one group of 7, and we all had different missions: one team had to find the cure for the infected operative, the second had to locate the bomb, and the third (us) had to find and save the bomb technician. Three people had different roles: we had a leader, a navigator and a torchbearer (me).

We managed to find the technician quickly and quickly worked out what we needed to do: there was a door that we needed to get through, but it was locked with a combination lock. Using laminates with crosses on we found, we had to enter the labyrinth and locate four different boxes with buttons that all needed to be pressed in order for a code to be generated, meaning we had to leave four people behind briefly.

It took quite a fair bit of time to find where each of the buttons were, spending half an hour trying to solve this one puzzle. We got the numbers and made our way back to the door, only to find that one of the team forgot their numbers as an offspring attacked and killed an underdweller in front of her, so we had to systematically try and hack that number.

We managed to make it into the room and we instantly began looking round for clues, which were hidden literally everywhere. A group of people found a fuse box and managed to get that to work which completed a mission for the bomb locator team, but we got interrupted by the two underdwellers again, who decided to play a game with us: they started banging and kicking everything they could to attract the offspring of the Nemesis, who came running into the room and threw her to the ground. The operative in our group asked what we should do, and everyone agreed that we should save the underdweller by banging on the walls and doors to get him out the room. She ran off quickly after.

We went back to looking for clues, and I managed to get a few started – one of them involved pipes (there were a lot lying around, so that had to be something) and one (below) was written on the inside of a locker door.

Achilles heel = DIAW x MIAY = ?

We entered the briefing room and headed for the door where the technician was hidden. We found him strapped by his wrists, neck and ankles to a cross with a note that says “time fries in this room”: the technician would be electrocuted if we didn’t save him.

By this point we had 15 minutes left to get him out, and we were so stressed that we only managed to get one or two of his bindings free. I patted him down to see if there were any clues on him and felt something on his stomach, but my morals decided that there’d be nothing on his actual body as that’d probably be too NSFW, so I ignored it.

The 15 minutes were up and we were dragged out the room, leaving the technician inside to die in what sounded like an awful manner… until his corpse began coughing which made us all chuckle (and kinda killed it a little). We waited for the other teams to return in a defeated silence, and feeling pretty bad for our operative.

While we were waiting, we were made to check each other for signs of infection: as I had the torch, it was up to me to do the checking. I quickly checked our team and we were fine, and as I finished the operative seemed to skulk off, so I called him back over and asked if it was ok if I could check him over, as I wasn’t gunna risk my teams safety for him. Another, rather excitable member of our team agreed and began yelling at him, to which he retorted “my health is on a need to know basis!”, and I instantly responded (to my surprise, I’m never this quick at sharp responses) “yeah, and we need to know!”. He sighed and let me check him over, and I was happy that he was clean.

The other teams returned, having cured the infected operative and having found the bomb – it was only us that had failed, and our operative took great pride in rubbing that in our faces. We were made to kneel again as our operative and the commander went rogue and killed the guy that was cured before abandoning us in the sewer system.

The two underdwellers from earlier returned packing some serious heat after finding out we had been abandoned with the two last operatives. The leader tormented us again, threatening to kill us before the second broke and started screaming at him about how she didn’t want anything to do with his sick and twisted games. He screamed “fine, you’re one of them. Lets hope none of my little friends catch wind of this!” before running off. The lights went out again for longer this time, then a sudden outburst of alarms, bells and air raid sirens pierced the darkness just before we were blinded with flashing red lights. The underdweller still with us said she knew a way out and that we should follow her, which we did.

We were taken back into the labyrinth, the red lights and alarms ringing loudly in our ears as we all ended up getting lost in the labyrinth for a good 15 minutes or so. The group was split up as one of the Nemesis offspring came storming down a corridor we needed to go down, so I closed the sliding door and turned to the guy behind me and cheekily said “nope, there’s nothing wrong out there at all” just before the offspring did this fantastically spine tingling scream. I slid the door open a little to see if he was still there, which he was, so I closed it again and just shook my head as if to say “nopenopenopenopenope”. We heard him storm off and around the corner, so took the opportunity.

We found the rest of the group and followed them through the Sub Species: The End Games boo haunt, where we were made to traverse extremely narrow corridors, go through a laboratory scene with a strobe light and high pressure air currents at shin height, before we entered a pitch black section where you had to feel your way through with the infected underdwellers positioned awkwardly (we cheated and used the torch to make our way through).

Finally, we found ourselves in a hospital scene with nothing out of the ordinary except for the bloodstains everywhere.

We soon emerged from the experience breathing heavy sighs of relief and applauding both ourselves and the actors. Once the rest of the group made it out, we were introduced to the actors and were given time to chat with them. We found out that we were incredibly close to saving the technician, and the puzzle up a few paragraphs was actually for the left ankle, and the puzzle was days in a week multiplied by months in a year, and that I almost found the key to a lock – the technician had stitches on his stomach that we had to rip open and pull a key from.

We were split up into our groups again to find out how well we scored. I was noted for working out the first puzzle and giving everyone the tools they needed to complete the riddles, but couldn’t see where they linked in with the game (something I noticed about myself too), but otherwise I was a great backseat leader. I ended up with 125 points, but found out that I had been infected – an infected underdweller had grabbed my calf so I lost 25 points, and came joint 9th with 5 others from previous games.

I asked our operative if we could keep the overalls as a souvenir, to which he laughed and said “yes, you can have this too” as he handed me the shell of a bullet from the gun. We had photos with the aliens (none from me – my phone camera broke during Scare Kingdom), then we were handed back our bags and escorted back to the entrance of the park.

The experience itself, while not scary or extreme by any stretch of the imagination, was absolutely fantastic, and I had an incredible time. If the creators, actors, make up artists, set designers etc are reading this, you did an amazing job at immersing everyone and creating such a memorable experience. Only a few tiny criticisms though: more blood, more scares, more full body contact stuff (kidnaps, being thrown about etc), and more time to complete the missions! 😛

So we left the park, and everything was slowly shut down until I was the last person stood there outside a now deserted theme park that had, not 4 hours before, had upward of 10k people there, with only the flickering advertisement boards lighting the extremely foggy plaza.

Soon enough, my taxi appeared and I was driven back to my hotel.

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29th October 2015: Alton Towers’ Scarefest & Sub Species: Operation Lockdown

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