17/06/2017 – Hide and Shriek: The Seance

A few month’s after Hide and Shriek’s last endeavor Delectably Dead, I found myself in Southend once again for their brand new show titled The Seance. Based on a true story, a group of up to six hauntees (that’s you, dear reader) enter a rotting old house to take part in a private seance in order to unravel the house’s dark and mysterious past, and, hopefully, survive!

Having done a few seance themed haunts previously, I was intrigued to see how Hide and Shriek would explore this serious genre whilst still keeping their trademarked humour in tact; however, bar the pre-show briefing video (spot on as always!), they’ve completely abandoned their humour for this show and by amazing use of lighting, sound, and incredibly detailed scenery, created the unnerving and tense atmosphere you’d expect when trying to contact someone from beyond the grave.

We follow the instructions given to us before entering the show room and take our designated seats at the table, the tension already getting to us, and wait. A radio fizzles to life and a voice explains that we’ll be performing the seance ourselves with his direction. A medium was chosen, and the seance began…

What happened over the next half hour was something I’m having trouble describing. It was incredibly intense, unnerving, and extremely immersive to the point where even I was worried of what was behind the locked door! The absolute beauty of this haunt is that you feel isolated from the real world and completely vulnerable, even though you’re just sat at a table – here were definitely times where I’m sure there was more than just us two in the room. Another incredible thing is, even though you might be in a group of 6, everyone will have their own “version” of events, as the special effects are everywhere in the room!

For a company that has only been around for 18 months, Hide and Shriek have really pulled something special out of the bag with The Seance and are well and truly paving the way for experimenting with new ideas and new attractions, and I look forward to following and supporting them wherever they go. For the established producers out there: be worried, these guys are about to get huge!

17/06/2017 – Hide and Shriek: The Seance

29/04/2017 – Walpurgis Night: Half Way to Halloween

Scare Kingdom Scream Park are back once again with another fantastic haunt hidden within the walls of Manormortis, and the final show of Snuffhouse Alone!

 

Hyde and Seek

Themed around the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, guests are bought into the dark and dingy world wherein a secret elixir, created by none other than the doctor himself, gives the person imbibing it the gift of eternal life with some unfortunate side effects, which the doctor wasn’t shy about demonstrating on an unfortunate victim. Soon enough, the victim had turned and we were rushed away from the pair and into the main attraction.

 

As we progressed we encountered a range of characters, from an old and rough scullery maid through to an overtly camp (and utterly hilarious) aristocrat, all of whom added their version of the story into the fold until you were so immersed that you felt you were playing a detective in a murder mystery movie, all while Jekyll’s previous victims lunged at us from the hundreds of hidey holes dotted around the manor. It all came to a head when we managed to get into the wife of Dr Jekyll’s bedroom to talk to her about something before she sent us on our way to find her maid, and before we even knew what was happening, the lights went out and a strobe light flickered, illuminating Mr Hyde before he disappeared into the night again.

 

This was, for me, my favourite story to be played in Manormortis. It had absolutely everything that is needed for someone to go in, get spooked, come out, and laugh and talk about after. From the hilarious Aristocrat with his “crossfire” skit (it has been a long time since I laughed like that) through to the creepy priest, almost everyone’s character was on point – unfortunately the lawyer in the upside down room and nursery fell short just a little in comparison to how strong the other characters were. Otherwise, everything about the characters was perfect!

On top of this, the bit I loved the most (well, bits – they kinda go hand in hand) was the storyline. How I bloody love a storyline, and to get me so immersed t(o the point where a character said “come closer” and I did in the 15 minutes we were in there) just goes to show that a haunt can provide scares and story, and because each scene lasted a good few minutes, we were able to actually look around and take in the beauty of Manormortis, which is usually missed as everyone gets rushed through.

Overall, Hyde and Seek was an absolute blast of a show that blended comedy, scares, and downright sexual acts together tastefully to provide one of the greatest haunts I’ve experienced at Scare Kingdom.

 

Snuffhouse Alone – Bloodborn

Snuffhouse is, as many people know, an extreme attraction that costs an extra fee to take part in. Lasting roughly 10 – 15 minutes (depending on if you use the safeword), victims are at the mercy of The Tormentors who, as their titles imply, are there to make your life hell.

This is the first and unfortunately last time I took part in Snuffhouse Alone, and I’m glad I didn’t miss out! With an all female cast, some fantastic reviews from the last few runs, and the knowledge this will be the only time I would be able to take part, I stripped down to my t-shirt and jeans (hey! It’s cold up there and I didn’t think I’d be able to participate!) and stepped in the queue.

From the moment I entered Snuffhouse, I was hooded, bound, teased, degraded, interrogated, beautified, and generally abused, but I couldn’t help but grin all the way through from what I had just experienced or what I was told to do, it was just an absolutely fabulous run with some fantastic ideas and clever tricks that I’ve not experienced before in a haunt!

Fortunately for me, I can’t do any of the eating scenes (yay for chronic illnesses! (I’ll let you decide if I’m being serious or not there)) so I didn’t get the “full shebang”, but what I did experience is the perfect introduction to the extreme haunt scene, and I would have thoroughly recommended it to anyone who has ever wondered why extreme haunt fans like their extreme haunts. I totally regret not going back through!

 

Overall, Walpurgis Night was an absolute blast, and it’s such a shame that it didn’t run for more than one night to allow more chance of people to see those two absolutely stunning haunts.

 

 

29/04/2017 – Walpurgis Night: Half Way to Halloween

20/11/2016 – 139 Copeland Road

Before I begin, I’d like to apologise to anyone that’s been anticipating this review, especially the cast of 139 Copeland Road: I was seriously ill for the event and just about managed to drag myself along, and since I’ve literally not had the energy to get round to writing this up.

 

Anywho, on with the review!

 

After the sheer intensity of Séance in Birmingham a few weeks earlier, 139 Copeland Road suddenly appeared on my Facebook feed, and with only a small number of likes and a rather captive backstory, I knew I had to go to it one way or another. I spoke with a few friends and managed to get tickets for the same show as my friend from Europehaunts, who frequently flies to the UK to experience the shows here. With much excitement, we counted down the days until the show.

 

As I explained above, a few days before I had a flare up (I’ve suffered from Crohn’s disease since 2014, and it’s rare for me to admit it so publicly but I very much have reason to), which included intense stomach cramps that are unbearably painful, which almost made me give up my ticket; however, I didn’t: I got dressed (readas: put clothes over my pyjamas) and headed off to 139 Copeland Road.

 

I got to Hackney Wick station and punched in the postcode on my phone, and began following the instructions, half forcing myself to just go and get it over and done with. After getting lost despite being stood right outside the venue, I bumped into the guy from Europehaunts who seemed to have his head screwed on more than me as he instantly saw the venue: a derelict house.

 

We approached 137 Copeland Road, showed our tickets, and were let inside, where we were greeted by the sights of a completely gutted house, an absolute skeleton of what we’d consider a building. Music wafted through the air while floodlights splashed light across the walls, which were decorated with newspaper articles, pictures, police enquiries, and all sorts of information about seances and the family that lived there.

An eccentric man dressed as if he had stepped out of a steampunk fantasy novel explained the story of 139 Copeland Road: Mary, a single mother of two, had been living at 139 Copeland Road. She had been a school teacher, a much loved figure in the community. One night in 1974 however, a house fire led to Mary and her two boys burning to their deaths. The bodies were never recovered. Since then, the house has stood empty, partly due to the derelict state, but even more so because of the rumours. The sightings.

As soon as he wrapped up the story we were led into 139 Copeland Road, which was just as derelict, if not moreso, than the building we had just come from, and even upon entering there was something not quite right about the house. We were invited to take a seat at a table that had a lightbulb dangling from the rafters above, dimly lighting what felt like would have been the living room before the fire, whilst the Medium set up the seance with an offering of food, candles, and a picture of Mary, whom we were trying to contact. The light dangling above the table was turned off, leaving us bathed in the light of the three candles. We all joined hands, and the seance began.

Over the course of the next half hour, all of us at the show were completely encapsulated in the seance; lights would flicker, objects would vibrate and shake, and even though at a subconscious level I knew it was fake, I could have sworn there was someone stood directly behind me, staring at the back of my neck – something that Europehaunts also felt.

We found ourselves rushing around this decrepit house, our paths lit only by two of the smallest and dimmest torches ever, as we try to unravel the secrets that 139 Copeland Road held: we soon learned that the fire was no accident, and there was something much darker and sinister lurking in the shadows.

Though that entity sure wasn’t the only thing to be hidden in the shadows: there were points where we were plunged into pitch black, huddled in a corner as all sorts of noises rattled around us, making everyone feel claustrophobic. In one room, we were stood with a faint ticking noise that grew louder and louder from the loft, which became more and more consuming the louder it got – the ticking was the most intense and attention grabbing noise I’ve ever heard in my life, then it stopped. We all stood there in absolute silence, waiting.

As the show drew to a close, the experience became more intense still, as the guy who set the scene ended up disappearing in front of our very eyes, and we were chased out of the building by a roar that somehow chased us all down the stairs: the finale, an absolutely mindblowing scene that used the chaos as a perfect cover to transport items from where we were to the sinister entity more than 10 feet away from us, which was incredibly impressive. We were soon chased out of 139 Copeland Road and onto the streets, where we all took a moment to sigh and decompress before laughing at how immersed and scared we all were.

 

Well, what can I say? This has to be one of the best pieces of immersive theatre I’ve ever experienced – I don’t usually get sucked into a story within 10 minutes of the show starting but this got me perfectly – I even forgot that I was in pain for the entire show, which is absolutely incredible!

Despite there being only a handful of actors, each one played their parts perfectly – the Medium did a fantastic job of acting exactly like Mediums do on Most Haunted and the like, the guy that set the scene was really easy to listen to and believe, and the plant that I suspected was a plant at the beginning actually had me fooled once the seance began, and the sinister entity used the strobes perfectly to seemingly glide across the room at numerous moments in the event (though a black zentai suit would have been a bit creepier).

Considering the only effects that were used were flickering lights and speakers (probably triggered from 137 Copeland Road), the company behind the show were able to quickly and effectively suspend reality and create an entire world within the walls of that house. I’m glad that I forced myself to go despite being ill, as I know I wouldn’t have forgiven myself for not going.

One eensy-weensy criticism was that the speakers in the bedroom and living room were easily visible (if you knew where you were looking) and the two strobelights used at the end could have been moved so that they were hidden behind the beam where the dividing wall was (can’t explain it any better unfortunately – sorry!).

I look forward to hopefully seeing more from the creators of 139 Copeland Road, as they are definitely hitting the nail on the head when it comes to immersive theatre.

 

20/11/2016 – 139 Copeland Road

19/10/2016 – Séance at Birmingham Rep

For a while, I struggled to find something horror related to do as all the haunts we knew of were closed or not operating that day, but that changed when I was given a bit of information about an immersive short called “Séance”. I love the paranormal as a theme, but it’s extremely hard to get it right, especially when you’re running a live actor haunt and all your “ghosts” are, well, alive and breathing. Séance, however, did not have that problem.

As soon as we arrived, we were led to a shipping container placed just outside the main building which amused us as we were expecting a haunt of somesort. We took our seats around the table placed in the middle of the shipping container and put our headsets on, and the journey began…

Using 3D surround sound, you are taken on an immersive and chilling journey into the spirit world and into the depths of your own imagination, where nothing is quite what it seems…

19/10/2016 – Séance at Birmingham Rep

16/10/2016 – Scaresville at Kentwell Hall

Scaresville, based on the grounds of Kentwell Hall in Suffolk, is a 90 minute horror experience that takes you through multiple haunts and scenes designed to creep and freak you out in what is described as a haunted village.

Celebrating 10 years of Scaresville, we were told to expect the very best of the previous years’ haunts along with some frightening new scenes, and they were definitely not lying!

Upon arriving at Scaresville, you’re held in an unfairground where you’re able to buy food and drink to warm your bones before you’re led off to have said bones terrified out of you! It had a lovely atmosphere, but it definitely felt like it was lacking roaming characters and sideshows.

Our number was called and we were led up an almost pitch black path to the safety announcements where we were given the safety briefing (one that every hauntee is familiar with), then we were let into our first haunt, and our journey began…

What’s different about this haunt compared to the stuff we usually do is that the scares never let up: all the haunts and scenes lead into each other so once you start you never stop moving, and whilst there are nice long countryside treks at points (which is absolutely beautiful when lit by the full moon peeking between the clouds), the scares never stop – between the creepy scenery and roaming actors, you’ll be laughing and screaming constantly!

Usually, I’d split out the review based on the individual haunts, but there’s so much to see that by the time we got to the seventh or eighth haunt, we had forgotten what we did in the first! Well… not really. There were so many amazing bits in that first haunt that it stuck very prominently in my mind, even 3 days later!

Set wise, all the haunts had their own theme that aided in the stories they were trying to set, some of which I’ve never seen before in the 10 years I’ve been haunting which is refreshing! We especially liked the use of fire and torches used in the outdoor scenes, the water used in the indoor scenes, the use of absolute darkness, the shipping container… there were so many scenes and effects that we loved that if we were to share them all here, we’d ruin the entire event!

There were a few niggles here and there that I have with the haunt: there was a distinct lack of entertainment in the Unfairground, there were no smell effects used, and the lack of music between the scenes made it feel a little empty, but otherwise I absolutely loved it and would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a good scaring this Halloween!

 

PS: If you haven’t been warned already, bring your wellies!

16/10/2016 – Scaresville at Kentwell Hall

27/08/2016 -Snuffhouse: After Dark

Still reeling from my experiences at Cracked a few weeks earlier, an announcement was made during the ScareCON ball: Russ McKamey (the creator of the infamous McKamey Manor) would be teaming up with AtmosFEAR to bring the Manor experience to the UK under the name Snuffhouse: After Dark. As soon as tickets were released, I bought mine; I received an email a week or so later that linked me to an online form that asked me all about my fears, inviting me to be as honest and open as possible, even asking me if I’d be home on a specific date at a specific time – that truly made me question what exactly I was getting myself into.

The weeks rolled past and, between work, other haunts, and my trip to Florida (which was absolutely AMAZBALLS), I completely forgot about Snuffhouse: we had no further contact through email, on the Facebook page, on our mobiles, nowhere. Nothing even happened on the date they asked if we’d be free; it got to a point 2 weeks beforehand that I was convinced it had been canned.

Fortunately, it hadn’t, and the forst groups went through!

As the shows approached we learned that they’d be livestreaming part of the event on Facebook, and viewers would have the opportunity to vote for the sufferer they wanted to have “extra treatment”. This was unnerving, but honestly one of the best ideas I’ve heard for a haunt – it’d let others take a sneak peek into what an extreme haunt would look like! I eagerly awaited the livestream of the event before me as I knew a load of friends and Cracked contestants (and survivors) were taking part and I kinda wanted to give them hell (sorry guys! (I’m not really sorry)). One by one, their hoods came off and… they seemed in better shape than I thought.

2am hit (the finish time for Snuffhouse) and I messaged all of them asking what they thought; they knew not to tell me anything, but they all unanimously said they were bored – even someone who had never done an extreme haunt said it was boring! I was highly disappointed in what they had to say (read Europehaunt’s review here), but was secretly glad I’d actually be able to see everything.

 

Oh how I was wrong.

 

We arrived at Scare Kingdom and were greeted by some rather friendly backstage crew who advised us to park up and remain in our car. Once everyone arrived (well, almost everyone), we were asked to sign our waivers before being led to some toilets for our “last” toilet break before we were made to line up facing a bush. Hoods were placed over our heads and the experience began.

 

We were led to a room with a projection screen and made to kneel. A video of our host, Russ McKamey, appeared on the screen in front of us and introduced us to his Tormentors, then immediately started the psychological mind games. The video ended and we were made to adopt a stress position whilst the Tormentors intimidated and began to slowly chip away at our minds.

 

The video came back on, and we were split up into two groups to do our first task. We were hooded once again and led through the Scare Kingdom boo haunts to our first challenge that was designed to physically wear us down. I got punished for not following instructions completely, so combining that with all the jumping and dancing around like witches at a bonfire in the tales of olde in nothing but my shoes, I was definitely breathing hard.

 

We returned to the same room and got split up into two groups again, this time to do a mental game whilst holding stress positions. I was definitely having trouble keeping up with everything that was going on, and even this most basic of basic challenges had me questioning whether or not I could keep going – the Tormentors had already got inside my head and I hadn’t even noticed!

 

We returned back to the room and got split up again. We were led off to do a second even more psychological game that turned everyone on themselves, and left me facing off against another three Sufferers; they all said I was untrustworthy, so I threw them under the bus in a heartbeat… they did not smell very nice after that! (guys if you’re reading this I’m really sorry!)

 

We returned back to the first room and held a few more stress positions and got berated with insults by the Tormentors (I swear Blue never left my side and he was a complete arsehole) before we finally found out it was midnight – it was livestream time! Our hoods came off one by one and we had three bright lights shone in our eyes. We waited on our knees for someone to be chosen, and I half expected it to be me, but thankfully it wasn’t – I was so tired that I don’t think I could have done any more. Once the chosen Sufferer was led off, we were told that we’d be facing off against each other.

 

We were led off again then made to hold stress positions once again. After maybe 3 minutes, I safeworded and was immediately removed from the experience for the first time.

As with any experience that’s this intense, aftercare is absolutely paramount! I was taken outside to get some fresh air and get some water in me. The backstage crew I was with were very friendly and jolly and talked me down – it was definitely appreciated, but in all honesty I’d have been absolutely fine sat next to Sufferer 5. Once I was ready to go back in I was told that because I had left, I had broken the psychology behind the event. I re-joined the group and began adopting stress positions which broke me almost instantly: safewording and leaving the event for 5 minutes was enough to ruin the rest of the event. I safeworded again and received aftercare again – we did breathing exercises to lower my heart rate before I was sat up and asked if I wanted to continue. I explained that because I had already broken the illusion I wasn’t really enjoying it any more – my tour ended after 2 hours 45 minutes.

I stood around in the car park waiting for the tour to end to see how they ended up, and they all seemed pretty in tact still; from a spectator view, even though I could kinda see where the ending was going, it looked pretty lame. We had decompression time with Jason Karl and a few backstage crew who explained that they had special training and used specialist tips and techniques before we all went our own way.

 

Overall, I was rather surprised at the experience: after having feedback from those that went the week before, it was obvious that our tour had really been amped up: we were forcefully moved about and basically treated like rag dolls the entire time physically whilst being degraded verbally. There was a lot more psychology going on in there than I thought which is definitely appreciated; I did raise a concern with one of the games, though personally, I was ok and went along with it anyway.

 

Whilst it isn’t the most extreme attraction the UK has to offer, it’s definitely up there! If you’re looking to enter the extreme side of the haunt world, this would be the best event to go to. With a few tweaks and maybe a little more theatre in the vein of the old McKamey Manor extreme boo haunts they did a few years back, they’d have a really strong attraction that fills a gap in the market.

27/08/2016 -Snuffhouse: After Dark

30/07/2016 – Hide and Shriek’s Alien Escape

After the fantastic time I had at Hide and Shriek‘s Dead Centre where they had an entire shopping centre completely heaving with zombies, we headed back to Southend on Sea to see what they had in store with Alien Escape, the UK’s largest escape room!

 

We arrived at Hide and Shriek’s headquarters in the Victoria shopping centre where we met the rest of the team – seven of us in total. We were guided through an almost pitch black corridor before being left there. A fantastically cheesy and very quick witted usher leaped out from the darkness before leading us into a mini cinema theatre where we were treated to a Hide and Shriek style safety instructions (which we absolutely love!)

 

After leaving our stuff in the cinema (which is 100% secure and something I’d totally do ‘cos you’re not gunna want to be lugging around your bags everywhere) we were lead into the Spacebase – the first room of the event: the countdown was on!

 

We all instantly started scrambling for anything that could be part of a puzzle or a clue to something – there were some puzzles that were really easy and that we cracked within minutes, but a handful that took upwards of 20 minutes – there was a point where we were so stuck on a clue that it took us almost half an hour to crack it! We found ourselves running, crawling, and generally throwing anything that could be hiding clues out of the way, including a pair of soiled underwear from a previous group!

 

We flew through the rest of the escape room, and managed to escape with 8 minutes to spare!

 

 

As far as horror themed escape rooms go, this was by far my favourite – whilst zombies are fun monsters, the prospect of being on a doomed spaceship being chased by an alien creature really piqued my interest to begin with, and hearing from our competition winners who went through last Saturday only excited us more! Hide and Shriek managed to deliver a very well themed escape room that pays homage to some of the best alien horror/thriller movies out there, and a terrifying alien to boot!

 

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30/07/2016 – Hide and Shriek’s Alien Escape