15/07/2017 – Frequent Fear Podcast: Fraternity

Conspiracy theories these days run rife. From Big Pharma to the Illuminati, people either believe or disbelieve. Me? Well, I wasn’t a believer, until recently…

Back in March, GNG Entertainment posted “Five years ago, for the first time in the UK, we asked the question ‘how far is too far?’. This year, we find out!” with a picture of the word “Fraternity” in a Greek stylised font. Five years before, for those that don’t know (and I didn’t until late last year) refers to Project Fear, which sounded like a short if intense and extreme haunt where guests entered alone and were subjected to a number of horrible tasks designed to make you uncomfortable, and boy were they successful! Alongside this, the Frequent Fear Podcast released an entry, revealing Lee Conway, Gary Crompton, and Sarah Wilson were the masterminds behind the show, with the podcast exploring the set up of a haunt, its complications and their solutions, in a transparent manner; soon enough, concept artwork began surfacing.

 

Jump to the beginning of April: a Dr Henry Issac, out of the blue, decided to follow me on Twitter. Why’s this a big deal? Well, whilst the Twitter account exists, it is rarely used and just sits there (seriously, follow me on Facebook if you want to be kept in the loop). A quick scan of his profile and I see the word “conspiracist” in the About Me section and smile to myself. Why was a conspiracy nutter following me, and what was The Ordre d’Elysium? I dig even further into his profile and it looks like his previous accounts had been taken down with no reasoning. I got the urge to follow him back, and with one click of a button my entire life changed.

He began posting cryptic and almost inspiring quotes, in a similar vein to that “hang in there!” slogan printed over a picture of a cat struggling to hang onto the branch of a tree. It was amusing for a conspirator to be posting these kinds of things, but that soon began to change: he started explaining that the name of the Fraternity was the Ordre d’Elysium and that he had spent decades following them after discovering a piece of parchment he had found whilst looking into theories on the Holy Blood and Holy Grail, which promised people unlimited power and riches. We explained to Henry that a scare attraction called Fraternity had just been announced, and he was confused at first: what were the Frequent Fear Podcast doing, and how could they ever be linked to the Ordre d’Elysium? We didn’t know: we all knew the guys behind the attraction personally so it didn’t make any sense to us and we shrugged it off to begin with, but seeds of doubt had been sewn, even if nobody wanted to admit to it.

A number of days passed with us chatting about conspiracy theories to Henry, and we explained that we wanted to help as we were now curious as to what was going on – wouldn’t you be the same? With the initiations happening once every decade and with 2017 being the next opportunity, we placed all our trust into Henry and leapt into the unknown. He shared the parchment with us as a test to prove ourselves and our loyalty to him: it was our first riddle, our first step in finding the Ordre. This parchment somehow found its way onto the Fraternity website with the text “Ternion will start your path, and lead you through degrees to the promised land.”

 

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Collectively, and with no help from Henry other than being told to look into the Priory of Sion, we began looking for anything that’d point us in the right direction, obsessively scouring the text for anything strange written within such as words capitalised when they shouldn’t be, letters that seemed out of place for whatever reason, that sort of thing. Theories soon began surfacing and grew with each passing hour, growing to the point where we were looked into astrology and planetary alignments in order to help solve the riddle, but to no avail: we were unsuccessful. Despite the lack of success, Henry showed mercy and uploaded a video to YouTube explaining the extremely complex solution, which revealed the dates of the initiation – was he impressed with how much effort we put into solving the puzzle? Who knows: we were just happy that our efforts seemed to have impressed him enough for him to extend an olive branch.

One of the group shared the date Henry uncovered with Lee who confirmed that those were the dates, and asked how we found out. Naturally, we explained that a Dr Henry had contacted us and told us it was an initiation ceremony and had deciphered the dates from the image: Lee laughed it off, saying he was just some conspirator nutjob and to ignore him. Had we known what we had let ourselves in for, we probably would have followed his advice.

A few days pass, and nothing was heard from Dr Henry. Maybe we were being played and it was someone getting his rocks off to us solving weird riddles for him, when three of our group received an email from magendavid1897@gmail.com, each entitled “Getting closer to initiation” with an encrypted message. The sender referred to themself as “Deep Throat”, but after a little research on the internet, we settled on the notion that the username referred to the Star of David, which made an appearance in the parchment Henry found.

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The binary was the first to be decrypted – a simple binary to text conversion helped with that; however, the other two proved to be much, much harder. Many methods surfaced and none of them worked, making us worry that DT had used multiple layers of encryption. Finally, LEIGGS1910 was uncovered to reveal “SCHOOL 1910”, but we didn’t get round to being able to solve the repeating numbers puzzle.

Alongside all this codebreaking, we were constantly in communication with DT in order to figure out just who we were dealing with. Whilst we never got more than a name, we did learn that he/she was born inside the Ordre and that before each initiation, this highly secret society opened communication channels to the outside world with the permission of the Elders, though DT hadn’t consulted with them and found him/herself in great danger. DT soon started to worry that we wouldn’t figure out the final code as we reached out for help, and we got a new clue “Mechesburg 01709SE4700”, which we deciphered to be Mexborough. We also started getting nicknames DT would use to address us by, based on Greek mythology – some of which had rather grisly meanings behind, and we soon started to worry that not only were the Ordre onto us, but the Ordre had very specific plans in place, and these nicknames were an insight into what to expect. We all began questioning each other, wondering if our actions would be paid for by someone else within the group.

DT fell off the face of the planet. We tried everything to get in contact, but never heard anything back, until one member of our group got the following: “Tomorrow for 30 mins the window will open. If I get the chance I will inform you all 15 minutes before with a call out. Initiation is around the corner.”, and several members got what looked parts of a waiver detailing what we might be subjected to throughout the initiation after we put the emails in order, the most interesting being that we would be given a ceremonial gown. As promised by DT, one of us received a text message stating that DT had inserted a glitch in the Ordre’s website which would take us to a page where we could gain entry to the initiation. Nothing stood out to us when the webpage loaded, so we resorted to randomly clicking about, hoping that the glitch would be that simple – jackpot! We sent this information to Lee, Gary and Sarah once again who were absolutely clueless as to how we were able to get tickets when tickets weren’t available for another three days, though our sales were still to be honoured.

DT sent through another text message saying that another glitch was being added so we could learn more about the Ordre, and as promised, the glitch was live. This time, we were re-directed to a “Contact Us” page, which most of us eagerly filled in, asking for more information.

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A day passed and DT came back to us with an aire of panic in their email, stating to not use the Contact Us page on the site, as any message would be sent straight to the hands of the Ordre’s security officers – it was a trap, and we had all fallen for it! Fortunately for us, there was a chance that we could have those emails intercepted should we be able to decipher three codes in a week, and that the importance of this is “more important that life or death”, which panicked us greatly.

 

Soon enough, one of our group was sent an email with the first clue – it was a simple morse code which we deciphered in a matter of hours, which translated to “THIS IS A TEST CODE.”. We received confirmation, and the next cipher was sent:

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Once more, theories flew about and grew faster than wildfire, only to be halted dead in their tracks. A secret Facebook chat for everyone in the group, sans Henry, was created as our trust in the “Doctor” began to wane – whilst he was trying to be helpful, he always stated the obvious, and it began to feel like he was trying to ride our coat tails, and we weren’t having that. We got the understanding of the riddle but just couldn’t apply it, hell, I even tried to write a piece of VBA in Excel that’d help out in some way, but even that was unsuccessful! Finally, the code was cracked, revealing a passage from Ezekiel: The turn is come unto thee, O inhabitant of the land; the time is come, the day of tumult is near, and not of joyful shouting upon the mountains. We sent this back to DT on the third day, and it was confirmed correct and the final cipher had been sent.

The final clue was written in Braille, so a quick look at a few converters finally helped us work out the final cipher – it turns out that JFK almost gave away the Ordre’s existence in a speech he had made in April 1961! With no help from Henry once again and him now throwing out his own mad theories on why we’re having to break these codes for DT, we realised that we had never actually seen a picture of Henry, and our suspicions were raised even higher: we decided as a group that anything relating to the Ordre we get, we discuss in the Facebook group away from Henry just in case: our trust for him hit an all time low.

 

One final cipher came through, with the promise of an honest answer for three questions we ask:

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If you’re sat there staring at the screen and scratching your head, you’re as clueless as we were. We figured the number 10 had something to do with it and the letter “C” where the two lines intersect with each other were relevant, but we tried all sorts of encryption methods and codebreaker websites in order to solve the puzzle, but we just couldn’t. It took days for us to finally figure out how to solve the clue (you create 10 columns and starting with the “C”, you put a character in each column horizontally, then read the text vertically) and send it off to DT, unbeknown to Henry – we felt that Henry shouldn’t know as he’d ask all sorts of questions and might even attempt to send the questions off behind our backs.

DT fell silent once again, this silence lasting a week before Henry pointed the silence out. We urged Henry to get in contact with an encrypted message of his own seeing as he was under the Ordre’s watchful eye, but he didn’t. We were worried that DT had been caught. Another three days passed and a video from DT herself was sent, begging us with all the desperation she could muster for help on the real reason why she decided to reach out to us, but she never explained what.

We finally received confirmation that our answer for the final cipher was correct and that we were allowed three questions. After painstaking debate, we decided to ask what makes OdE so dangerous, what’s it like to be a member, and finally, whether we could trust Henry. We were told to wait for a few days so DT could get her thoughts together, before signing off as “Magen”.

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Another long silence passed before Henry uploaded a video to his own account – he’s never posted there before, on’y in ODEWatch. It looked like he had been trapped in a building and was trying to escape, his breath heavy as he ran from room to room, banging on windows looking out over nothing, trying to attract some attention, then it ends. ODEWatch spurs back to life and questions were raised once more. We contacted DT to see if she could help, but we got no response. We waited.

The next day, Henry posts: Hello this is Origen. Shit! We were rumbled! Henry in all his stupidity, hadn’t put a password on his phone and got caught! We texted DT to see if she could help. We got a response almost instantly: “Thank you for letting me know, I’ve confiscated Magens phone too. Origen.”. Double shit! We had no way of finding out if either of our cohorts were OK. We could do nothing but attend the haunt and hope that we wouldn’t suffer the same fate as Dr Henry.

The event drew near and after a 4 hour journey to the initiation site, we meet up with three other hopefuls in the car park. We receive a call and get invited inside. We enter the building and take a seat. We’re about half hour early, so we grab a drink and take a seat on the sofas in this huge hall, absorbing the deafening silence when we’re not talking, and the echoes when we do speak. Slowly, more hopefuls arrive. A smartly dressed boy of maybe 11 enters through one of the double doors leading off from the hall and announces “can James Collins follow me please”. I rise to my feet, taken slightly aback by the assertive tone coming from a child and step forward with a nervous laughter from myself and the rest. I follow in complete silence and enter through another set of double doors. I’m handed a waiver and get told to read and sign, which I do. I’m then beckoned beyond the table where the waiver signing takes place by the boy and get taken into a darkened stairwell.

 

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A chair sits facing the stairs as they descend with a piece of laminated paper stuck to the wall next to it, and a basket beneath. I’m told to read and follow the instructions: disrobe to your underwear, put on the t-shirt, sit on the chair, and ring the bell. I disrobe, my heart in my throat, and slip into the t-shirt, which reaches down beyond my underwear. I place my clothes in the basket provided and take a seat. I take in a breath and ring the bell three times, the chimes echoing up and down the stairwell as I sit back in my seat. The chimes vanish to nothing and time slows down. From the darkness, a shadow appears. With an outstretched hand, I am beckoned. I descend the stairs at a pace similar to the gesture from the shadow with my footsteps bouncing off the walls. I’m taken by the hand and led into another room: the initiation began…

Most of what happened after this can’t be shared; however I was bathed, anointed, asked to prove my trust in the Ordre by a member with dozens of mousetraps, and eventually being reborn into the society in a journey that was both serene and yet chaotic as my path crossed those of Dr Henry and Magen. 30 minutes later, I’m sat blindfolded in front of a cloaked figure speaking in what sounded like Latin as a warmth spread through my wrists. The figure stops speaking and the blindfold was removed, revealing the mark of the Ordre where the warmth was moments ago. I am welcomed into the fraternity by the cloaked figure, my new Brother, and am guided to a door where I’m told never to talk about the Ordre before being shoved through it and back into reality – initiation complete.

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15/07/2017 – Frequent Fear Podcast: Fraternity

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