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

14/07/2017 – Southend Room Escape: The Cabin (Preview Night)

After the roaring success of its predecessor (Down the Rabbit Hole) and with a SCAR Award under their belt, the team at Southend Room Escape quickly began boasting about their brand new addition to the growing list of horror themed escape rooms: The Cabin. We were invited to a preview night to give the room a test run, and I’ve still not entirely decided who was tested more: us, the actors, or the room!

Inspired by the legend of the Blair Witch, participants enter a long forgotten cabin hidden deep in the woods where a number of people had been vanishing, and it’s down to the participants to solve the clues and save the kids from their impending doom!

From the moment we stepped into the building, it was clear to see why they needed two weeks to redecorate! The scenery was absolutely incredible and as soon as the front door opened, it was easy to believe that we were in an old abandoned lodge. A dead radio in the corner fizzled to life and explained the rules, and we left the starting line… albeit very slowly.

We spent the next hour sweating over the most easiest of easy riddles, trying (and succeeding!) to hack locks and clues (much to our detriment…), and even trying to appeal to the actors soft side in order to get a hint on how to solve the clues (you really need to have your thinking cap on for some of these), and screaming as we’re attacked by a benevolent force as the claustrophobic cabin and intense darkness were used against us.

Once again, the team at Southend Room Escape weaved their magic and bought their universe to life in their little pocket of Southend. This is truly not for the feint of heart, and really does require everyone in the team to be able to cope under stress. We will definitely be back later on in the season to see the full show (clues were being changed after we left, so don’t ask us for clues!) and to see if we can best our time!

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14/07/2017 – Southend Room Escape: The Cabin (Preview Night)

29/04/2017 – Pasaje Del Terror, Blackpool

The first time I had ever experienced the Pasaje Del Terror brand was about a decade ago in Malaga: a friend and I were on holiday and we decided to go to Tivoliworld in the afternoon and stay through until midnight (the park opened at like 2pm and closed at midnight in order to escape the heat), we were both the thrill seeker types, and this was conveniently in the same place as we were so it seemed like a stupid idea to miss it; unfortunately, I thoroughly hated it and swore myself that I’d never visit the brand again, even though the London Pasaje is literally on my doorstep.

This changed, and I’m glad I was persuaded to go.

The first thing that struck me was its theming – even in the queue the theming was on point and really helped set the tone as you could see people looking about and shuffling their feet nervously as we waited to be summoned. Our time came, and we entered down the twisting staircase with a soundtrack saying “leave!” and “get out!” and other various phrases on a loop. We were given the bog standard haunt rules, the door opened, and we entered the blackness…

There were a number of things that thoroughly impressed me throughout the haunt, with the most impressive being the characters: every character, whether they spoke or not, were extremely captivating and had everyone in our group eating out of the palms of their hands, and used their surroundings well whether that was hiding in the shadows or using strobes to create extremely atmospheric and almost dreamlike visuals that make you wonder whether or not the character was real.

The scenery throughout was also fantastic, from narrow and incredibly dark corridors to a chapel with a priest (of sorts) inside, the amount of detail in each individual scene was spectacular and never let the scene down.

Unfortunately, even though the haunt was much stronger than I remember the Malaga haunt being, there were some downsides: if you were at the front you missed out on a lot of scares, which really sucks as there were two scares that I had no idea happened nor how it happened until a friend at the back told me and it sounded like a great scare (though I hasten to add that there were a number of scares that really were unexpected and even made me jump). On top of this, the scene inspired by the Halloween movie series could have had the effects trigger button hidden better and the scene itself could have been darker when the button was triggered. Finally, whilst the scenery between scenes was fantastic, the graduation between scenes really needs to be thought out a bit better as they were jarring at points and left me questioning why the transition was even dreamt up.

Overall, I enjoyed myself this time through. It’s short, but it delivers some really detailed scenes that most horror movie fans will identify and enjoy, though it’s definitely aimed at people who are new to the haunt scene. Definitely worth visiting if you’ve got a spare half hour and you’re close by.

29/04/2017 – Pasaje Del Terror, Blackpool

24/02/2017 – Delectably Dead

It has been a long time since I last saw or heard anything from the depths of Southend as Hide and Shriek went silent shortly after their Halloween plans, which had me a little worried as there’s very little in the way of haunts down in Essex and they’re one of my favourite event organisers, so when Delectably Dead came onto my radar, I was all over that like a zombie on brains!

From what I knew about the show before entering, I knew it was going to be a mix of theatre and dinner at the same time. I did one in Disneyland or something years back that was themed to cowboys and you got served dinner whilst stuntmen did acrobatics and all sorts on horseback, so I was kinda basing my judgement on that: I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t right either.

Upon arrival, it was clear that the intent was to completely immerse you from the second you stepped into the event. We were served drinks in the function room next to the room Delectably Dead was hosted which had caution tape wrapped around pillars and amusing signs dotted around the walls, and when the main doors opened we were given a little booklet that we had to fill out which was also riddled with Hide and Shriek humour (which I absolutely love).

Once we had filled out our rations booklet, we took our seats on our designated table, which was unfortunately further away from the stage than I had liked but we can’t win it all, I guess? Anyway. Looking around the room at the theming on the tables, in the rations book, and on the screens dotted about the place, it was clear that there was a lot of inspiration from the Fallout game series which I highly commended and actually got loads of positive feedback from friends when I showed them the pictures. If you can imagine sitting at a diner with caution tape stuck to the tablecloth whilst hanging industrial/miner lights flickered on and off to simulate being run off a generator, whilst 1940s/1950s-esque music played on repeat in the background and the characters wandering around whilst introducing themselves to you, you’d kinda get the bizarre mixture of haunt meets dining experience feeling.

The room filled up to the brink with a bizarre demographic: the ages ranged from their teens right through to their 40s and maybe 50s, wearing either t-shirt and trousers or smart casual. It was clear that it had bought the dining experience crowd and the horror/haunt crowd together in a room for an evening, which was absolutely lovely as we found ourselves making fantastic friends with people dotted all throughout the room during the course of the event.

Soon enough, it was showtime! The characters all popped into action and the generic zombie story began, with lots of thrills and spills, and a surprising amount of violence and rude language, which was surprising seeing as the other Hide and Shriek events I had been to definitely lacked these – definitely not a negative point as all the actions and language had its reason to be there. Not long after the show began, we got treated to Hide and Shriek’s trademark introduction video (I won’t lie, I was looking forward to this). For those that have never been to a Hide and Shriek event, it’s basically the generic safety briefing you get just as you’re about to enter a haunt (don’t touch the actors, they might touch you blah blah blah) but done in the style of the show, with lots of humour. I really and truly hope they never get bored of these, because I absolutely love them!

 

I guess this is the bit where the it gets tough to write about the event because it wasn’t a haunt, it wasn’t immersive theatre, it was a dining experience. For those that don’t know what that is (I didn’t know until 24 hours ago either), it’s basically a theatre show with a number of intervals dotted throughout in which you get given a chance to eat, go to the loo, top up your drink, have a smoke, etc. As someone who came from a haunt/theatre perspective, it really didn’t work for me – it felt like just as we were getting immersed in the show, we were ripped away from it to eat.

In my opinion, there were three different factors that ruined the experience for me. I’m not including the immersion issue above as that’s not an issue with the show per se, it’s my expectations coming from the haunt/theatre scene as opposed to faults in the show.

The first is the volume of the actors: whilst they did well to project their voices so that the ~200+ people could hear them, it was nigh on impossible to hear and understand what was going on through entire scenes in some cases due to the positioning of the actors and the general background noise (and not-so background noise, in some cases) from the audience. I’d suggest radio throat mics that hooked into the same PA system the projector and TVs were using.

The second is alcohol. I get that it’s nice to have a drink when you’re out at a theatre show, but there were some incredibly drunk people there that were yelling at inappropriate moments and generally treating it as if it were a pub, which the actors tried to combat but drunks are just complete and utter cunts at times, and none were more cunty than the cunt that was sat on our table yelling out the most vile shit I’d only expect at a Britain First rally. The actor receiving the abuse dealt with it in a fantastic manner and manged to keep himself composed extremely well, but fuck me I have no idea how she woke up this morning with just a hangover! The worst bit is, there were bouncers at the only entrance to the room that should have seen she was just getting drunker and louder as the event progressed and could have stopped her from re-entering the room for being too drunk, but all they did was give her a warning. I get that she had spent money to be there, but so had another 200 odd people and the last thing we wanted was to hear a load of racist bollocks instead of the show. I’d have either had a dry event or limit the alcohol to a bottle of wine between two people, with the bottles sat on the table, and then the bar open at the end. This could have potentially saved the actors from having to scream and yell so much that they were getting hoarse voices by the end of the show.

The third point is the number of people. Where we were sat (Zone E) was the opposite side of the room from where the action was taking place. With the two factors above and having a number of bodies obscuring our view, we had no idea what was going on and honestly started getting bored of sitting there trying to figure out what was going on, and only a handful of times would an actor come by our table for the briefest of moments – I feel sorry for the tables that were right at the back by the bar, it’s hardly surprising that they were just drinking and having their own little fun. I’d definitely consider having the number of tables one row, or maybe two rows, deep so that everyone is included in the show and it’s easier to follow.

 

 

Moving onto the positives of the show, the amount of detail in the very minimalist scenery was incredible – the posters that I mentioned in the bar were placed in the advertisement spaces in the loos, the little jokes on the ration book and in the intro video, the little stickers on the food, it all had something amusing that related to the apocalypse and zombies, and really added to the dining experience side of the event.

Also, from what I could hear I’d honestly say that without the dining experience bit and with the right crowd, this would have been a really tense and gripping piece of horror/thriller theatre. The combination of live actors and video really meshed well together, and really pulled off the horror tropes and paid homages to pioneering people and movies well. Sure it’s “another zombie show”, but the level of dedication the actors poured into their characters was so high that it would have been easy to have believed everything they said and for it to feel like it wasn’t just “another zombie show”, which actually really made me sad that all this effort was poured into the show only for it to be ruined because it felt like people couldn’t give a fuck about the show.

 

On reflection, I’m happy to chalk this down to a bad audience as all the other Hide and Shriek events I’ve attended have received nothing but praise from me in the past, though I don’t think I’ll be returning to another horror dining experience in the near future.

 

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24/02/2017 – Delectably Dead

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

24/10/2016 – Scarefest at Alton Towers

As we were driving by Stoke-On-Trent on the way back from our week of northern haunting, we decided to do a very quick 3 hour flying visit to Alton Towers seeing as there were so many positive reviews from friends: let me tell you that, straight off the bat, it was the best 3 hours I’ve had in the park.

 

Altonville Mine Tours: Uncover the Legend of the Skin Snatchers

With a rather long name (I’ll probably start referring to it as Skin Snatchers from now) that matches the length of the haunt, this sits where Molly Crowe was last year.

Upon entering the queue, western guitar slides and chords warble through the air in the queue. We got quite early tickets because the tickets we wanted weren’t available; damn our spontaneity (this is the reason why Terror of the Towers isn’t included in this review) and so the queue wasn’t very long, but the excitement and nervousness already began to build thanks to the high fencing, narrow queue, and flickering light bulbs in burnt out fixtures.

Our turn came and we were called forward. Three of the 10 of us received a helmet with a light fixture (sadly not me) and we were told to listen to the safety briefing by the creepy hillbilly handing out the helmets. Once this was over, we met his brother and our tour of the mines began…

With a very powerful storyline, you’re taken down into the depths of the Mines where the skin snatchers live, who take very little time in splitting you up and tormenting you throughout this 20 minute haunt.

Chaos literally rains down around you as sights, sounds and smells all intermingle with one another, with the skin snatchers taking full advantage of strobes, pitch black, and the boiler suit corridor to make you feel completely disorientated and uneasy from the moment you enter to the moment you leave. An incredibly strong attraction that rekindled my love for haunting once again!

 

Sub Species: The End Games

After surviving Sub Species: Operation Lockdown last year and missing out on the mazes due to arriving late, I finally managed to enter the labyrinth owned by the dwellers within, and I was not disappointed!

This incredible haunt is very fast paced and intense, and you will end up feeling completely lost and confused as the dwellers play with you, sending you down your own route through the first piece of the haunt, all of which was used in Operation Lockdown, but even surviving that didn’t help me navigate my way out!

Whilst not jump scary, the dwellers have absolutely no issue grabbing you and moving you about with reasonable force which I absolutely love in a haunt as it makes the whole experience a little more real, and it’s completely necessary for this haunt to be scary. After being chased out of the ending, I took a moment to stand there and just give a huge sigh of relief and reflect briefly on what happened. Definitely the stronger haunt in this review.

 

After blasting our way through the two haunts in 45 minutes or so, we also managed to get a ride on The Smiler and Nemesis, then decided to head home. A very short visit, but I was honestly blown away with how well Alton Towers had executed Scarefest from how easy it was to book our tickets through to how interactive and intimidating the actors were in the haunts, and how creepy the roaming actors were in the Forbidden Valley scare zone (can’t comment on the other scarezone(s) as we didn’t visit them): Scarefest is incredibly professional, and Thorpe Park definitely needs to ask these guys how to put on a halloween event, for sure!

 

One teeny-tiny gripe though: the scrapping of the extreme haunt run-throughs. I would have honestly leapt at the opportunity to do those! Bring them back next year? Please?

 

24/10/2016 – Scarefest at Alton Towers

22/10/2016 – Scare Kingdom

 

Voted UK Top Rated Scream Park for the last four years and my personal favourite from last year, the multi-award winning Scare Kingdom Scream Park is back once again for it’s eighth year of fear with a slew of new attractions!

 

Mallum

As always, Scare Kingdom welcomes all who dare enter with a spooky scene to set the tone, and they delivered once again! With a cursed relic, an ancient evil is summoned to scare you out of your skin! Whilst a fun idea, the green light from a light on the ceiling of the room took away the creepiness a bit, but the jump was still rather effective.

 

The Sickness

I love a good medical themed haunt, and I loved this. A very strong story to set the scene, then in we went to discover the dark and disturbing characters behind an underground experiment that saw an infection spread through a hospital like wildfire! With some extremely strong scenes including a much scarier scare used in The Sanctuary at Alton Towers, this is a very strong start to the haunts! Keep an ear out for the heart monitor as you go through, this was an incredible level of detail that is easily missed if you don’t know it’s there!

 

Manormortis

The haunted house to end all haunted houses is back once again! Tricked out to the nines, there is so much to see and take in that you can have multiple run throughs and still see things you didn’t see the first time! This year, a diary was discovered that details an extremely sinister story of the supernatural. With scenes that involve séances and other creepy contact with the spirits hidden in the manor, scares come at you from every which way as you hear more and more about the story as you venture further inside. Watch out for the finalé, it’s sure to scare you out of your wits!

 

The House of Gaunt

From the most decorated of all the haunts at Scare Kingdom to the least (not including Black Death, which I’ll explain later…), The House of Gaunt tells the story of a creepy collection of dolls coming to life. This sparsely decorated and almost pitch black haunts uses jump scares to get you, and even though the jumpscares are repeated all the way through the haunt, it gets you every time! It’s not got much to it, but it was still enjoyable and an interesting theme to have.

 

666 Brimstone Place

From creepy dolls to satanic cults, 666 Brimstone Place sees the return of Hell in 2015 with a new story; having said that, it still delivers an eerie vibe with some rather shocking and almost controversial imagery that we’ve only seen Scare Kingdom dare to deliver, and I loved it! Whilst the rest of the haunt seemed to lack something (maybe the strength of the last three haunts set the bar high), there were a number of scenes that were absolutely fantastic – I’m glad that the finale still remains in tact, as it’s still one of the strongest endings that Scare Kingdom provides

 

Black Death

Scare Kingdom bring their own hooded haunt this year: themed to the black plague, this haunt is littered with coughing and spluttering sick victims of the plague. I’ve never been a fan of hooded haunts as I don’t feel that being hooded adds anything to the experience, and even though it was a full contact haunt (whilst the others aren’t), it still had a lot of room for improvement – I was constantly worried I was going to tread on one of the actors or walk into the person in front of me, and avoiding that became my main focus, rather than being scared. Maybe I’m just picky; others going through were definitely scared, but I just couldn’t get immersed in the story.

 

Snuffhouse: Alone

After doing Snuffhouse: After Dark earlier this year, I half had an idea of what to expect, and after reading the disclaimer and watching people come out dripping wet, I decided to skip this attraction as it was cold enough without the water.

 

Overall, Scare Kingdom is an impressive attraction with some incredibly strong haunts and characters (shout out to Dougie and the drunk female wandering around the bar – sorry I didn’t get your name!) that really needs to be experienced at least once in your life, as everything is on point. I will definitely be back next year to see how Scare Kingdom evolves and attempts to trump another extremely strong year!

 

22/10/2016 – Scare Kingdom