24/10/2017 – The Howl at Mead Open Farm

By day a farm for kids, by night a terrifying series of attractions for adults: The Howl at Mead Open Farm hosts five haunts that all get under your skin and spook you silly!

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First for the night is Topper’s Twister, a delightfully deranged blend of circus and funhouse with plenty of terrifying clowns stalking through the attraction. With some amazingly used elements that make you feel unsteady on your feet and rooms peppered with lasers and swirling lights, this disorienting haunt is a great mixture of laughs and screams from everyone! With some great actors that are brilliant at improvising lines and finding the best hiding places, I was disappointed that an actor didn’t hide in the ball pit: it’s such a simple scare that’d catch absolutely everyone off guard – as the floor is on a slope, it’d be easy to reset each time too! A brilliant start to the night, especially if you’re in a small group!

 

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Still grinning from Topper’s Twister, our next haunt of choice was House of Hounds: a werewolf themed haunt! As a concept, werewolves are absolutely brilliant but so difficult to do, but The Howl really does it justice! I really appreciated that the characters became more and more feral as you progressed, the way the entire attraction was pumped full of smoke constantly, the use of chicken wire fences and solid walls to break up the haunt, the actors’ abilities to be threatening throughout, and the incredible finale, House of Hounds is an intense and terrifying experience! The only improvement I’d make is to try and hide the main smoke machine a bit better, and to move the strobe light from behind the final character so you can see it in all it’s glory.

 

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Hotel de Basquervilles was our next choice on the lineup: themed around a haunted hotel, this beautiful haunt really gets going from the moment the safety briefing ends! The whispering soundtrack that permeates throughout from nowhere really sets a creepy vibe that is broken by actors that spring from out of the most unlikely of places! Once again, this haunt is strongest in small groups as most of the initial scares are at the front of the queue, however the actors are brilliant at maintaining their character as the rest of the group passes. Before you know it, the haunt is over: there’s no real finale, which is a real shame seeing as the corridor you travel through feels like it’s just leading to another scene.

 

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Our penultimate haunt was The Shed, a haunt themed round, well, a shed and what you’d find in a shed. There was no real story or setup to this attraction as far as I could tell, but it was still a brilliant attraction that was extremely creepy and filled with feral beings that were extremely nightmarish! The atmosphere throughout was one of impending doom, and the effects and natural smells of the decorations within really helped add to that atmosphere! Absolutely loved the lighting throughout, and was really impressed and surprised by the clever re-hash of the chainsaw finale, a breath of fresh air that blew me away, if you know what I mean! Definitely my favourite haunt at The Howl, especially as it seems like the conga line rule is ignored (and quite rightly to!)

 

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Squealer’s Yard was our final haunt for the night. At first I was concerned about how good it was going to be as we were sent in as a group of 15 while every other haunt was sending us through in groups no bigger than 6 , though that really didn’t matter once you made it through the incredible opening scene! The group is split up, and you make your way through all sorts of scenes as you try to escape from the freaky cannibalistic creatures hiding within! A strong attraction that sees actors climbing all over set pieces and ad-libbing lines to freak you out as you make your way to a finale that really lets the rest of the attraction down, especially as the intro and most of the attraction is really intense.

 

Alongside the haunts, there’s also a few food stalls, a couple of roaming actors that felt like they blended in with the general public at points (I only saw two characters when walking about), and an undercover area with a stage for a band to perform on. I was aware of it being part of Tulley’s last year, and it’s definitely bringing some of the Shocktoberfest vibe with it, and I’m sure this festival style air will develop as The Howl becomes bigger and better: I was honestly surprised with how empty the attraction was, given the great ticket prices and amazing entertainment! Definitely one to visit, if you haven’t already!

 

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24/10/2017 – The Howl at Mead Open Farm

24/10/2017 – The Haunted Castle at Warwick Castle

Located on the beautiful grounds of Warwick Castle (if the title hasn’t already given that away), The Haunted Castle is a great place to go for brave youngsters who love Halloween and all things spooky!

Haunted Hallows was a beautiful walk through a series of extremely well themed sections that had some great scenery and fun and friendly actors that felt friendly whilst performing a jump scare, which is extremely clever given that it’s aimed at kids! Feeling more like a scarezone than a haunt, the lighting, effects, and music all came together perfectly to create a creepy yet familiar vibe that mimicked the atmosphere in Scooby Doo: even as an adult, this was good fun!

Dolls House was up next: a eerie piece of theatre with a very strong opening scene that set a high bar for the rest of the attraction, though the rest of the scenes felt like they fell flat after such a strong introduction. The set pieces within were great and utilised well, and each scene told it’s own story, it just felt like the actors were running through a script and there was no way for them to add their own “flavour” to their character. Really enjoyed the clever ending though!

After wandering around a bit, our time for Seance came up – the haunt itself is identical to what we experienced in Birmingham last year which you can read here, but it was still very effective and creepy!

Our final haunt at The Haunted Castle was Outbreak 1349, a journey through an exhibit that is re-themed every day to host the haunt. With no story line and nobody to set the scene, I had real trouble discerning whether the actors inside were meant to be plague ridden or zombies: neither their actions, noises, or costume indicated one way or another – the only way we knew was because of the set pieces we saw after we had past the very few diseased: there was one or two good jump scares, but we missed them as we were at the back and the scares were aimed at the front of the (unnecessary) conga line. I feel like I might be being a bit harsh seeing as it’s still aimed at kids but with it’s scare rating being the same as Seance, I was expecting something just as creepy. I’d very much like to see the exhibition closed off for the Halloween season and see something a bit more “permanent” inside even if it is just a marquee, as this would stop people from leaving prematurely given that it opens so late in the day.

As a small note, it’d be great to see some characters in the Horrible Histories maze getting kids to re-enact small things (such as roaring for the Viking bit, marching int he Army bit, etc) in order to get the stamp or a sticker or something.

Overall, it’s a decent starting point for kids who love Halloween and their parents. Despite having to hang around for each attraction to open at their specific times, it was a good day out.

24/10/2017 – The Haunted Castle at Warwick Castle

21/10/2017 – Chessington World of Adventures Howl’o’ween

After hearing about Chessington World of Adventures putting on a Halloween event, I was extremely curious as to what they’d do. When I added them to the huge lineup, I hadn’t had much exposure/experience/whatever with kids haunts (except a backstage tour of Spooks in the Straw), so thought it might be something a bit different, and I was glad I added it to the lineup after doing House of Monsters, Alton Towers’ very own kids haunt.

Unfortunately for myself, I only had a limited amount of time at Chessington as I had to make my way across London in order to catch the next leg of my journey, so I wasn’t able to experience Trick or Treat Wood; but from what I could hear and see when walking past it, it looked like great fun with some very enthusiastic actors to boot!

My first haunt at Chessington was Creepy Caves Unearthed, a haunt created with young teenagers in mind. I’ve no idea what young teenagers they did their market research on because I honestly could not believe how intense the haunt was! The storyline is well thought out and very captivating from the get go, with some amazing actors delivering the narrative (though I’m not sure why they had American accents, but you know, just a minor detail that has no negative impact on the attraction itself) and scenes and sets that compliment the story being told. The theatrics give way and all hell breaks loose as you’re sent through the creepy caves in order to survive as mutated humans come charging toward you from absolutely everywhere! The finale had a very nice twist as well, with some more scares as you’re chased out of the attraction!

Parents, please please PLEASE take note of the age restriction! Whilst Chessington is a family friendly attraction, Creepy Caves Unearthed does not fall into this category: it is honestly as intense as some of the haunts I’ve done aimed at adults, though it’s much shorter. When we were waiting for our timeslot, we were seeing kids coming out in tears! I was extremely impressed with the attraction, and really couldn’t find much fault with it – the time you do it doesn’t have any effect as you’re all indoors anyway, the actors really got into their roles and managed to make me jump a few times, and the sights and smells really popped and stood out, making Creepy Caves Unearthed a brilliant addition to the park!

 

After taking a bit of a breather to calm down, I moved onto Curse of the Lost Tomb, a story driven show that mixes theatre with a few scenes that mimic an escape room. All the actors inside are extremely captivating and really fit in with their scenes well, improvising lines and interacting with the audience beautifully as you make your way through. Whilst not rated as too scary by the theme park, it can be very tense at points as there’s quite a lot of flashing lights, an eerie atmosphere, and a finale that used some effects that I really wasn’t expecting! Great fun for the whole family, but as with Creepy Caves Unearthed, definitely take the age restriction into consideration as younger guests might not enjoy it.

 

Overall though, Chessington World of Adventures has put on a series of fun and brilliant shows and haunts, and plenty of roaming characters that will thrill you with their amazing moves! Well done to everyone involved!

 

21/10/2017 – Chessington World of Adventures Howl’o’ween

20/10/2017 – Xtreme Scream Park

Located at Twin Lakes theme park, Xtreme Scream Park promises some of the longest haunts with some of the most diverse concepts and impressive effects I’ve seen!

 

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Revenge of the Zombie Clowns

a mix of funhouse meets circus, Revenge of the Zombie Clowns brings the heat to the beginning of the night: the vortex tunnel and crazy rooms with slanted walls and floors really set a fun tone as creepy music travels through the air, leading to a disorientating maze of curtain dividers which unfortunately starts getting repetitive. As one of the oldest attractions there, it’s definitely feeling a little dated and unloved – there’s a lack of actors, props for the actors to use/hide behind, and with no finale. Definitely the least scariest of the bunch, but it’s still a fun way to begin the night. Was very impressed with the way the safety announcements were done for this, as the actor personalised her character perfectly.

 

Stilton Hall Hotel and Hell Spa

Our second haunt for the evening was an absolutely beautiful haunted hotel attraction with a very intense and chaotic introductory scene, which throws you into even more chaos as you pass through room after room of this incredibly long haunt that sets a high standard with regards to theming and keeps it at that high level throughout the entire attraction, including scents and sounds that really help immerse you. The scares come quick and fast as characters pop out of props and linger about, creating some tense and funny moments. The effects found within were very novel, one of which I’ve never seen done before in an attraction, but the most effective was the pitch black rooms which really seemed to freak people out!

 

The Pie Factory

Another brilliantly long haunt, The Pie Factory takes guests through (as the name suggests) a pie factory. Theming throughout was grisly and downright disgusting at points, with strobes and scents that make you question whether what you’re looking at is real! This was definitely my favourite at Xtreme Scream Park thanks to the mixture of actors that really knew what to say and how to use their space to get the best scares! Definitely not for those with a weak stomach, this sensory overload of a haunt will definitely terrify even the hardiest of people!

 

Ash Hell Penitentiary

Probably the longest haunt at Xtreme Scream (and if it’s not, it certainly feels like it!), there were some incredibly effects that I’ve never experienced before in any attraction! There are plenty of hiding spaces for actors to utilise, though I legitimately felt like it was seriously lacking them; having said that, the actors we did meet were absolutely brilliant once I realised that they might be a bit inflammatory with their script (maybe worth adding this to the safety briefing!). Like with the two haunts mentioned above, Ash Hell utilises what I can only describe as “reverse light”, i.e. only giving very quick bursts of light to give you enough time to take a glance at where you need to go, and the actors really know how to use this against you! With plenty of scares and some incredibly dark themes/visuals at points, this claustrophobic haunt definitely delivers! It’s a shame that there seems to be a complete lack of smells to make scenes (like the toilets) to be more realistic.

 

Hoo Doo Voodoo

Part hooded, this haunt is themed to the typical imagery you think of when you hear the word “voodoo”. Whilst I’m not a fan of hooded attractions, the hooded section here is the best I’ve experienced, as the actors get up close and interact with you using a wide variety of techniques as you blindly stumble your way through, your hand brushing against various surfaces – more narrative here would be really appreciated, as it’s so close to being a strong hooded haunt, but just falls short. The rest of the attraction, which you go through without a hood, rises up to meet the high standards set by the park: sets were beautiful, costumes were on point, and both worked together to create exactly what I wanted in a Voodoo themed haunt – the only jarring scene that left me scratching my head was the UV box room.

 

The Village

As the most anticipated haunt at Xtreme Scream Park, I decided to leave it to last as the hype surrounding it really made it out to be great: whilst it was fantastic, it definitely didn’t live upto the hype. The concept was well developed (although actors’ speech pushing the narrative would have made it greater), the theming was the pinnacle of all the other haunts! As you travel through the scenes, the lighting (or lack of) really works against you to create some really creepy and uneasy experiences, which are only worsened (or made better?) by the ambient sounds, claustrophobic elements, and your own paranoia! The final scene is definitely one of the darkest scenes I’ve seen in a haunt this Halloween, and I couldn’t be more excited to get to the exit! Whilst not inherently filled with jump scares, this haunt relies on creating an unnaturally creepy atmosphere and keeping you on the edge of paranoia to help further your fear. Look out for the professor – he’s sure to terrify you!

Generally speaking, Xtreme Scream Park has some absolutely beautiful haunts with narrow walk ways where you have to squeeze past props, actor costumes and face paint that really pops and wows, and huge props that are really impressive and startling! Unfortunately I experienced a lot of back up in all of the haunts where we caught up with the group in front – it didn’t really detract much as it gives you the chance to see all the theming and the actors are great at improvising and keeping you on edge.

The only thing that’s missing from the park is atmosphere – I can’t quite say what it is, but it just seems to lack the buzz that other scare parks have. Still, a great evening out – just be sure to wrap up warm and get there early!

20/10/2017 – Xtreme Scream Park

04/10/2017 – Scaresville at Kentwell Hall

After my first visit to Scaresville roughly this time last year and really enjoying myself (despite a few small critiques), I knew I had to return this year – and was I glad I did!

Scaresville, for those that aren’t in the know, is dubbed a “haunted village” and quite rightly – when you visit most scare attractions, there are multiple individual haunts that last 10-20 minutes which can be done in any order; Scaresville is a ~90 minute walk around a small section of Kentwell Hall that has a number of different scenes that last from 30 seconds through to 15 minutes, and you see and experience everything!

As I stated in last years review (and I’ll no doubt mention it again next year), I’d usually review each of the haunts one by one, but as you go through so many little scenes during your visit, it’s impossible to remember every little thing you experience, so I’m going to review the whole attraction as one supersize haunt.

First off, The Unfairground made a return: it was almost the same as last year, though the magician had been traded out by some areal acrobats that performed once in a while which was impressive (despite the sound issues) – definitely worth a watch if they’re performing when you’re there. It would have been nice if there was some sort of schedule at the entrance of the big top (if it is there, ignore this). I really enjoyed The Unfairground this year, despite the fact there’s still a lack of things to do and see – a pumpkin shy or apple bobbing thing wouldn’t go amiss! Nonetheless, the atmosphere in this area was truly electric, and as the lights hanging from the browning trees swayed with the breeze and with the announcer calling out group numbers, it really and truly felt like a Halloween festival – the local airborne wildlife definitely added to this feeling!

After grabbing a hot drink and watching the acrobatics, it was our turn to queue up and watch the safety announcements where we’re told the rules and such, and there were two rules I really did like: you must change positions, and if you catch up with a group you must wait. This is the only place I’ve ever heard these rules though the first you kind of have to do as keeping in the same order for 90 minutes sucks, but it’s rare for haunts to actually encourage you to slow down, and it’d honestly be rude to not slow down and ensure your group is all together as some of the scares used are much, much more intense when everyone sees it the first time!

What is a really nice touch is that the owner of the event sits just before you start your tour of the haunted village – it’s clear that he’s there as an equal to greet his guests and welcome them to his creation and he does with great gusto and pride – and he really should be proud of what he has created.

The scenes themselves this year were as brilliant as they were last year – there were some I recognised from last year, some that had been used in years before, and some that were brand new, so even though there were scares where you knew what to expect, enough has changed for you to be kept on edge – especially in the forest.

Usually if there’s sound bleed between haunts I’d be the first to jump on it and critique it; however, as all the scenes in Scaresville are small the constant screams coming from the distance really adds to the atmosphere that settles over Scaresville like a thick fog as you’re never sure if they’re coming from scenes in front of you or behind you.

The scares themselves are extremely clever, often using misdirection and the cover of darkness in order to illicit a scream from you, though that’s not always the case – some scares are in plain sight and it’s not until the scare has happened that you realise how obvious it was! I was also seriously impressed with the angles the scares came from – one actor hanging about in the forest especially got me after I walked into his limb by accident!

I could honestly go on and on about how great Scaresville is, and it really is incredible. The only improvements I’d make is to add a little more scenery/games to The Unfairground, and whilst it’s probably not completely curable just look out for the batching as you get a little bottlenecked a few times (though it really wasn’t a big issue at all). Overall a very tense, atmospheric, scary, and fun attraction that I will be returning to again in the future.

 

PS: bring wellies and wrap up warm!

 

 

04/10/2017 – Scaresville at Kentwell Hall

26/10/2016 – Tulleys Shocktober Fest Scream Park

After getting my mojo back from Alton Towers earlier in the week and after hearing all the positive reviews from other haunters, we hit the road once again and made our way to Tulleys for their Shocktober Fest.

We collected our tickets and entered the scream park and were instantly blown away with what they had: 8 individual haunts (which I’ll get onto in a minute), 3 fairground rides, sideshow stalls, 2 stages, lots of food and drink outlets, and shops galore – it legitimately felt like we had entered a Halloween festival, and it was BEAUTIFUL.

We spent a little time wandering round, taking everything in and generally exploring before we hit our first haunt of the night: Hell-ements.

 

Hell-ements

Despite not enjoying hooded haunts, this has got to be the strongest one I’ve done to date. A brief video introduction to set the scene, we don our hoods and take hold of the rope, and I seem to stampede ahead in front of the group in this twisting and turning haunt without realising! Exploring the four elements (earth, water, air, and fire), everyone who steps inside has their wits and mettle challenged. As far as hooded mazes go, there was a lot that made me uncomfortable, including one actor that decided to remove my hand from the rope! An absolutely fantastic hooded haunt that really went on for a very long time, even if parts of it were ruined slightly by how light it was still – my bad for being so eager!

 

 

Creepy Cottage

Living up to its name, the Creepy Cottage was the second haunt we visited. This is definitely a haunt to visit early on in the evening as it’s all completely indoors and, if the queue is short, you’ll get to go through in a small group (which makes haunts that bit better). With loads of automated effects and a few live actors, we had a scream trekking through the cottage with scenes that flowed together so smoothly it was easy to believe that you really were in a cottage.

 

The Cellar

Without much story, it felt like we were transported to an abandoned house in the middle of a bayou in Louisiana or another similar state. With lots of claustrophobic elements and things dangling from the ceiling obscuring your vision, this dark and twisted haunt had lots of jump scares at the front of the conga line, with the actors being creepier the further back you were positioned which worked fairly well as the monsters lurking within were highly unsettling. This was an absolute treat for all the senses.

 

Pan-DEMON-ium’s 3D Carnival

Another haunt that’s completely indoors, this maze is like experiencing an acid trip on steroids! Themed around a carnival (hence the name), guests meet a number of creepy side show hosts before being told about the evil that awaits us further inside still. We don the 3D glasses and everything starts popping off the walls, confusing your brain and distracting you from all the horrors that use the darkness to their advantage! Whilst this was the best clown attraction I’ve experienced on my tour, it still felt like it lacked actors at points (especially in the first half of the haunt), but the clowns inside definitely make up for it. I also liked that we were permitted to go through in our own small group as nobody seemed to realise there was a haunt there. Shout out to the host that laughed as we reeled off the briefing before entering!

 

The Colony

After seeing some rather interesting themes this Halloween season, I was absolutely ecstatic to find this post-apocalyptic themed haunt hidden away! Whilst it’s almost impossible to choose a favourite haunt from Tulleys (and in general), The Colony just about steals it due to the theming. Feeling like you had entered a Psycho’s den in Borderlands, this humongous haunt uses both outside and inside areas to immerse you in the apocalypse, with bonfires and such dotted around to distract you; one of my favourite bits was the pitch black corridor with the lone actor standing at the end – that was visually stunning and very unnerving! The costumes and acting was incredible with a mixture of creep and jump scares, and the ending was absolutely phenomenal and a unique twist on the chainsaw. Bravo to the actor that was in there!

 

The Horrorwood Hayride

Based on a backstage tour of a movie studio, this hayride takes you through all sorts of hellish scenes that are not only legitimately jumpy, but are incredibly clever with how they’re executed! A speaker narrates a story as you pass from scene to scene, interacting with a wide range of characters, props, and special effects: possibly the best thing about this haunt is it doesn’t need to be night for it to be effective – I’d definitely consider doing this as the first haunt.

After an unsuccessful hay ride at the beginning of our trip I was kinda skeptical about this one, having both high and low hopes for it: needless to say, this rekindled my faith in hayrides and really think they are a strong and interesting way to scare!

 

Coven of 13

With a witch theme, this haunt is extremely clever in the way it uses lighting and smoke to create an illusion that can’t be described in text – you seriously have to go through the haunt to understand what I’m saying! After such a strong introduction to the haunt, I found it hard to see where they could go next; however, after attending a spellcasting and entering the home of the damned, the finale absolutely blew me away!

 

The Chop Shop

the final haunt of our visit was a little trip through a hillbilly garage that seems to be doing more than just chopping and trading parts for automobiles…

With very little story at all, this haunt was a complete attack on the eyes and ears which was completely disorientating, so much so that I’m sure we went through the same scene a few times. As soon as it was over, I had to take a deep breath to calm myself down, it was so intense! Definitely a strong maze, but needed to be a little bit longer in my opinion to make you feel like it wasn’t going to end.

 

All in all, Tulleys Shocktober Fest Scream Park is definitely one of the most breath taking haunt attractions I’ve experienced to date, there was a number of times I found myself saying “this is absolutely incredible” at all the different things there was to see and do, the crowd and queue management, the entertainment on both stages, and all the sideshows themed to Halloween in some way. I will definitely be back next year to see how this attraction evolves!

On a final note, I would like to give a special mention to the two roaming zombie nurses we bumped into for their acting, they were absolutely hilarious! Thank you!

26/10/2016 – Tulleys Shocktober Fest Scream Park

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