23/04/2016 – Cracked-Survival Experience

“Explain your experience in three words”.

 

I’ve always been a fan of being scared. I’ve done most of the title holding rollercoasters residing in the UK and have attended countless haunts over the last decade, and whilst they were fun, I knew I was safe at all times so the scares didn’t really get to me – I needed an extreme haunt.

What is an extreme haunt? Unlike boo haunts (the kind of haunts at theme parks where someone jumps up and yells “boo!”), Extreme haunts are generally physically and mentally demanding, and require the guests to be the main characters of the story. Generally speaking, you will be armed with a safe word, be put in a very small group (with some making you go through alone!), and sent on your not-so-merry way.

About a year ago, I discovered a few extreme haunts in America and read all the reviews I could on them, trying to figure out their stories and what happened inside: I needed to do something like this, that made the scenario you’re in feel real.

 

Out of nowhere, I get a message simply saying: “look up Cracked Survival”.

 

After a bit of Googling and Facebooking, I find myself requesting access to the New Recruits page – a page specifically set up for the promotion and general chit chat around Cracked from those that have been and those that are interested in going. When asking about what took place inside, everyone kept their lips sealed, or responded with “we are all Blake” – a rather cryptic message.

 

Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I ended up buying a ticket for a friend and myself (I definitely wouldn’t have shown my face if I didn’t have someone I know with me). As soon as I had paid for the tickets, I found myself being added to a secret group with other attendees where questions were asked of us over the course of three months, allowing Blake to slowly and surely embed himself within all of us. As each question was asked, I found myself trying to analyse them, try and find out what was in store for us and break the game before the game got a chance to break me. Blake’s presence grew.

 

Friday 22nd April came around, and at 19:00 on the dot my phone vibrated. “Dear Subject 3, it is now 24 hours until Cracked: Experiment 2.0 begins.” My heart skipped a beat and my hands went clammy. I stood with my friend in the middle of London at rush hour on a Friday night, workers rushing to catch the earliest train how they could, partygoers heading to their first venue of the night…. and us two, heading to a hotel way up north to experience something that only a handful of people have experienced before us.

 

Saturday day was surreal: it was almost like being in purgatory. We had a low key day watching stuff on TV and YouTube, generally saving energy before the big event. 18:00 eventually comes around, and we go to meet the two other subjects in our group. 18:45 soon came around and we headed off to the pickup location, speculating what could happen to us. We round a corner and immediately meet a stern faced woman. Any sense of joy dissipated quickly. We handed her any earthly possessions we had on us and, get directed down a dirt path and the experience began…

 

Within minutes of the event starting, our meager group of four were slowly being chipped away, bit by bit, in the middle of the countryside by Sarge (a character you do not want to be on the right side of, let alone the wrong side) who worked us until we were lying breathless on the floor at his feet, before being loaded into the back of an army van, and bound and hooded and taken to the real location.

Over the next 90 minutes, Blake, Sarge and the small army of assistants continued to erode at our physical being, the assistants making sure we did exactly what Sarge wanted us to do, to make sure we wouldn’t cut corners or to correct us if we were doing wrong. I found myself saying “sorry Sarge” more and more as my body slowly broke down.

After doing one particular task that I failed miserably at, I get punished and I crack: I scream the safeword and I lay there absolutely disappointed with myself. My time was over.

Blake was instantly there along with one of the assistants offering their hand to help me up, and I’m guided away from the rest of the group (who continue on with the tour for another 2 hours before cracking – see her review here).

I meet the stoney-faced woman from the beginning of the experience at the top of the stairs, except she had dropped the cold, clinical persona and was absolutely sweet! She asked how I was physically and mentally, asked what happened to make me safeword, then offered me a hot drink, though a bottle of cold water was much more appealing. I took the bottle of water and shook Blake’s and her hand, and made my way outside to my chariot back to the hotel whilst they returned to torment the remaining subjects.

 

Photography by PastaCore Alternative Photography

 

It took almost two hours for the adrenaline to finally clear my system – I went on a good hour walk just to try and figure out what I had gone through, but I just couldn’t: there was just far too much to process. I was extremely disappointed that I cracked at something so basic – I found out after that I was extremely close to getting into the next scene, and all I needed to do was choose a better way to vocalise my panic: the safeword really and truly was not the noise I wanted to make.

That night I managed to get to sleep at about 02:30. Every time I closed my eyes, I could see Blake’s mask there, almost as if it had been permanently imprinted in my mind’s eye. I finally do find myself passing out, though the sleep wasn’t very fitful as the fatigue was quick to set in.

Cracked is an extremely fast paced, intense, and uncomfortable haunt. It is designed to push you to breaking point and beyond. You need to be both mentally and physically tough to survive the full six hours, and realise that your worst enemy in there is not who you think it is.

 

“Explain your experience in three words”

I am Blake.

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23/04/2016 – Cracked-Survival Experience

30th October 2015: Phobophobia: The Freaks

Hey guys!

Once again, sorry it’s late. I had good intentions to do this earlier but failed miserably (real life’s been kicking my butt!)

Anyways, on 30th October a friend and I hit up the London Bridge Experience and Tombs for “Phobophobia: The Freaks” after seeing pretty creepy photos EVERYWHERE in London for it. I had been aware of the London Bridge Experience for quite some time (as far back as when The London Dungeons was opposite it) but had never made any real effort to go, so I decided this was the perfect opportunity.

So! Phobophobia is the annual, week long, adult only experience that, whilst isn’t billed as an extreme haunt, is definitely billed as one (see the links above). I simply had to give this a go, and my accompanying friend (Russ) wants to get involved with more haunts after I talked his ears off about McKamey Manor. This year was split into two sections: a free-walk experience and a queued experience.

 

The experience began upon arrival. If you have been to the London Bridge Experience, you’ll know that you queue up in a tunnel that has cute little paintings of rats on the floor, as if they’re scuttling about. They also had the Phobophobia logo rotating on the wall of the tunnel opposite the queue, and had a few actors walking up and down the queue, some intimidating guests and others handing out/selling sweets and glowsticks, much to my annoyance. You’re entering an event that’s designed to be scary, why are you ruining it with glowsticks?!

 

Our turn quickly came. We handed in our tickets and joined an internal queue where we were penned in. As soon as our group reached 15, we were soon invited into the pre-show room, where a creepy ringmaster told us of his travelling freakshow and his cannibalistic freak family. We were made to crawl two abreast through a 200m long tunnel lit up with UV light that ended up being a u-turn around the first freak, who yelled abuse through the caged tunnel wall (“you have a nice arse” being the only one I remember)

 

we exited the tunnel and stood up, powerwalking through a darkened corridor a bit to catch up with the rest of the group who had hit somesort of medical room. I tried to get closer to the person on the operating table to see if he/she was real (she wasn’t) but I was soon “attacked” by a freak with a knife who simply pushed me away from the scenery.

 

Our tour continued through an outside setting, where silhouettes clawed at the walls whilst we ducked and weaved through dirty laundry hanging from washing lines at head height whilst strobes at eye-level blinded us.

 

Another scene appeared in front of us: somesort of death thing. We had no real idea what was going on here, but I guess the dead were coming back to life. What I do know is an actor launched herself into an upright position whilst in the coffin next to us; she was then shot and “killed” again. This was an unexpected scare that got everyone around us, but I couldn’t help but laugh and clap.

 

We continued through our tour and found ourselves in a tavern run by the family of freaks. Two rather attractive but tortured twins sat in the bar and warned us to either order a drink or they’ll call daddy. Daddy was called and all the lights went out. All of a sudden, the revving of a chainsaw was heard from where we came, a strobelight blared and daddy chased us out of the tavern.

 

The next part was, in my opinion, the best bit of the tour: the vortex tunnel. This baby was about 100m long and, I can’t be sure, but I think the bridge was either tilted a little, or tilted as you went along. Either way, everyone was holding on for dear life and all leaning in one direction. This is probably the only bit in the whole 40 minute experience that got everyone.

 

We were then taken down a flight of stairs and had our photo taken before being queued up for part 2 where we had to hold onto the person in front’s shoulders (I personally hate these kinda mazes).

 

This was probably the weakest bit of the whole thing, despite it lasting 20 minutes and made everyone scream. I also really don’t remember any of it as it had absolutely no storyline and was completely void of actors, though the detail in the props was fantastic.

 

Most of this part was dark, though this was ruined by the glowsticks everyone had bought. We basically walked through corridor after corridor of dismembered body parts that were at head height which was a little creepy when they “looked” at you.

 

The next bit was a jungle scene or something with zombie animatronics and a huge spider that just kinda flailed its front legs around.

 

After, we entered a corridor made of wood where a huge behemoth that didn’t look too unlike The Thing from Fantastic Four just kinda stood, staring. The corridors after were very twisty and claustrophobic.

 

The next scene was a graveyard which had a perfect scare opportunity for a sparker with an axe to attack us, but nothing happened.

 

To tie it loosely back in with the freakshow theme, they had a bit dedicated to the circus. It was cleverly done, with the room divided up into 16 squares with circus tent fabric dividing each square up, which added to the disorientation. This scene was completely under utilized – they totally could have had clowns or actors in there acting demented, but they only had a cot with a doll in it and nothing else.

 

The final scene was a butchers block with another chainsaw scare that lasted so long it became awkward. I shrugged at the actor when he failed to scare me and was rewarded by getting a chainsaw to the balls.

 

In my honest opinion, the scariest bit of this part of the experience was the lack of actors. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, but none of it was scary: the scares were aimed at the front of the queue and repeated again at the back, there were a few claustrophobia chambers that were poorly executed (they came up to shoulder height and were so stiff they just became a nuisance), fake scares where props were placed behind walls so you saw them out the corners of your eyes (there were enough that I thought the one in the strobe room was gunna be real… nope).

 

I can kinda see why they wanted adults only, but the description of the event was extremely misleading. I guess if you’re absolutely brand new to boo haunts and have no idea what to expect from them, then this would be a good show, otherwise I’d say not to bother.

 

 

As a bonus, they had a reptile room where they had snakes of various sizes (from 2kg through to 30kg), an iguana, and something else. We spent about 45 minutes in there because the little snake I held wrapped itself around my neck and fell asleep on me, and I felt guilty for wanting to wake him up. This was definitely the highlight of the event.

30th October 2015: Phobophobia: The Freaks