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

07/10/2017 – Scare Kingdom Scream Park

With nine years under its belt, Scare Kingdom descends once more on Mrs Dowson’s Farm, where all sorts of evil creatures stalk the darkness…

 

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As with all Scare Kingdom Halloween events, the first stop is to a small intro scene that sets the tone and gets you ready for the scares ahead – this year, Billy Redneck (a famed killer clown hunter) welcomes you to the mayhem, with a brilliant special effect that really packs a punch!

 

The Sickness 2: High Hopes Hospital

New last year, High Hopes Hospital is a sequel in the The Sickness “franchise”. Hosted by Doctors Lockjaw and Van der Blood, this extremely theatrical haunt will blow you away from the fascia sitting outside as you approach and the dank corridors hidden within, to the creepy and alluring way the actors manage to portray themselves, this fun haunt is a great expansion on what was laid out last year.

 

Manormortis

Manormortis is definitely a treasure to behold in the haunt industry: it’s beautiful, so incredibly themed within, and the numerous immersive stories that are told within it almost feel like American Horror Story’s Murder House; the only thing I can fault with it is that the entrance isn’t decorated to be a grand manor house like High Hopes Hospital! As with all Manormortis haunts, it is extremely theatrical and has a great mix of story and scares that blend together greatly to completely immerse and lose you in its world! Got to give recognition to the female in the finale – that scream is terrifying!

 

Prey

Following the grace and beauty of Manormortis is no easy feat, and unfortunately I feel like Prey doesn’t even try to stand up. Themed around vampires, the external theming sees the building turn into a beautiful chapel that looms over the audience as they approach, almost giving off a hauntingly forboding atmosphere on its own; however when you step inside, the complete lack of theming really ruins the attraction. What could have been a beautifully creepy attraction turned out to be a haunt that relies completely on jump scares every few feet that become predictable and boring by the time you’re half way through. Don’t get me wrong, the pitch black walls press in on you greatly and create this sense of creeping claustrophobia, but so much can be done with it as we saw in 2015 – I really hope it returns to that soon.

 

Body Snatchers

Brand new this year, and the most anticipated haunt at Scare Kingdom, you are invited inside Brimstone & Black funeral parlour where not everything is as it should be. This is honestly on par with Manormortis with regards to storytelling, and the scenery and costuming is absolutely beautiful and really fits the theme. There are a number of effects and scares dotted throughout that are sure to catch you off guard, though most of the scares were aimed toward the front… until the finale, which is guaranteed to get you no matter how brave you are! Definitely the strongest haunt at Scare Kingdom this year!

 

Black Widow

The last of the boo haunts is Black Widow – a hooded haunt themed to arachnophobia. The set up was really quick and fun, but as soon as the hood is on and you enter the haunt, it loses momentum: from the constant “are you scared of spiders?” being yelled to what’s obviously hands grabbing you, it’s more fun than scary. Having to run your hand over something furry/spiny to make it feel like you’re brushing against a spider, or parts of the rope covered in something sticky to feel like web would definitely add something, hanging lengths of string from the ceiling to simulate strands of web, and even a leg tickler section would really add that little extra that it’s missing at the moment.

 

Psychomanteum

With the departure of Snuffhouse, the sickening Psychomanteum makes its return, and boy does it really pack a punch! This extreme haunt is the only one of its kind that can make me go from laughing hard to feeling extremely uncomfortable and back again in milliseconds, and it’s easy to understand why! I am honestly so glad that Psychomanteum is back, as it’s honestly my favourite haunt at Scare Kingdom (I’m a sick f*****, after all). Definitely one to avoid if you’re not comfortable with being put in scenarios that really toe the line sexually; if not, get your ticket and get ready for the chaotic whirlwind inside!

 

 

What can I say? Scare Kingdom has really pulled it out of the bag once again, and I’m glad that I returned once again this year. If you’ve got a free weekend, I definitely suggest a visit!

 

07/10/2017 – Scare Kingdom Scream Park

02/09/2017 – Hide And Shriek: The Seance Brave it Alone (Preview)

I’m starting to let my fanboy show with all these trips to Southend, especially as I went back to the sunny seaside town for another viewing of The Seance – this time, I was going alone!

Brave it Alone experiences offer the victi guest a new perspective on the experience as there’s no way to divert nervous energy, actors tend to feel like they’re picking on you and will get up close and potentially touch you, meaning the experience feels much more intense and personal without it being too “extreme”: if haunts were subject to ratings like films, boo haunts would either be rated PG or 12A, brave it alone haunts would be rated 15, and extreme haunts would be rated 18.

So after talking to Scott and George of Hide and Shriek, they mentioned that they were curious about running a Brave it Alone experience for Seance to see if they could do it, and me being the weirdo and sucker for a good scare, I jumped right on board and got a ticket for the first showing I could actually attend, which was probably not the best idea in hindsight as it gave the guys very little chance to up the scares.

I arrive at the venue already pretty nervous and wait for my turn. Beyond the doors at the back of the shop, I can hear muffled screams from the group before me which doesn’t exactly help settle my nerves: I begin to wonder why I’m doing it alone and then remember that this anticipation and fear is exactly why I’m sat here like a goon in a retail unit in a shopping centre with everyone staring at me through the window. The screen next to me quickly changes from the The Seance clip to the oh so famous Hide and Shriek introduction video (which is a thing of beauty in itself). The video finishes, the doors to the left of the screen open, and I’m led into the pitch black corridor awaiting me.

We come to a stop in front of the doors and in this inky darkness, it becomes incredibly clear just how alone this brave it alone experience will be. I repeat the escape word and head onto the set (this is honestly the only way I can describe it). I enter the house and take a seat at the table in front of the only playing card on the table. I really and truly am on my own from here on out.

A radio fizzles to life to the left of me and an all to familiar voice starts talking, explaining that the house is haunted and really setting the scene. At this point in time, I was truly tense: I kept finding myself talking to nobody, shuffling about, and trying to make light of the situation, but that doesn’t mean anything when there’s nobody about to react to the jokes – if anything, it only made it worse and I had completely forgotten that this was just an attraction put on by some friends.

What happened over the course of the next half hour was very much the same as the first round, though the beauty of the Seance is that you can sit in any one of those seats and get an entirely different show each time, and sitting at the head of the table with the open doorway behind you really really starts playing on your paranoia – at least the last time I did it, my back was to a wall! Whilst most of the effects remained the same in this run, there were a few extra additions that I really was not expecting, one of which actually managed to get a scream out of me, and it’s been a long time coming!

The Seance in a group is a good show in itself, but being alone in that pitch black living room with things bumping around you really does add a new layer to it and, whilst what I got was tense and jumpy, I’ve been told that come October they’ll have a lot more in store for those brave enough to enter! I very much look forward in returning to the house for a third time and seeing how it has developed since!

02/09/2017 – Hide And Shriek: The Seance Brave it Alone (Preview)

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)

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

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

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