25/10/2017 – Fear at Avon Valley

Surrounded by a hell of a lot of hype with phrases such as “an event not to be missed” being thrown about by other haunt enthusiasts, I knew I had to make my way over to Avon Valley to see what the hype was all about: naturally I was skeptical as you can probably understand and I was concerned that it might have been over-hyped and really wouldn’t live up to it’s name. Did it? Well, read on and you’ll find out…

 

As with most of the scream parks I’ve visited this year, Fear at Avon Valley had this festival-like buzz in the air as you wander round, but where the other events felt more like Oktoberfest or V Festival, Fear felt more rough – almost like a drum and bass festival – thanks to the number of rides and the flashing lights, the crazy food choices (mac n cheese chips, anyone?), plentiful drink stalls and pub with music, but mostly thanks to the incredible fire show that turns into a drum and bass rave with each haunt being cleverly captured in with the fire and music while all the roaming actors dropping it like it’s hot (and it was)! I’ve seen plenty of flashmobs and roaming actors do performances over the Halloween season, but I never thought I’d see such a wide variety of characters go nuts like this lot did whilst continuing to portray their own individual character – it is truly something you have to experience for yourself (or scroll back through the Facebook page to watch it, but you’re missing out on the explosive atmosphere!).

 

The haunts themselves are very impressive seeing as Fear is still very much in its infancy at only four years this year – they offer four intense attractions each with their own personality and story: Purgatory, Phobia, Anarchy Live, and their top secret brand new haunt.

The first on our list was Purgatory, an intense and aggressive haunt themed around a prison in lockdown due to the inmates rioting, and they weren’t lying! As you enter, you experience what would be expected of entering a prison: scanners and photos are taken, then all hell breaks loose as the inmates take over and cause utter chaos! We snuck our way through bathrooms, cells, darkened corridors, and finally through a tunnel into the prison yard where a lone prison guard tries to keep the inmates at bay as floodlights sweep the smokey area – the haunt ends with a bang, literally, and we exit back into the real world with huge grins on our face as we try to re-cap what we had just left. Dark, tense, and aggressive (in a good way), everything worked perfectly! I’m really glad that the actors were able to touch and move you about as it really solidified the idea that the inmates were dangerous and unhinged, and they never overstepped the boundary with regards to aggressiveness. A brilliant haunt to start the night off with, and I was certain that given how this had set the standards high that the rest just wouldn’t measure up.

 

Our second haunt for the evening was Phobia, an extremely creepy scientific study into fears and the cure for some of the darkest fears which goes horribly wrong as you can probably guess. As a concept the haunt is absolutely brilliant, however the story needed a little more explanation in the “check up” scene part way through though as it wasn’t entirely clear what was happening the first time we went through (though it was cleared up in subsequent runs). There were a few elements that were used in Purgatory (such as the “Scooby Doo” corridor) but the way this was used was so different that had I not thought on the scene for as long as I did that I wouldn’t have noticed (this is a convoluted way of saying it was incredible). This was completely immersive – the use of scents was great, the dentist’s water gun thing was a brilliant prop, but the best and honestly most impressive element of this haunt was the actors, and I know I’m not gunna be able to do them justice with words: they played these AI bots that guided you through the facility and checked up on you at specific points, and each of them played them absolutely perfectly from the moment they stepped out to meet you right through until they/you left your/their line of sight, and it was absolutely mind-blowing! I honestly couldn’t get enough of their mannerisms, their tone, and their actions, and it really pulled the attraction together to create something truly special!

 

Third up was Anarchy Live, a cat and mouse gameshow where contestants are pit against a murderous team of… I’m not entirely sure what… where the aim of the game is survival, and the prize is their life! There’s one final twist: you are the next contestant! Whilst the premise is simplistic, it’s executed almost perfectly: lights strobe chaotically around you as the actors grab at and push you about as the gritty soundtrack blasts its way through the air, leaving a sense of pure dread hanging around in the air. The group gets split up at multiple points, either by choice of the victims or the actors, and whilst each route occupies the same spaces, they’re very different and the actors can be very creative with the way scares are executed – I really wasn’t expecting my head to be grabbed from above by an actor I didn’t see, which was hilarious and terrifying at the same time! It’s almost impossible to explain what goes on inside, but it really is pure unadulterated mayhem that leaves you screaming and jumping as you make your way round. The only criticism I have is that it completely lacked any sign of it being a TV show once you entered the maze section – I’d love to see a scare with a TV camera, or even night vision cameras set up at points that livestream specific areas into the queue area just to really sell the idea that it’s a TV show. Otherwise, a third strong attraction that never failed to deliver!

 

Finally, I survived The Fourth.

 

The hype surrounding Fear at Avon Valley exists for a reason – I was concerned that the hype was very much hyperbole, but having been and witnessed for myself, I very much agree that the hype exists for a reason: the four haunts, the roaming actors, the fire show, and Mama’s talent show were all absolutely brilliant! Each of the haunts managed to get a holler out of me and for those who have been through a haunt with me know how difficult a feat that is, the roaming actors were brilliant at remembering your interactions with them throughout the night and kept going back to them when your paths crossed later in the evening, and the fire show just blew me away! I’m honestly gutted that I couldn’t get this written up sooner as I very much urge you to get down to Avon Valley and experience the horror that is Fear. Well done to absolutely everyone involved, you’ve really set the bar high this year!

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25/10/2017 – Fear at Avon Valley

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

30/09/2017 – Frightmare at Over Farm

For my second attraction of the day, I headed over to Over Farm along with Controllers and Creds and Park, Scares and Glitter to experience Frightmare as the first scare ground of the season!

Upon arriving with some Halloween song blaring through the car, we saw no signage to point us to the location- had we not known where to turn off, it would have been extremely easy to overshoot and get lost. We were directed where to go to park our car, then headed toward the huge “Frightmare” sign and huge spotlights. We were allowed to join the queue a little early but were told we would have to wait for the 7pm intake to go before we were allowed in; unfortunately for the 7pm intake, they weren’t allowed to enter until about 7:15pm which only gave them 15 minutes before we were let in (and we were let in on time).

Whilst waiting, we had two car parking assistants that looked like they had just experienced a hit and run, and a street magician that kept most people entertained, though it was obvious that everyone was anxious to get in and go through a haunt (not that anything could be done to cure that, but having to get out of the way for an actor who had roamed too deep into the queue every few minutes started to get a bit grating).

Our tickets were scanned and we were handed our pass to enter the haunts, and we made our way immediately to the portaloos to relieve ourselves after our 2.5 hour drive, only to find that the only light entering them was natural, and there unfortunately wasn’t much on this drizzly evening – a string of fairy lights to provide a little more light wouldn’t have gone amiss, and even one or two at the start of the queue for those cut short by the call of nature.

We walked through the plaza which was populated by a number of shops, a stage with some performers (mainly fire eaters when I was paying attention, though I did see some props for acrobats and aerial gymnastics), and a food and a drink stall. We decided to join the three person queue for Caged as our first haunt of the evening – the weakest attraction there last year, we were told.

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The first thing I noticed was the theming in the queue and the facade – the queue itself was very much metal fencing that weaved in and around itself and looked quite disorientating, though it was never used as the event was unfortunately quiet. The facade and lighting gave off an uneasy vibe of the chaos hidden from view. We were told that we’d have to wait for another group to join us before we were allowed in.

We enter the first room and watch a video to set the scene. The video was unfortunately grainy, and the volume far too quiet – we were stood right in front of the speaker and we were having trouble hearing it over the screams from the victims ahead of us. The video ended, and we entered the darkness.

We ended up weaving through numerous rooms painted black that were sparsely decorated, and it felt a little bit lacklustre as there were no effects and the only time we encountered a cage was the finale, though I was happy to overlook this as all the actors were powerful, and made us jump a number of times – especially in the outside scene! Also thoroughly enjoyed the finale as an actor climbed on the frame over our heads and reached down at us – that was really unsettling! As soon as the haunt started to gain traction, it ended; however, it was still a brilliant run through – adding a smoke machine and maybe a strobe would really add to the chaotic nature the actors were putting across.

 

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Next up, we decided to go on the Haunted Hayride as we were tipped off on the queue getting longer toward the end of the night. Whilst queuing, we were entertained by a selection of songs related to Halloween as this rather creepy clown did creepy clown stuff, such as balancing a broom on his chin, and playing with his rat, all while giving off this melancholic aura that juxtaposed the smile painted on his face – in my opinion, this actor was the strongest by far.

After a 20 minute wait, we were ushered into a pen with about 20 others and another TV flickers to life as an enthusiastic farmer sets the scene for the haunted hayride, quite a fun and interesting concept with room for comedy throughout, and I hasten to add that the volume on the TV was perfect, though the video was still very pixellated. We board the trailer and the comedy begins instantly, though it was very hit and miss as the actor had a hard time projecting her voice over the rumbling tractor engine.

The tractor sets off and were treated to a soundclip to help further the story as we make our way to our first scene, which was rather amusing. The actor here was able to make herself heard, although we were clearly on the wrong side of the trailer as we didn’t see what was happening (even though we clearly knew what was going on). This would very much be the theme for the rest of the hayride section – a soundclip followed by acting, both of which were disjointed from whatever preceded and followed them, with the acting generally trying to be comedic, but unfortunately not landing. Shortly afterward, we were asked to disembark the trailer and two actors up in front of us were doing something, then we were sent into a pitch black maze with automated scares and maybe two actors at most inside. I love the use of animatronics in place of actors as they can be very effective, but some never triggered (either due to not working or because they were resetting) and had no link to the story (though this maze added nothing to the story), and I was far too focused on not tripping over stage blocks etc as people tried stampeding their way through to get away from the scares.

We left the barn and entered another scene which was actually linked to the story from the video, and the actor made great use of the props to hide before charging at us. We walked for another 5 minutes and entered this car park area, which also didn’t really fit in besides having zombies roaming – there was even just one random actor that greeted us cheerily as if nothing was wrong before giving away what the finale was (though it was quite obvious being right at the back and hearing it happen to the group in front).

The finale was probably the best bit of the haunt, and the haunt itself lasted possibly half an hour. I won’t give away what it is, but the only reason why it was effective was because it was loud and where it was hosted helped reverberate the sound even more.

There are so many ways this could have been better here: I’d have personally themed the barn around the final soundclip that’s played, or an old person’s home filled with zombies of old people with tables fully laid out with cake, bunting, the works, as that would have been surreal enough to get a laugh and would fit in with one of the scenes, or just skip the barn entirely and have the walk back be in the corridors in the barn with the same scares as everything after the barn was disjointed: I really felt that this was an incomplete attraction that took maybe a week to design, and I was really hoping for something grand after the video set the story.

 

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Our third haunt of the night was The Offering, themed to a group of cannibalistic creatures lurking in the sewers. We watched another video which set the scene (and got a good jump scare in), and entered the sewers through a claustrophobia chamber, which was a clever way of “transporting” you into the underground sections. This haunt had a lot of dark areas where you had to duck for an extended period, which made it easy to bump into the scenery (as I found out the hard way!).

Despite being so dark, the theming itself was great and the sloped walkways, intentional or not, added this bizarre layer of disorientation that added to the atmosphere. The actors here were also particularly strong, paying a mix of both creepy roles and jump scares throughout the attraction – I especially like that they spoke and communicated in their own language, which added to the “lost civilisation” trope they were playing on.

We were told that the sound wasn’t working for our run and, whilst I’d have criticised that, I honestly think the lack of sound added to it! Maybe some ambient sounds like dripping pipes or quiet chanting voices would add a layer, but an entire soundscape would lose half the appeal in my opinion. Definitely one of the haunts I enjoyed.

 

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Next up was Wonderland, a twisted take on the already twisted Alice in Wonderland (does that make this normal then?). We were led into a room and again shown a video that both had sound and visual issues, and went on a little bit too long – just as I thought it was done, the character started speaking again (though I’m impressed with the fact it was a dark poem).

I honestly can’t say much about this – the best bit was the revolving tunnel, but I’m a sucker for big pieces like that. Most of the scares were from actors screaming (please make sure they don’t do damage to their voice box…) as there was no atmosphere at all, and I guess the actors were screaming because they were having to fight over the creepy music that had to drown out the music from the stage the attraction was hidden behind. The group was split up and I think we walked through a set of doors only to re-join the other group, though as you’re only allowed to go through once with how the ticketing system works, you never find out what happens on the other route.

Two other memorable scenes was the use of UV paint in the Cheshire Cat room and the way the actor slunk about her stage blocks, and the card room (though holding the guests in that room for a few seconds before the next room opens would be a great way to add to the intrigue there). The finale was also clever, but is only effective for those at the front of the conga line.

Overall, it felt like this haunt was unfinished and built just to up the number of haunts available to the public.

 

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Finally, we moved onto Seance – the haunt I was looking forward to most. As with all the other haunts, we watched a video which had the whole audio/visual issues but would also freeze at certain points which broke the flow of the story. The actor in the video seemed very ditzy and almost as if this video was his first ever attempt at urban exploration and really didn’t fit in with the story at all, and this theme continued throughout with the other actors that weren’t ghosts.

Despite the happy-go-lucky and bouncy nature of our “guide”, the seance was a clever and fun pre-show to the haunt though I felt it was let down with the use of blue floodlights alongside the strobe – it really detracted from the fact that we had summoned a demon or something that was out to kill us (the actor was pretty good in her movements though).

The rest of the attraction was highly decorated and was extremely impressive in comparison to the sparse sets used in the rest of the haunts, and I especially loved the use of strobes toward the end. Having said that, I think I counted three attempts at an actor trying to scare me through the walkthrough, which was a shame as there were so many places for actors to be hiding. There was also one prop that needs to have the pole painted black so it’s not quite so obvious it’s an animatronic.

I honestly feel that for theming, this was the best attraction there.

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I’d like to make a point that was noted in all the attractions bar the Haunted Hayride: the batching process was absolutely awful. We never bumped into the group in front of us and never had the group behind us catch up; however as the queues were so small for all the attractions (there were maybe two or three groups of friends in any queue at any time we joined), it might be worth considering allowing groups of friends going in one by one than having a “full load” enter all at once. On quieter nights, this would very much reduce the need to repeat scares for the front of a group as well as the back, and guests would feel more vulnerable.

 

So what’s my verdict? It was very hit and miss, but ultimately I didn’t enjoy it even though I tried. Some haunts had some pretty strong scenes that worked well, but overall the attractions weren’t great, unless what you’re looking for in haunts is actors jumping out at you and screaming; however it doesn’t feel like that’s what Frightmare is reaching for as the concepts to the haunts are detailed. I feel like maybe more was bitten off than could be chewed, which meant all the haunts suffered – had there been two haunts and the hayride that were completely developed and themed well, I’d have been more than impressed and happy. I do hope that this was just an off night and that the rest of the season improves for the Frightmare team.

30/09/2017 – Frightmare at Over Farm

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

29/04/2017 – Walpurgis Night: Half Way to Halloween

Scare Kingdom Scream Park are back once again with another fantastic haunt hidden within the walls of Manormortis, and the final show of Snuffhouse Alone!

 

Hyde and Seek

Themed around the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, guests are bought into the dark and dingy world wherein a secret elixir, created by none other than the doctor himself, gives the person imbibing it the gift of eternal life with some unfortunate side effects, which the doctor wasn’t shy about demonstrating on an unfortunate victim. Soon enough, the victim had turned and we were rushed away from the pair and into the main attraction.

 

As we progressed we encountered a range of characters, from an old and rough scullery maid through to an overtly camp (and utterly hilarious) aristocrat, all of whom added their version of the story into the fold until you were so immersed that you felt you were playing a detective in a murder mystery movie, all while Jekyll’s previous victims lunged at us from the hundreds of hidey holes dotted around the manor. It all came to a head when we managed to get into the wife of Dr Jekyll’s bedroom to talk to her about something before she sent us on our way to find her maid, and before we even knew what was happening, the lights went out and a strobe light flickered, illuminating Mr Hyde before he disappeared into the night again.

 

This was, for me, my favourite story to be played in Manormortis. It had absolutely everything that is needed for someone to go in, get spooked, come out, and laugh and talk about after. From the hilarious Aristocrat with his “crossfire” skit (it has been a long time since I laughed like that) through to the creepy priest, almost everyone’s character was on point – unfortunately the lawyer in the upside down room and nursery fell short just a little in comparison to how strong the other characters were. Otherwise, everything about the characters was perfect!

On top of this, the bit I loved the most (well, bits – they kinda go hand in hand) was the storyline. How I bloody love a storyline, and to get me so immersed t(o the point where a character said “come closer” and I did in the 15 minutes we were in there) just goes to show that a haunt can provide scares and story, and because each scene lasted a good few minutes, we were able to actually look around and take in the beauty of Manormortis, which is usually missed as everyone gets rushed through.

Overall, Hyde and Seek was an absolute blast of a show that blended comedy, scares, and downright sexual acts together tastefully to provide one of the greatest haunts I’ve experienced at Scare Kingdom.

 

Snuffhouse Alone – Bloodborn

Snuffhouse is, as many people know, an extreme attraction that costs an extra fee to take part in. Lasting roughly 10 – 15 minutes (depending on if you use the safeword), victims are at the mercy of The Tormentors who, as their titles imply, are there to make your life hell.

This is the first and unfortunately last time I took part in Snuffhouse Alone, and I’m glad I didn’t miss out! With an all female cast, some fantastic reviews from the last few runs, and the knowledge this will be the only time I would be able to take part, I stripped down to my t-shirt and jeans (hey! It’s cold up there and I didn’t think I’d be able to participate!) and stepped in the queue.

From the moment I entered Snuffhouse, I was hooded, bound, teased, degraded, interrogated, beautified, and generally abused, but I couldn’t help but grin all the way through from what I had just experienced or what I was told to do, it was just an absolutely fabulous run with some fantastic ideas and clever tricks that I’ve not experienced before in a haunt!

Fortunately for me, I can’t do any of the eating scenes (yay for chronic illnesses! (I’ll let you decide if I’m being serious or not there)) so I didn’t get the “full shebang”, but what I did experience is the perfect introduction to the extreme haunt scene, and I would have thoroughly recommended it to anyone who has ever wondered why extreme haunt fans like their extreme haunts. I totally regret not going back through!

 

Overall, Walpurgis Night was an absolute blast, and it’s such a shame that it didn’t run for more than one night to allow more chance of people to see those two absolutely stunning haunts.

 

 

29/04/2017 – Walpurgis Night: Half Way to Halloween

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

10/02/2017 – Valenterror

The Christmas period sucks for haunters. Sure, I did Zombie Infection at the beginning of December (though apologies for no official review, was feeling burnt out after the Halloween season) but that was still over 2 months ago, so I was super excited when a group of friends said they were up for Valenterror at Scare Kingdom!

Scare Kingdom is one of my staple haunting grounds (ha): the scenery is fantastic, it’s set far away from everywhere else which adds to the creepiness, and there’s not been one haunt there that I’ve thought negatively of, so when the opportunity arises I’ll be there in a heartbeat (haha, goddamn these puns).

Anyways, this visit was for their Valentines event, aptly named Valenterror (see where the pun went yet?). Manormortis opened its doors for one weekend for brave couples to enter the haunted manor armed with just one lone glowstick and face the zombies that hide inside.

Upon arriving outside Manormortis we were met by Dougie, the resident grave digger, who explained to us that he was just digging up bits of bodies to sell on a popular well known auction site, when all of a sudden the bodies started moving about on their own and that they had all been trapped in Manormortis: he also pointed out that one of us would be entering alone.

We enter the attraction and I get handed a glowstick – my friends decided to throw me under the bus and give me the satisfaction of going through the haunt alone (won’t lie, it was absolutely *great!*). I ducked through the fireplace and started my slow and winding journey through the pitch black corridors with a glowstick that did absolutely nothing to light my way, though the zombies had no problem finding me: I was charged at, had zombies appear in front of me from nowhere, and slowly stalked from behind – these zombies knew exactly how to work the darkness and their little lights to create some fantastic jump scares and illusions that’d give everyone the heebie-jeebies, including myself!

Travelling through a haunt alone is really bizarre – I usually use other people as a source of distraction from anything that might make me jump, but I couldn’t depend on that this time, and there were a few scenes, one including a painting, that caught me by surprise even though I had seen them all in action the previous times I had been through!

We, or rather, I, finally made it to the end scene (which hadn’t changed since Halloween), and anyone that knows about it knows what to expect; let me say it is a completely different ball game when you’re on your own and getting some lovely one on one time – it’s been a long time since a boo haunt made me nervous, and that actor really hit the nail on the head.

As quickly as it started, it was over, which was a shame because it was great to be able to walk around a haunt on your own and get all these personal interactions with nobody else around, especially in a haunt as special as Manormortis, which I feel is a side effect of the lack of lighting as there’s so much to see in there when everything’s lit up – there were definitely scenes that really fell short due to the lack of lighting, though the corridor of wine bottles was actually much, much more claustrophobic with the lack of lighting and being alone. If I had to choose a favourite scene, it was either the wine cellar or the tunnel after the boiler where I was charged at by a zombie.

All in all, I definitely had fun and enjoyed myself, even though there were a few negative comments, not that you could really do much about them – long haunts with short through-puts are few and far between and aren’t too popular, and glowsticks never have and never will be a fantastic torch, but I’m glad I managed to experience my first glowstick lit haunt, and to get the 2017 season started!

10/02/2017 – Valenterror