08/03/2018 – The Tom Sawyer Effect: The Pendulum

Located in the tunnels beneath Waterloo train station in central London, The Vault Festival puts on a series of shows and immersive experiences that spread far and wide across all mediums and genres; this year, one stood out in particular: The Pendulum by The Tom Sawyer Effect. Billed as “a hyper reality horror experience blending virtual reality with immersive theatre”, there was no way I could turn this down – even if I am a sceptic of virtual reality.

It’s time for me to experience The Pendulum. I arrive in the tunnels and am greeted by the usual hustle and bustle of the underpass: a mix of people hanging about outside The Vault itself, street jugglers, professional photographers, and graffiti artists litter the tunnel, creating create this electricity that buzzes through the air but always seemed to be dampened as if it’s only for the select few in the area.

An usher arrives and asks if I’m here for The Pendulum – “Yes” – “Follow me”. We walk down the tunnel and away from the main hub of the festival in complete silence despite my best attempts at striking up a conversation, which unsettled me a bit. We approach a completely unassuming door right at the end of the tunnel and I’m ushered into the blackness, where someone is sat at a table with a sizeable waiver and a pen. I’m asked to read the waiver and backstory and sign on the line, and I do. I’m then handed a red boiler suit and am instructed to put it on and take a seat on the chair off to the side. The usher approaches and covers my head with a cloth, and the experience begins.

What happens over the course of the next 20 minutes is difficult to put into words, but there’s no hyperbole in synopsis: from the moment I was guided from my seat into the 5 metre by 5 metre room where the one-on-one experience is held, I was completely immersed in their universe. Sure I didn’t think that I was this super hacker the interrogator was talking about, but that’s not the point: the actor had me eating out of the palm of his hand for the entire show; not only that, but the way in which the virtual reality was used wasn’t jarring at all as it has been in other attractions – it had a legitimate reason for being used.

Despite me erring on the side of caution with regards to virtual reality (never work with computers, animals or kids in show biz!) and having unfortunately experienced tech failures during haunts that rely heavily on it, I was very much expecting it to be dreadful: I was proven wrong, and man am I happy about that! I don’t want to go into too much detail as there’s a lot that you need to experience for yourself, but the most bizarre and jarring (in a positive manner) thing was that the room went from being 5 metre square to a tunnel that looks about 10 metres deep and 50 metres wide.


The Pendulum is a truly impressive piece of theatre that is quick to immerse you in its universe and make you question what you perceive as reality, from the story through to the actors to the technology used, it is a real pleasure to see and experience something of this calibre – well done to absolutely everyone involved!

08/03/2018 – The Tom Sawyer Effect: The Pendulum

27/08/2016 -Snuffhouse: After Dark

Still reeling from my experiences at Cracked a few weeks earlier, an announcement was made during the ScareCON ball: Russ McKamey (the creator of the infamous McKamey Manor) would be teaming up with AtmosFEAR to bring the Manor experience to the UK under the name Snuffhouse: After Dark. As soon as tickets were released, I bought mine; I received an email a week or so later that linked me to an online form that asked me all about my fears, inviting me to be as honest and open as possible, even asking me if I’d be home on a specific date at a specific time – that truly made me question what exactly I was getting myself into.

The weeks rolled past and, between work, other haunts, and my trip to Florida (which was absolutely AMAZBALLS), I completely forgot about Snuffhouse: we had no further contact through email, on the Facebook page, on our mobiles, nowhere. Nothing even happened on the date they asked if we’d be free; it got to a point 2 weeks beforehand that I was convinced it had been canned.

Fortunately, it hadn’t, and the forst groups went through!

As the shows approached we learned that they’d be livestreaming part of the event on Facebook, and viewers would have the opportunity to vote for the sufferer they wanted to have “extra treatment”. This was unnerving, but honestly one of the best ideas I’ve heard for a haunt – it’d let others take a sneak peek into what an extreme haunt would look like! I eagerly awaited the livestream of the event before me as I knew a load of friends and Cracked contestants (and survivors) were taking part and I kinda wanted to give them hell (sorry guys! (I’m not really sorry)). One by one, their hoods came off and… they seemed in better shape than I thought.

2am hit (the finish time for Snuffhouse) and I messaged all of them asking what they thought; they knew not to tell me anything, but they all unanimously said they were bored – even someone who had never done an extreme haunt said it was boring! I was highly disappointed in what they had to say (read Europehaunt’s review here), but was secretly glad I’d actually be able to see everything.


Oh how I was wrong.


We arrived at Scare Kingdom and were greeted by some rather friendly backstage crew who advised us to park up and remain in our car. Once everyone arrived (well, almost everyone), we were asked to sign our waivers before being led to some toilets for our “last” toilet break before we were made to line up facing a bush. Hoods were placed over our heads and the experience began.


We were led to a room with a projection screen and made to kneel. A video of our host, Russ McKamey, appeared on the screen in front of us and introduced us to his Tormentors, then immediately started the psychological mind games. The video ended and we were made to adopt a stress position whilst the Tormentors intimidated and began to slowly chip away at our minds.


The video came back on, and we were split up into two groups to do our first task. We were hooded once again and led through the Scare Kingdom boo haunts to our first challenge that was designed to physically wear us down. I got punished for not following instructions completely, so combining that with all the jumping and dancing around like witches at a bonfire in the tales of olde in nothing but my shoes, I was definitely breathing hard.


We returned to the same room and got split up into two groups again, this time to do a mental game whilst holding stress positions. I was definitely having trouble keeping up with everything that was going on, and even this most basic of basic challenges had me questioning whether or not I could keep going – the Tormentors had already got inside my head and I hadn’t even noticed!


We returned back to the room and got split up again. We were led off to do a second even more psychological game that turned everyone on themselves, and left me facing off against another three Sufferers; they all said I was untrustworthy, so I threw them under the bus in a heartbeat… they did not smell very nice after that! (guys if you’re reading this I’m really sorry!)


We returned back to the first room and held a few more stress positions and got berated with insults by the Tormentors (I swear Blue never left my side and he was a complete arsehole) before we finally found out it was midnight – it was livestream time! Our hoods came off one by one and we had three bright lights shone in our eyes. We waited on our knees for someone to be chosen, and I half expected it to be me, but thankfully it wasn’t – I was so tired that I don’t think I could have done any more. Once the chosen Sufferer was led off, we were told that we’d be facing off against each other.


We were led off again then made to hold stress positions once again. After maybe 3 minutes, I safeworded and was immediately removed from the experience for the first time.

As with any experience that’s this intense, aftercare is absolutely paramount! I was taken outside to get some fresh air and get some water in me. The backstage crew I was with were very friendly and jolly and talked me down – it was definitely appreciated, but in all honesty I’d have been absolutely fine sat next to Sufferer 5. Once I was ready to go back in I was told that because I had left, I had broken the psychology behind the event. I re-joined the group and began adopting stress positions which broke me almost instantly: safewording and leaving the event for 5 minutes was enough to ruin the rest of the event. I safeworded again and received aftercare again – we did breathing exercises to lower my heart rate before I was sat up and asked if I wanted to continue. I explained that because I had already broken the illusion I wasn’t really enjoying it any more – my tour ended after 2 hours 45 minutes.

I stood around in the car park waiting for the tour to end to see how they ended up, and they all seemed pretty in tact still; from a spectator view, even though I could kinda see where the ending was going, it looked pretty lame. We had decompression time with Jason Karl and a few backstage crew who explained that they had special training and used specialist tips and techniques before we all went our own way.


Overall, I was rather surprised at the experience: after having feedback from those that went the week before, it was obvious that our tour had really been amped up: we were forcefully moved about and basically treated like rag dolls the entire time physically whilst being degraded verbally. There was a lot more psychology going on in there than I thought which is definitely appreciated; I did raise a concern with one of the games, though personally, I was ok and went along with it anyway.


Whilst it isn’t the most extreme attraction the UK has to offer, it’s definitely up there! If you’re looking to enter the extreme side of the haunt world, this would be the best event to go to. With a few tweaks and maybe a little more theatre in the vein of the old McKamey Manor extreme boo haunts they did a few years back, they’d have a really strong attraction that fills a gap in the market.

27/08/2016 -Snuffhouse: After Dark