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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20/11/2016 – 139 Copeland Road

Before I begin, I’d like to apologise to anyone that’s been anticipating this review, especially the cast of 139 Copeland Road: I was seriously ill for the event and just about managed to drag myself along, and since I’ve literally not had the energy to get round to writing this up.

 

Anywho, on with the review!

 

After the sheer intensity of Séance in Birmingham a few weeks earlier, 139 Copeland Road suddenly appeared on my Facebook feed, and with only a small number of likes and a rather captive backstory, I knew I had to go to it one way or another. I spoke with a few friends and managed to get tickets for the same show as my friend from Europehaunts, who frequently flies to the UK to experience the shows here. With much excitement, we counted down the days until the show.

 

As I explained above, a few days before I had a flare up (I’ve suffered from Crohn’s disease since 2014, and it’s rare for me to admit it so publicly but I very much have reason to), which included intense stomach cramps that are unbearably painful, which almost made me give up my ticket; however, I didn’t: I got dressed (readas: put clothes over my pyjamas) and headed off to 139 Copeland Road.

 

I got to Hackney Wick station and punched in the postcode on my phone, and began following the instructions, half forcing myself to just go and get it over and done with. After getting lost despite being stood right outside the venue, I bumped into the guy from Europehaunts who seemed to have his head screwed on more than me as he instantly saw the venue: a derelict house.

 

We approached 137 Copeland Road, showed our tickets, and were let inside, where we were greeted by the sights of a completely gutted house, an absolute skeleton of what we’d consider a building. Music wafted through the air while floodlights splashed light across the walls, which were decorated with newspaper articles, pictures, police enquiries, and all sorts of information about seances and the family that lived there.

An eccentric man dressed as if he had stepped out of a steampunk fantasy novel explained the story of 139 Copeland Road: Mary, a single mother of two, had been living at 139 Copeland Road. She had been a school teacher, a much loved figure in the community. One night in 1974 however, a house fire led to Mary and her two boys burning to their deaths. The bodies were never recovered. Since then, the house has stood empty, partly due to the derelict state, but even more so because of the rumours. The sightings.

As soon as he wrapped up the story we were led into 139 Copeland Road, which was just as derelict, if not moreso, than the building we had just come from, and even upon entering there was something not quite right about the house. We were invited to take a seat at a table that had a lightbulb dangling from the rafters above, dimly lighting what felt like would have been the living room before the fire, whilst the Medium set up the seance with an offering of food, candles, and a picture of Mary, whom we were trying to contact. The light dangling above the table was turned off, leaving us bathed in the light of the three candles. We all joined hands, and the seance began.

Over the course of the next half hour, all of us at the show were completely encapsulated in the seance; lights would flicker, objects would vibrate and shake, and even though at a subconscious level I knew it was fake, I could have sworn there was someone stood directly behind me, staring at the back of my neck – something that Europehaunts also felt.

We found ourselves rushing around this decrepit house, our paths lit only by two of the smallest and dimmest torches ever, as we try to unravel the secrets that 139 Copeland Road held: we soon learned that the fire was no accident, and there was something much darker and sinister lurking in the shadows.

Though that entity sure wasn’t the only thing to be hidden in the shadows: there were points where we were plunged into pitch black, huddled in a corner as all sorts of noises rattled around us, making everyone feel claustrophobic. In one room, we were stood with a faint ticking noise that grew louder and louder from the loft, which became more and more consuming the louder it got – the ticking was the most intense and attention grabbing noise I’ve ever heard in my life, then it stopped. We all stood there in absolute silence, waiting.

As the show drew to a close, the experience became more intense still, as the guy who set the scene ended up disappearing in front of our very eyes, and we were chased out of the building by a roar that somehow chased us all down the stairs: the finale, an absolutely mindblowing scene that used the chaos as a perfect cover to transport items from where we were to the sinister entity more than 10 feet away from us, which was incredibly impressive. We were soon chased out of 139 Copeland Road and onto the streets, where we all took a moment to sigh and decompress before laughing at how immersed and scared we all were.

 

Well, what can I say? This has to be one of the best pieces of immersive theatre I’ve ever experienced – I don’t usually get sucked into a story within 10 minutes of the show starting but this got me perfectly – I even forgot that I was in pain for the entire show, which is absolutely incredible!

Despite there being only a handful of actors, each one played their parts perfectly – the Medium did a fantastic job of acting exactly like Mediums do on Most Haunted and the like, the guy that set the scene was really easy to listen to and believe, and the plant that I suspected was a plant at the beginning actually had me fooled once the seance began, and the sinister entity used the strobes perfectly to seemingly glide across the room at numerous moments in the event (though a black zentai suit would have been a bit creepier).

Considering the only effects that were used were flickering lights and speakers (probably triggered from 137 Copeland Road), the company behind the show were able to quickly and effectively suspend reality and create an entire world within the walls of that house. I’m glad that I forced myself to go despite being ill, as I know I wouldn’t have forgiven myself for not going.

One eensy-weensy criticism was that the speakers in the bedroom and living room were easily visible (if you knew where you were looking) and the two strobelights used at the end could have been moved so that they were hidden behind the beam where the dividing wall was (can’t explain it any better unfortunately – sorry!).

I look forward to hopefully seeing more from the creators of 139 Copeland Road, as they are definitely hitting the nail on the head when it comes to immersive theatre.

 

20/11/2016 – 139 Copeland Road

19/10/2016 – Séance at Birmingham Rep

For a while, I struggled to find something horror related to do as all the haunts we knew of were closed or not operating that day, but that changed when I was given a bit of information about an immersive short called “Séance”. I love the paranormal as a theme, but it’s extremely hard to get it right, especially when you’re running a live actor haunt and all your “ghosts” are, well, alive and breathing. Séance, however, did not have that problem.

As soon as we arrived, we were led to a shipping container placed just outside the main building which amused us as we were expecting a haunt of somesort. We took our seats around the table placed in the middle of the shipping container and put our headsets on, and the journey began…

Using 3D surround sound, you are taken on an immersive and chilling journey into the spirit world and into the depths of your own imagination, where nothing is quite what it seems…

19/10/2016 – Séance at Birmingham Rep