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

16/10/2016 – Scaresville at Kentwell Hall

Scaresville, based on the grounds of Kentwell Hall in Suffolk, is a 90 minute horror experience that takes you through multiple haunts and scenes designed to creep and freak you out in what is described as a haunted village.

Celebrating 10 years of Scaresville, we were told to expect the very best of the previous years’ haunts along with some frightening new scenes, and they were definitely not lying!

Upon arriving at Scaresville, you’re held in an unfairground where you’re able to buy food and drink to warm your bones before you’re led off to have said bones terrified out of you! It had a lovely atmosphere, but it definitely felt like it was lacking roaming characters and sideshows.

Our number was called and we were led up an almost pitch black path to the safety announcements where we were given the safety briefing (one that every hauntee is familiar with), then we were let into our first haunt, and our journey began…

What’s different about this haunt compared to the stuff we usually do is that the scares never let up: all the haunts and scenes lead into each other so once you start you never stop moving, and whilst there are nice long countryside treks at points (which is absolutely beautiful when lit by the full moon peeking between the clouds), the scares never stop – between the creepy scenery and roaming actors, you’ll be laughing and screaming constantly!

Usually, I’d split out the review based on the individual haunts, but there’s so much to see that by the time we got to the seventh or eighth haunt, we had forgotten what we did in the first! Well… not really. There were so many amazing bits in that first haunt that it stuck very prominently in my mind, even 3 days later!

Set wise, all the haunts had their own theme that aided in the stories they were trying to set, some of which I’ve never seen before in the 10 years I’ve been haunting which is refreshing! We especially liked the use of fire and torches used in the outdoor scenes, the water used in the indoor scenes, the use of absolute darkness, the shipping container… there were so many scenes and effects that we loved that if we were to share them all here, we’d ruin the entire event!

There were a few niggles here and there that I have with the haunt: there was a distinct lack of entertainment in the Unfairground, there were no smell effects used, and the lack of music between the scenes made it feel a little empty, but otherwise I absolutely loved it and would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a good scaring this Halloween!

 

PS: If you haven’t been warned already, bring your wellies!

16/10/2016 – Scaresville at Kentwell Hall

11/06/2016 – Twisted Attractions

Not even a month has passed since our last haunts at ScareCON and I gotta admit, a number of us were itching to get ourselves to another as soon as possible! We pulled together a quick 300 mile round trip to Twisted Attractions in Birmingham from Essex to do Coulrophobia and  Dr Hades Fear Theatre!

Unfortunately, we found out when we arrived that Dr Hades Fear Theatre was having teething problems so we didn’t get to see the show. Whilst we were disappointed, we completely understand why, and you can find out more too…

 

Coulrophobia

Whilst we were in the queue we were treated to a number of strong characters, including Dr Hades, Madame Pompadour and a rather creepy clown. Dr Hades was absolutely incredible in bringing the maniacal doctor role to life and definitely had the queue creeped out with his creepy games. Madame Pompadour a graceful and elegant character that really captured your attention. The creepy clown was, well… creepy. Evil laugh, thousand yard stare that feels like he’s staring into your soul… the whole shebang; definitely an unnerving character (and that’s coming from someone without a fear of clowns!)

Inside, the haunt is fantastic: what Phobophobia last year could have been, these guys ran with the freakshow theme (despite the name – yes, there is a clown, but it’s not a clown haunt). Expect to meet a variety of freaks on your way though!

Visually, there is a lot going on. The decor as you go through is really clever and builds up a sense of disorientation which builds more and more as the haunt progresses; we actually ended up getting completely and utterly lost at one point, and ended up doubling back on ourselves multiple times.

The characters themselves were well developed and owned by their actors – the clown in the strobe maze really worked with the strobes and owned his section, and the first character we met was just absolutely entertaining through and through.

We were informed that the maze was missing a few final touches, but when we went through it was definitely standing strongly on its own two feet; the final touches just sound like it’s only going to be better next time.

 

Dr Hades Fear Theatre

Remember when I said we didn’t get to see Dr Hades Fear Theatre? I lied a bit: the haunt is having teething problems but we were lucky enough to get a sneak preview of what to expect, and let me tell you that when it’s finished, it is going to take haunts in a whole new direction. If you’re ever in Birmingham and Dr Hades is open, you definitely need to go and see it: I’m already seriously impressed and we only got a sneaky 5 minutes!

 

Twisted Attractions is a very strong independent haunt with actors, techies, artists, and backstage crew that clearly love doing what they do, and it shows; especially in the actors improvisation throughout. If you’re ever in Birmingham and they’re open, I definitely recommend taking an hour or so to go and visit:

 

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11/06/2016 – Twisted Attractions

09/04/2016 – Goosebumps Alive!

Viewer beware… You’re in for a scare…

 

That’s what I’m told as I load up the print-at-home ticket Saturday morning. I must admit, there was no way I could be scared of this. Sure, A Night at Terror Tower and Escape From the Carnival of Horrors terrified me as a kid, but 20 years on I had learned that the monsters we believe in are all in our head: these monsters were all trapped in the magnificent R. L. Stine’s.

 

Until yesterday.

 

So, I arrive in London with 20 minutes to find the notoriously difficult to find The Vaults under Waterloo. I use Google Maps to try and find my way, but they led me to this strange hand car wash that was extremely busy for 20:00. I ask someone where it is and they point me through the car wash, after eyeing up what I’m wearing and asking if I’m here for “the meet”.

 

I can understand why I was asked. I was in my cyberpunk gear: top and trousers from Cyberdog, a hoodie from Resistanz and leather jacket over the top, and my beautiful Demonia’s that look like biker boots, only with spikes and bullets attached.

IMAG0394

 

It was hardly a surprise that they ask me. The more surprising bit was I said “yeah,” automatically, “but I need to find The Vaults first”, which kinda made me feel like a character from Borderlands for a brief moment. The car wash attendant pointed me down the car wash and said “that way” so I tentatively walked backwards through it (avoiding getting wet!) past a load of high end, souped up cars with windows tinted darker than whats legal and neon strips beneath them. It was mad!

 

I exited the car wash and the cars continued to queue, one of them rigged up to a sound system that was blasting out hip hop and everyone was standing around admiring each others rides – it was genuinely like walking onto the set of The Fast and the Furious! I kept my head down as to not draw attention to myself (the clothes were already doing enough for me) and I see a family walk into the arches, so I tactfully follow them.

 

A little down the road, past a load of people playing football with a tennis ball, skateboarding, biking, and graffiti-ing (is that even a word?) I see a lone sign labeled “The Vaults” with an arrow pointing to the entrance. There was a guy sat outside playing with a smoke machine and a green spotlight they had obviously planned on using, but the smoke machine wasn’t working. A shame – I hoped this wasn’t a precursor to how the event would run.

 

I flash the person my ticket and they hand me a card with a silhouette of a crow on a purple background, then point me into the experience.

IMAG0411

 

I enter the venue and take a look around. We’re in a bar, lit by a mixture of flickering lightbulbs and LED strips splashing a camp yet slightly unnerving series of greens, reds and ultraviolet light across the walls. The bar serves themed food (Say Cheese and Die Toastie) and drinks (Monster Slime), as well as some adverts about the creators of the masks within the show. I order myself a coke and wander around, looking at the masks while listening to an array of head-nodding rock, trip hop and pop – anything from The Kooks to The Gorillaz was played in the 20 minutes I was in there.

Soon enough, we’re moved to another room. We flash our tickets and the announcer smiles creepily at us, counting us audibly as we go through whilst warning us that any photography beyond this point will get us escorted off premises. It’s another, more themed bar: the famous Goosebumps drips adorn 3 of the 4 walls as well as the bar, while green LED lights shine down the walls behind them, giving off the famous Goosebumps vibe. The fourth wall is a mural to one of the purple goo characters from the books that I can’t quite remember the name of. It stands maybe 10ft high and 20ft wide – it was a real sight to behold, and simply added more fuel to my excitement.

I wander in and make my way over to the corner. I’m doing this alone (as I like to do sometimes – how people react in these kinds of events can really show their true character and I quite like watching this transformation), so I take a seat at a table on my own and continue drinking my coke. I notice, as I scan the room, that there were placards hanging from the lighting rig, each one lit up by a lone spotlight from the other side of the room, each showing a symbol from the card. I look at the table and noticed the symbol on the table too – it was then I read this creepy message on the back of my ticket, and realised that I had inadvertently done what I was expected to do.

IMAG0412

The lighting suddenly changed, and the experience began. I’ll not go into too much detail and will avoid any mentions of scares because where’s the fun in knowing what to expect, right?

The first scene begins with everyone in the room. Someone in the audience goes crazy and begins telling his story. Using some incredible surround sound and story telling, he made us all live through what he was going through. The room goes dark, and television screens flicker to life around the room, playing the infamous TV show introduction.

Silent, hooded characters then came to collect each of the four groups one by one. We all get the gist of what they want, and in we go.

This first bit was very very clever and almost executed perfectly. All four groups were split up and taken to different rooms within the vaults, the corridors between each room painted in an off-kilter manner that slowly change to match the story you’re about to be told.

There were 4 in total stories themselves were about 10 minutes long, and were basically a condensed version/adaptation of one of the many books; most well known, but a few that were completely new that went down a similar vein of the Goosebumps stories – each had a mixture of absolutely fantastic storytelling with no more than three characters who all made it incredibly easy to get sucked into the story  (and all had fantastic improv skills – kudos to the Cuckoo Clock guy!), and some jumpscares that even I didn’t predict – one of them even got me to yelp and jump back in surprise!

Between these stories, we got put in what could only be described as a holding pen. It was dark and cramped, and there was no obvious way out – it was impossible to turn everyone back too, as we had just descended a good 7 feet: the longer we waited, the more the nerves started to kick in. I was fortunately at the front so knew what was going on, but the guys at the back had no idea, and started to panic more (even though we told them there was no way forward).

All four groups are reintroduced after these five experiences for a handful more experiences, a few of which continued on the story from the very beginning, but all of which were very creepy and interactive at the same time: there was a lot of nervous laughter as we, the audience, became the actors in one of the scenes. In another we’re forced to watch from a number of different angles, which I had never experienced in immersive theatre before. No matter what the scene was, the actors were absolutely amazing and were easy to believe, though one of the scenes made it feel like we were in this strange 1950s pantomime (though that didn’t detract from the experience at all).

The last scene is absolutely amazing. The masks, the props, the sounds, the lighting, the story were all on point, and not even I predicted how it’d end! As I said earlier, I’m not going to go into any more detail than that as I don’t want to spoil it for you.

 

 

What did I think of it? I honestly had an absolute blast. The actors all did an absolutely fantastic job and really made the characters we were interacting with believable, especially in the heat they were dealing with and never broke character (check your coats in at the cloakroom – it gets extremely hot in those vaults!).

The way it works is absolutely incredible too – I won’t give the game away, but the actors in each scene control their entire environment. They’ve really pushed the way that theatre, especially immersive theatre, works!

The stories that were told were Goosebumps to a T. It was easy to tell which story the scene was from (though remembering the name of the book was impossible after 20 years) and it had the camp yet creepy atmosphere all the way through, even between the scenes.

Goosebumps Alive is billed as a 16+ event on the website, but I feel that 14 year olds that can handle a good quick jump scare or two would absolutely love the show – just make sure that they are ready for it before going, as it’s not nice for the child or the rest of the group to be dragged through something they don’t like. Once you leave, you’re out for good.

 

I will definitely be on the look out for more tickets to this show, and I’ll definitely be dragging some friends along too!

09/04/2016 – Goosebumps Alive!

30th October 2015: Phobophobia: The Freaks

Hey guys!

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

30th October 2015: Phobophobia: The Freaks

29th October 2015: Alton Towers’ Scarefest & Sub Species: Operation Lockdown

Apologies for the lateness, the last week of October was absolutely hectic with regards to haunts, theme parks, and raves, and I pushed myself far too hard and ended up being ill all last week.

NEVER-THE-LESS I’m back and feeling just as good as I did before, so without further ado, here is my evening at Alton Towers!

I decided to combine Scarefest and Sub Species: Operation Lockdown as they both happened on the same night, so sit back: it’s fright time…

So the Thursday/Friday was rather… strange to say the least. I was up at 6am to get into work for 9am, then worked until 4pm when I had to leave to get my train, travelling from London to Alton Towers in Stoke-on-Trent (150 miles), to get to Scarefest, then did the return journey to get to work for 10am on the Friday. Needless to say, I was exhausted (and you’ll find out why further into the blog!)

My story starts as I pull into Stoke on Trent station – I could tell you about the 2 hour journey up, but it was me sat there going “come on train I need to get to Alton Towers!” in my head continuously which got extremely boring after the first 15 minutes.

Scarefest

So! I arrive at Stoke On Trent at 19:15, 15 minutes later than the train schedule. I quickly check in and jump into my private hire taxi, who drives me to Alton Towers. For those that don’t know, Alton Towers is set in the hills of a sleepy little village called Alton. During the day, it’s very olde English in feel, with long narrow roads that twist, turn, dip and climb as if they were a rollercoaster themselves. It’s usually very pretty, but I was travelling at night which increased it’s creepiness before we hit the fog that seemed to surround the Towers, reducing visibility to no more than 7 or 8ft in front of us.

We finally arrive and I jump out. I get to the gates at 20:00 and get told that I don’t wanna go in for an hour, but that’s the best bit of having a Merlin Pass: no guilt 😀

I rush for the box office, hoping to catch the last of the tickets for the extra charge/extreme haunts, but they had run out which was a major bummer. Instead, I took the time to ride Oblivion (the worlds first B&M Dive Machine) in the dark and fog, which really amped up the drop, as you couldn’t see the hole.

I rushed over to my favourite area of the park, Forbidden Valley, through a back path that very few know about. It is extremely dark at some points on this path, and has multiple basic attractions, such as a Pepper’s Ghost room, a crypt, and two gravestones that tell really awful puns (I freaking love this though – I always try and visit this during Scarefest if I can).

So, I eventually get to the Forbidden Valley and find they had set up a zombie/infection scare zone. Everything was lit up red, and they had air raid sirens going off while the infected lurch and run at/after you as you walk by. It was a tiny scare zone, but I watched (and laughed at) loads of people who were targeted by the infected.

I got a quick go on Air and Ripsaw, then tried to get a go on Nemesis but by then the park had closed, which sucked – another year without a go on my favourite coaster 😦

On the way back to the park entrance, I overheard some people talking about the haunts and asked their opinion on them without giving too much away, and this is what they had to say:

The Haunting of Molly Crowe was awful. They tried to get to you by putting hoods that you have to wear the entire time, but otherwise it was just people yelling “boo” at you and not much else.

Sub Species: The End Games was great fun and terrifying – one of the group had to safeword as they felt it was too much. It turns out that they were 30 seconds away from the end of the haunt, so I’m a bit annoyed I missed that (though I was wondering if it would have affected Sub Species: Operation Lockdown)

Terror of the Towers (a maze I did last year which I thought was awful) was pretty creepy. There weren’t too many jumpscares, but they used a mixture of statues and live actors to keep you guessing. They said this and Sub Species: The End Games were the best, and they couldn’t decide which to do.

Sub Species: Operation Lockdown

Now it was time for the main event. I asked at the front gates where abouts the meeting point was, and they said it was at the maze itself: a good half mile walk in almost complete darkness and fog, through a now near-empty theme park, on my own. Let me say right now that this is probably one of the scariest things I’ve done: the fog tinted an eerie green as the air raid sirens from the Forbidden Valley continue to play its haunting melody off in the distance.

I arrive at the meeting point where a few people had already congregated, a mixed bunch of mostly nervous guys and girls, but you could feel that little bit of excitement and fear hanging in the air. Two of the Phalanx came out to meet us and take us to the holding place, where we waited for the rest of the group to arrive, making polite small talk as we tried to calm our nerves as the Towers loomed over us, the looming amplified by the darkness.

Everyone finally arrived, and the doors to the event swung open with a Phalanx operative bursting through. We were made to stand in a single file line before being told that we had to be absolutely silence if we were to survive, and that were the world’s last hope. I scoffed at this and whispered under my breath, having somehow forgot this was an immersive experience, “we’re doomed then” to the guy next to me, but the operative heard me and came storming over, squaring up to me as he screamed in my face. I was made to yell “Yes Sir!” as loud as I could after being put in my place: needless to say, I didn’t rebel after.

We went down into a holding pen where we were had our game explained: we were entering a full body contact escape room. Before entering the event, we were told that if we wanted to survive, we needed to be quiet.

We were led into the Sub Species: The End Games maze (I was glad I didn’t do that at this point) and found ourselves in a briefing room. We started off by playing a basic team building exercise to get us in the mood: without saying a word, we had to put ourselves in alphabetical order by first name. Anyone that was in the wrong place got given a fake name they had to use for the experience: I was called Zach. This wasn’t going very well for me.

We were given white overalls to put on, then the event truly began. We were made to kneel as we were told that when the people of the Forbidden Valley uncovered the Nemesis, most were killed but a handful managed to make it into the sewers, living off rats and anything else they could find, sometimes escaping into the overground to scavenge for rabbits and the like.

This worked for a while, until they found unhatched eggs in the Forbidden Valley. The offspring hatched, and followed the underdwellers back to their hideout one day, killing off many. The Phalanx were created to combat the Nemesis and its offspring. A team that entered before us managed to plant a bomb that’d wipe out the Nemesis and its offspring, but they had failed to detonate it having been wiped out by the underdwellers; however, the bomb technician’s lifesigns were still being registered, so we had a chance to complete the mission!

We started the first game with a puzzle on wooden blocks. We had to find 12 pieces that, when assembled, read the message “use ‘unlock’ to unlock” on one side, and “o = 15” on the other – this would open the door to the sewer system. I quickly guessed that we had to use the patch panel we found the first puzzle piece in to spell out the word “unlock” by connecting the patches using wires. Only after that did I see that they meant the letter “o” and not a zero!

Someone did the patching as the rest of us hunted for wires, and before we knew it, the door was open. The lights went off and came back on and two underdwellers stormed into the room, disarming one of the Phalanx before threatening to kill us. They said they didn’t need help and that we were now all trapped in their twisted little game and sewer system. They quickly left, returning to the sewer.

The lights went off and came back on again, and there was an infected underdweller. She bit one of the Phalanx operatives who instantly began to deteriorate. We were told that there was an experimental cure hidden deep within the sewers that we could get to cure him, but the commander wasn’t happy with it, threatening to kill him on the spot. Everyone in the group agreed that we should at least try to cure him, so the commander let him live.

We were split into three groups two groups of 8 and one group of 7, and we all had different missions: one team had to find the cure for the infected operative, the second had to locate the bomb, and the third (us) had to find and save the bomb technician. Three people had different roles: we had a leader, a navigator and a torchbearer (me).

We managed to find the technician quickly and quickly worked out what we needed to do: there was a door that we needed to get through, but it was locked with a combination lock. Using laminates with crosses on we found, we had to enter the labyrinth and locate four different boxes with buttons that all needed to be pressed in order for a code to be generated, meaning we had to leave four people behind briefly.

It took quite a fair bit of time to find where each of the buttons were, spending half an hour trying to solve this one puzzle. We got the numbers and made our way back to the door, only to find that one of the team forgot their numbers as an offspring attacked and killed an underdweller in front of her, so we had to systematically try and hack that number.

We managed to make it into the room and we instantly began looking round for clues, which were hidden literally everywhere. A group of people found a fuse box and managed to get that to work which completed a mission for the bomb locator team, but we got interrupted by the two underdwellers again, who decided to play a game with us: they started banging and kicking everything they could to attract the offspring of the Nemesis, who came running into the room and threw her to the ground. The operative in our group asked what we should do, and everyone agreed that we should save the underdweller by banging on the walls and doors to get him out the room. She ran off quickly after.

We went back to looking for clues, and I managed to get a few started – one of them involved pipes (there were a lot lying around, so that had to be something) and one (below) was written on the inside of a locker door.

Achilles heel = DIAW x MIAY = ?

We entered the briefing room and headed for the door where the technician was hidden. We found him strapped by his wrists, neck and ankles to a cross with a note that says “time fries in this room”: the technician would be electrocuted if we didn’t save him.

By this point we had 15 minutes left to get him out, and we were so stressed that we only managed to get one or two of his bindings free. I patted him down to see if there were any clues on him and felt something on his stomach, but my morals decided that there’d be nothing on his actual body as that’d probably be too NSFW, so I ignored it.

The 15 minutes were up and we were dragged out the room, leaving the technician inside to die in what sounded like an awful manner… until his corpse began coughing which made us all chuckle (and kinda killed it a little). We waited for the other teams to return in a defeated silence, and feeling pretty bad for our operative.

While we were waiting, we were made to check each other for signs of infection: as I had the torch, it was up to me to do the checking. I quickly checked our team and we were fine, and as I finished the operative seemed to skulk off, so I called him back over and asked if it was ok if I could check him over, as I wasn’t gunna risk my teams safety for him. Another, rather excitable member of our team agreed and began yelling at him, to which he retorted “my health is on a need to know basis!”, and I instantly responded (to my surprise, I’m never this quick at sharp responses) “yeah, and we need to know!”. He sighed and let me check him over, and I was happy that he was clean.

The other teams returned, having cured the infected operative and having found the bomb – it was only us that had failed, and our operative took great pride in rubbing that in our faces. We were made to kneel again as our operative and the commander went rogue and killed the guy that was cured before abandoning us in the sewer system.

The two underdwellers from earlier returned packing some serious heat after finding out we had been abandoned with the two last operatives. The leader tormented us again, threatening to kill us before the second broke and started screaming at him about how she didn’t want anything to do with his sick and twisted games. He screamed “fine, you’re one of them. Lets hope none of my little friends catch wind of this!” before running off. The lights went out again for longer this time, then a sudden outburst of alarms, bells and air raid sirens pierced the darkness just before we were blinded with flashing red lights. The underdweller still with us said she knew a way out and that we should follow her, which we did.

We were taken back into the labyrinth, the red lights and alarms ringing loudly in our ears as we all ended up getting lost in the labyrinth for a good 15 minutes or so. The group was split up as one of the Nemesis offspring came storming down a corridor we needed to go down, so I closed the sliding door and turned to the guy behind me and cheekily said “nope, there’s nothing wrong out there at all” just before the offspring did this fantastically spine tingling scream. I slid the door open a little to see if he was still there, which he was, so I closed it again and just shook my head as if to say “nopenopenopenopenope”. We heard him storm off and around the corner, so took the opportunity.

We found the rest of the group and followed them through the Sub Species: The End Games boo haunt, where we were made to traverse extremely narrow corridors, go through a laboratory scene with a strobe light and high pressure air currents at shin height, before we entered a pitch black section where you had to feel your way through with the infected underdwellers positioned awkwardly (we cheated and used the torch to make our way through).

Finally, we found ourselves in a hospital scene with nothing out of the ordinary except for the bloodstains everywhere.

We soon emerged from the experience breathing heavy sighs of relief and applauding both ourselves and the actors. Once the rest of the group made it out, we were introduced to the actors and were given time to chat with them. We found out that we were incredibly close to saving the technician, and the puzzle up a few paragraphs was actually for the left ankle, and the puzzle was days in a week multiplied by months in a year, and that I almost found the key to a lock – the technician had stitches on his stomach that we had to rip open and pull a key from.

We were split up into our groups again to find out how well we scored. I was noted for working out the first puzzle and giving everyone the tools they needed to complete the riddles, but couldn’t see where they linked in with the game (something I noticed about myself too), but otherwise I was a great backseat leader. I ended up with 125 points, but found out that I had been infected – an infected underdweller had grabbed my calf so I lost 25 points, and came joint 9th with 5 others from previous games.

I asked our operative if we could keep the overalls as a souvenir, to which he laughed and said “yes, you can have this too” as he handed me the shell of a bullet from the gun. We had photos with the aliens (none from me – my phone camera broke during Scare Kingdom), then we were handed back our bags and escorted back to the entrance of the park.

The experience itself, while not scary or extreme by any stretch of the imagination, was absolutely fantastic, and I had an incredible time. If the creators, actors, make up artists, set designers etc are reading this, you did an amazing job at immersing everyone and creating such a memorable experience. Only a few tiny criticisms though: more blood, more scares, more full body contact stuff (kidnaps, being thrown about etc), and more time to complete the missions! 😛

So we left the park, and everything was slowly shut down until I was the last person stood there outside a now deserted theme park that had, not 4 hours before, had upward of 10k people there, with only the flickering advertisement boards lighting the extremely foggy plaza.

Soon enough, my taxi appeared and I was driven back to my hotel.

29th October 2015: Alton Towers’ Scarefest & Sub Species: Operation Lockdown