Inspiration for holidays at home and abroad
JANE HAASE and family try to stay one step ahead of the undead at Alton Towers’ Scarefest
ICOULD just about deal with the mind-bending lights, disorientating loud music and zombies jumping out at me at every turn.
But blindly squashing my whole body through a wall of white fabric – imagine pushing yourself down the back of a sofa – where I couldn’t see the way out ahead was quite terrifying.
Scarefest at Alton Towers was certainly living up to its name as I experienced Project 42, the newest addition to the Staffordshire theme park’s annual Halloween event.
My son James, 15, and I had already donned white surgical masks and gowns to enter the scare maze, dubbed the Phalanx Research Facility, where human test subjects for a virus antidote have been hideously transformed. Our mission was to get through the maze of rooms and corridors to find the vaccine without contracting the infection.
Our screams were real as zombies got up close and personal as we stumbled around the bunker-like building – strobe-lighting, smoke-effects and deafeningly loud noises all playing with our senses. It was exhilarating fun.
Project 42 joins what is now a long list of mazes at Alton Towers – this year, you can also be scared witless by Sub Species – The End Games; Altonville Mine Tours – Uncover the Legend of the Skin-Snatchers (think Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Deliverance); and The Welcoming – Be Chosen.
You have to be 15 and over for these attractions but don’t worry, there are plenty of scares to suit all ages.
My 12-year-old daughter Nina and I braved the House of Monsters, suitable for children eight and over, but teenagers might find it a bit too childish for them. Actors playing assorted monsters greet you in each room of the haunted house and set you a task to find bits of Frankenstein along the way which you need to escape. There are jokes, audience interaction and a song. It’s fun and not too scary.
For younger guests there are spooky shows with new characters like Gretyl the Witch appearing alongside old favourites Patch, Skelvin, Phil and Franklin, as well as the CBeebies Land Monster Ball where families can have some scary fun with their Cbeebies friends.
Pumpkins are festooned around the park, there are flashmobs and pop-up shows and visitors enter into the spirit of it all dressing up in Halloween costumes or painting their faces in ghoulish designs.
For thrill-seekers what’s better than hurtling around bends at 40 miles per hour? Doing it in the dark! The park is open until 9pm during Scarefest and we got to ride the latest roller coaster – the £16m Wicker Man – at night.
The first wooden coaster to be built in the UK in more than 20 years, it is particularly thrilling to ride after the sun goes down, as the huge Wicker Man centrepiece, with its ram’s head on one side and a human face on the other, bursts into flames as you hurtle through it.
It has the clickety clack of a traditional wooden coaster but the comfort of a modern one as it whizzes round the 2,000 feet of track. We loved it and it’s a great addition to other major rides such
as Nemesis, Oblivion, Rita, Thirteen, Galactica and The Smiler.
If you are making the most of the extended opening hours, you might want to stay at one of the park’s three on-site hotels. We spent the night at the Alton Towers hotel in a Moon Voyage galactic-themed room which is decorated in a sort of steampunk style, with brass effect features and space travel murals. But there were modern touches like a TV, wi-fi and even an Xbox next to the kids’ bunkbeds. There was entertainment at night on the galleon stage at the centre of the hotel and in the morning, breakfast was served in the lovely Secret Garden restaurant with its pretty flowers and bushes, complete with a talking tree.
Staff here, and throughout the park during the day, impressed with their levels of customer service. They asked us how we’d enjoyed Scarefest.
An easy question to answer.
It was frightful!
Actors bring to life spooky scenarios in the scare mazes Scares are tailored to several age groups
Night rider: The Wicker Man is even scarier after sunset