In­spi­ra­tion for hol­i­days at home and abroad

JANE HAASE and fam­ily try to stay one step ahead of the un­dead at Al­ton Tow­ers’ Scarefest

South Wales Echo - - Life Style -

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

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