With the launch of Project Fear in Yorkshire tonight, my brain started wandering about why being “Alone” is such a scary concept. As seasoned scare attraction visitors we are used to being scared but we usually do it in a group. The conga line loved by most attractions is a clever way to keep groups together and under control but are also reassuring for us as the visitor. Watch any new group prepare to enter a show and you’ll see discussions over who goes at the front or who goes at the back. This is mainly because these roles are often the most exposed. Go at the front and you have to lead your way around, go at the back and you’re more likely to be picked on by creatures from behind. Therefore it seems logical that if you go it alone you have no hope!
My first experience of an alone attraction was years ago at the Grimm House in Old Town Orlando. Not exactly the most exciting or threatening house in content, the thought of being trapped in their by myself was simply terrifying. By the time the realisation had sunk in it was too late. The door had shut behind me and I was on my own, being attacked by monsters. Monsters that had NO-ONE else to target!
You see, when you travel in a group, you can always hope that someone else gets picked on. You may even laugh at your friend who is scared of clowns being attacked by Bozo. In fact you may even encourage it! When you go through alone this “fun” element is missing as this time the monsters are only after you!
Over the years we have seen a number of different experiences try to break up the traditional groups and probably one of the most shocking was Tom Spindler’s first Asylum Hill. Set in an old slum building this attraction pushed many sexual and social taboos but perhaps the biggest shock was how we were separated so early on and left to wander this house alone. Throughout this attraction we were touched, pushed onto a bed, straddled and in turns locked in a toilet. As we wandered from room to room, we would desperately try and find the rest of our party for “safety”
A few years later – Punchdrunk Theatre debuted “It Felt Like a Kiss” an interactive theatrical presentation in Manchester that got darker and scarier as the attraction commenced. Towards the end, guests were forced through football stadium type barriers that would lock after each rotation, meaning only one person could get through at a time. Guests were then left to wander the final dark corridors with no other company. It was the scary highlight of the whole experience and really took people out of their comfort zones.
In 2011 when Thorpe were looking for a new idea or their new maze, the alone concept was introduced again, but of course it does have a massive impact on capacity. They got round this through strong confident actors who weren’t afraid to order people around efficiently. Even so – with another batch a few minutes later, there was no time for arguing and in most cases people complied. The alone section (being locked in a locker) really heightened the tension of the experience but after the doors were opened it was the luck of the draw as to how you finished the show. On my first walk through I encountered no other people and the finale was just terrifying and unsettling. Another time I caught up with a group as they had all waited and regrouped before continuing together. The experience was then just like any other group attraction.
So this all leads us back to Project Fear. We will enter this attraction knowing that we will be alone. We are also promised “Torture, torment, abuse, filth, religion, darkness, sexual content, gore, extreme physical contact, drugs, simulated interrogation, terrorism and full-frontal male and female nudity”. These sound to be very real scenarios and may or may not be more frightening than a haunted house or a zombie survival attraction. Who knows? One thing for certain though is that many people are expected to call the safety word long before their experience finishes – will we be one of them?
Check out our review soon
Many of you will know me already. My name is Michael Bolton and I am passionate about Scare Attractions and being scared. I have been visiting and reviewing attractions since 2002. Why not come along on one of our trips and have a scream?