Ever since the newspapers broke the story about Asda selling mental patient costumes last week, we have been waiting for them to turn their attention to the theme parks. Well brace yourself people as the backlash is coming.
Already one major Halloween event that has an "asylum style attraction" has had a formal complaint from a mental health charity and this morning (Oct 16th) BBC Breakfast featured a mental health charity worker bemoaning that the Asylum at Thorpe Park shows "mental patients running around trying to kill people with chainsaws"
So in this age of political correctness, are we right to still use these standard characters for our Halloween entertainment?
Certainly you only have to look at the movies or TV to see that these standard style characters feature in everything from Psycho through to American Horror Story. None of these are meant to be a mockery of the mentally ill but a dramatic device to tell a story. Scare attractions are no different. We enter an attraction to be taken to a different world and experience a fright, In fact the characters are completely fictional in the extreme and are so far removed from everyday situations that they are just as "fantastical" as vampires, werewolves, killer clowns or zombies.
Seeing as this style of maze has been standard in parks across the world for years, does make us wonder why its suddenly an issue this year. As far as we are aware - the parks holding asylum mazes in the past have not had any complaints previously but of course this year there is an increased sensitivity about mental health issues
(especially as it is reported that 1 in 4 people will suffer some form of mental illness in their lifetime)
We believe that most customers are educated in their own right to understand that these attractions are far removed from everyday real life and that they aren't meant to be a true depiction of those suffering from mental illness. But what do you think? we would love to hear your comments....
It's nearly the end of July, the weather is scorching hot and already the excitement for Halloween is building. As more and more announcements land, we keep hearing of whole new events such as Leeds Fright Nights or The Morgue Live in Birmingham as well as exciting new additions to existing events such as new mazes at Tulleys Shocktoberfest, Broadwitch HauntFest and PrimEVIl at Norfolk Dinosaur Park. It's also the time when scare attractions and events are looking for scare actors and it will be interesting to see how the demand for actors in certain regions has an impact on the shows (this year the Leeds area will see Yorkshire Scare Grounds, Leeds Fright Nights, Screams in the Barn, The Halloween Adventure at and Nightmare Circus at Doncaster Racecourse)
But before we get too excited looking forward - we should take this opportunity to look back on the first 6 months of the year and some of the things we have experienced. First off - we have published an incredible 30 reviews and have seen some really unique and exciting shows along the way:
Two of the UK Dungeon attractions re-opend this year with big launch events in York and London and we were fortunate to be be invited to both. London was clearly the most exciting event as the attraction was a complete site move to the new home in County Hall. It was a brave move and despite feeling brand new in places, the attraction managed to retain some of its charm (even if we did get evacuated alongside Brian Blessed on the press night!). Of course we couldn't let the old Tooley St show close without a proper goodbye and ScareTOUR organised the last ever public tour through the show in its iconic location.
Talking of the Dungeon attractions, they've all had a bit of a re-brand this year and we have visited Blackpool and Edinburgh to see how the new brand has changed them. Some more successful than others..
We were also invited to the press premier launch of Zombie Blitz 1940 - a brand new event by Apocalypse Events that mixes traditional scare maze tactics with a film like character story and impressive convincing sets and costumed. The event returns later this summer to the tunnels underneath Waterloo station. Definitely worth checking out.
This weekend we visited the 3rd version of Evil Rising (and the 2nd this year). The show just keeps getting better and better and returns in August with some even more terrifying twists! Other out of season shows have included Carni- Hell by Kernow Scare Attractions, Ravenwood Manor by GNG Entertainments, Syndrome by Massacre Productions and The Haunting by ScareCorp. We were also excited to be invited to Purgatory, an end of term drama production by the talented Jade Kelly-Haydon
At the theme parks - the impressive Sanctuary returned to Alton Towers for a couple of months as pre publicity for the Smiler roller-coaster and Pleasurewood Hills unveiled their new walk through/ride hybrid - Hobs Pit
Of course we have also visited all the main UK scare zones including Blackpool for Pasaje del Terror and the Dungeon, London for the London Tombs, Ghost Bus etc and Edinburgh (allegedly the most haunted city in the world) for the Dungeon, Mary Kings Close and Ghost Tours.
Finally - away from the more standard walk through style attractions we have also been to Zombie Earth, 2.8 Hours Later Asylum, Zombie Shoot Out and Horror Camp Live. All of them providing different and unique scares.
June saw the return of the 6th annual ScareCon in London which attracted over 200 scare industry experts, suppliers and enthusiasts. After a busy day of trade stands and seminars, delegates partied the night away at the fancy dress Scareball while the very brave stayed overnight for a haunted ghost experience like no other. Using special effects, hidden actors and a genuinely haunted building, guests were led to believe that there was something out there haunting the rooms. Without a painted face or fake blood anywhere , the screams of the guests as they toured the different rooms was music to our ears!
So as you can see - a pretty busy start to the year - 30 detailed reviews already and a big itinerary line up for the Halloween season. Don't forget that if you want to experience any of these shows to check out our reviews first and once you've been - leave us your feedback via our You Review system. It really is very simple and the attractions love to hear the feedback you send. Also - check out our front page for details of all the latest promotional discounts.
So all that's left to say is enjoy the summer sunshine and start preparing for Halloween - it is just under 100 days away! There's a lot been announced already but we also know there are a lot more things still to come - it's going to be a bumper year. So keep following us for the latest news, competitions and more!
On Monday we were lucky enough to join a few other fan and enthusiast sites to get a sneak peek behind the scenes at the the new London Dungeon. Having visited the Tooley St venue for years, we weren't sure how this new show would feel - the original site had atmosphere and history - so would this be just a set of well themed rooms in inside a different building?
Actually, due to the level of detail in the theming and the intricacies of some of the elements - we very quickly forgot where we were and with sufficient smells and lighting, it was as immersive as we could have hoped.
Many secrets of the attraction were revealed as part of our tour and it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into things with a number of key tricks and effects hidden in the connecting corridors between shows.
With the lights on, it was impressive but what would it be like under show conditions? We were pleased to be invited on the first public tour as it was being previewed for annual passholders and so, just a few hours after walking through a quasi building site, we were back the next morning to face our fears.
The key new phrase and marketing for the Dungeon brand is "Fear is a Funny thing" and most scenes have a good mix of both fun and fear throughout. Some, such as the new Mrs Lovett's pie shop are really funny, whilst the Jack the Ripper themed Ten Bells pub was terrifying!
Saying much more about our experience yesterday morning would spoil it for people coming in, but would also be unfair to the venue as (quite understandably) there were a few operation issues that will be ironed out going forward. Several effects didn't work, two shows were held under emergency lighting and the boat ride was a very quiet and non atmospheric affair with no sound or FX in operation.
We are hoping these small issues are remedied before the VIP party tonight. The show has the potential to really become the jewel in the crown for the Dungeon franchise and it will be great to see it all working properly
Until then - we will hold off posting a detailed review.
So the first big scare event of 2013 (Evil Rising) has come and gone and this has got us thinking about what we can expect for the remainder of 2013.
Obviously the biggest upcoming news is the relaunch of London Dungeon at its new home in County Hall. It was a sad day on Jan 31st as ScareTOUR had the last organised group of the Tooley St venue. We laughed, we jumped and we applauded the actors as the show finished. The attraction always felt like it belonged under London Street station and many people would be mistaken for thinking they were in an actual dungeon and not under some railway bridge arches!
So what does the move to County Hall present us with? Looking at the other UK Dungeons, the installations in modern buildings made to look old, never quite feel as genuine. Blackpool Tower Dungeon being the best example - it looks old and decayed but its really just clever theming and some smell pods. So until next week we will just have to reserve judgement on how authentic the new Dungeon will be. Expect some special coverage of the opening of the Dungeon next week!
Then not long after London comes the reopening of York Dungeon. It has been over 6 months of refurbishment and repair following the flood damage last Autumn and the current marketing is already showing some tweaks to the line up. More info as we get it.
At Easter, the talented GNG guys are back with a new show at Ravenswood Manor and a rescheduled date for the debut show from Massacre Productions will be announced soon.
Most people should be well aware that Alton Towers are currently building a new rollercoaster called The Smiler, and the theming of this ride is closely linked to our favourite attraction of last year - The Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is due to return for the main 2013 operating season at the park and it will be interesting to see if it remains an upcharge attraction for the season or whether it will included in the admission price.
Other Spring/early Summer events that seem to be cropping up at the moment are Night Terrors - a 6k run through pitch dark forests populated with monsters, Zombie Earth - a new take on the popular Zombie Survival games and some dates have been set for the next Zombie Survival Weekenders in Wales. Of course the ever popular Zombie Manor and Zombie Shopping Mall experiences run most weekends.
As we look further forward into the Halloween season its a bit more difficult to see or predict what is ahead. Every year sees new shows and events all across the country and as usual we will keep you posted as we hear things. But we are only a small team and sometimes things pass us by - so if you hear of anything exciting happening near you - contact us directly or via Facebook and we shall be sure to feature it
So until we scream again - stay safe
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
What is it about zombies at the moment? We know that The Walking Dead has been really popular, but recently we have seen a glut of zombie related attractions.
First out the stable was 2.8 Hours Later which keeps moving to new cities around the UK to keep the show fresh and exciting (especially with the new challenges that each new city brings). We reviewed the attraction in Bristol and Leeds and although the basic story is the same, it's the layout and features of the town that really make this show (as well as the amazing actors along the way!)
Next up came the insane Zombie Boot Camp, which took live action zombie role playing to a new level. Kitted out with Kevlar boy armour and riot shields there was only one way for any zombies that attacked us - and that was - down!! If you haven't read our review then you must read it now - this was one of the most brutal and raw experiences we have ever visited.
Following the incredible success of Boot Camp, a few other companies got into the zombie bashing mood. Zombie Shopping Mall, Zombie Training and Zombie Manor House all came up with different versions of the training and survival synopsis but this time using air-soft weaponry. Look out for future reviews of these attractions coming soon.
A few weeks back we experienced , a truly spectacular piece of theatre due to the incredible venue and the enthusiasm of the cast. Being trapped underground in the dark in a real nuclear bunker surrounded by "zombies" was both frightening and exhilarating - especially when our guide started firing real blank bullets!
Coming up later this year is Zombie Evacuation, the UK's first zombie 5k event where competitors will have to negotiate a course full of hazards (including hordes of ravenous zombies!)
On top of these e shows there are a number of large organised zombie gatherings all across the UK including Brighton's Beach of the Dead, The Birmingham Zombie Walk, and many, many more
So why do we love zombies so much?. Is this a rebellion against the state of the country at the moment with many people feel brain-dead through rising cuts and unemployment? Is it the belief that a a group we can rise up and change everything? Or is it the fact that we are sick of pretending to be nice and want to go back to our cannibalistic caveman like ways? Whatever it is - there's no denying - the zombies will be here for a very long time yet!
If you know of any new zombie events happening across the country then please let us know
It’s now almost a week since ScareCON and the internet buzz on Facebook and other social media shows little sign of slowing down! There are pictures of people in character, amusing anecdotes from the survivors of the scare rooms and a general feeling that this event was the best ever.
It was attended by some of the biggest names in the UK scare industry and every comment we have received is that the atmosphere was one of friendship and co-operation. There was no bitterness or rivalry, but a real desire to share and help fellow attraction owners – whether they be a major corporate theme park or a home hunter just taking their first steps.
Now ScareCON is over for another year, this is the time when parks and attractions really start to plan their upcoming Halloween product. Aside from a couple of out of season events (AtmosFEAR’s, Horror Camp Live and GNG’s Project Fear) it really now is all about the run up to Halloween. Have you started planning what you want to do this year? It keeps getting harder and harder to decide where to go so fortunately we have a good team of strong reviewers who we can send all over the country and beyond. Of course we are always looking for more reviews, so if you are passionate about this industry and want to help – let us know.
As many people know – I run this site single handedly but still manage to keep up to date with the latest news and keep things fresh and exciting whilst organising major events such as ScareCON. Hopefully this is why you keep coming back to us but of course we also need your support along the way. Keep on sending in your YOU reviews of attractions and don’t forget to keep the forum alive with chat and discussion - we can only respond to what you want so if there’s anything you don’t like just ask
In the mean time we will continue to bring you the first and best exclusive reviews such as Zombie Boot Camp and The Last Survivors. Look out for other exciting stories coming soon.
I should probably just wrap up by reminding everyone of our next ScareTOUR trip which will be to Project Fear on June 23rd. Booking needs to be organised through the official website where you will need to read all the terms and conditions before experiencing this solo attraction. This freaky new production was in testing this week and many of GNG’s own staff couldn’t make it through – so let’s see how we get on!
Scare you all soon!
The UK scare attraction industry is only small but is growing rapidly with new and exciting companies and events appearing each year. With such growth and potential competition we should expect a friendly rivalry between attractions and suppliers but would also expect people to work together to benefit the whole of the industry and not just themselves.
For example, if a visitor has enjoyed an attraction, it would be nice to think that they could see advertising for a competitor’s attraction as they leave. Perhaps then they may decide to go and do something else – hence increasing attendance. If that attraction then promotes the other one in return it’s a win/win for both sides and more people get to enjoy this crazy form of entertainment.
At the moment, people don’t really travel around the UK visiting attraction after attraction which makes comparisons hard. After all – how can you decide if one thing is better than another if you haven’t visited both? Hopefully in time – people will start to venture outside of their local areas and explore other attractions around the country or even abroad. No two scare attractions are ever the same and people should always be able to find something new and different if they put in the effort to find them.
Fortunately, ScareTOUR's large and diverse review team travel all over the country each year to bring you the most detailed reviews available. Before a review is posted it is discussed within the team to ensure that it accurately reflects the event. Alongside the team reviews, I also personally try to visit as many attractions as I can and especially like to support new ventures or people doing something a little different. This is how we managed to post reviews of over 70 different scare attractions in 2011 alone. A number that no other review site was able to do. Of course we may miss a few highlights along the way but you can guarantee we will go back to these the following year to ensure as much coverage as possible. So why not stick with us?
Remember – we here at ScareTOUR will only post factual reviews based purely on the real experience and will never let personal feelings or company allegiances get in our way. ScareTOUR is still the only scare attraction website that does not run or own its own attraction in any way shape or form.
Until next time – enjoy our reviews from Blackpool!
Well it’s the start of February and we’re already on the countdown to our first set of scares for 2012. A few years back it would have been unheard of that you could get scared so early in the season yet here we are on Valentine’s Day about to experience a brand new scare attraction!
St Valentines Day Massacre is already set to be our biggest trip yet with over 20 people registered to attend. The very kind people at Blackpool Tower Dungeon have actually offered us some complimentary tickets for ScareTOUR readers, which just shows how much they recognise the support we give to both them and the industry. We have tickets these left so it’s not too late to register!
In other news, we are just waiting to hear more details from Curious Village of their two upcoming attractions, Scary Tales live and their Alone style show in May, as well as waiting for a few other companies across the UK to finalise their spring plans (but from what we have heard so far – the year is stating to look very good))
Else where the planning for ScareCON is taking shape. Many people have been asking about ScareCON and whether the event is suitable for them. The main day event is a trade show and seminar/workshop programme which is aimed at owners and designers of attraction or for people looking to move into this business. The day is usually filled with interesting people and surprises and could be of interest to anyone but is specifically aimed at the business side. The evening and the Scare Ball is more a chance for people to relax, let their hair day and have fun. If you aren’t interested in the day events, you can still enjoy the evening party and entertainment.
The first batch of all night Scare Rooms sold out almost immediately and those who were able to get rooms are probably wishing they hadn’t as the ever faithful (but quite frankly quite creepy) Timothy the booking host, has been hounding them ever since! If you are brave enough – a waiting list is being run for the next set of rooms.
Going forward it’s going to be a really interesting year. The country is currently heading for a double dip recession and it will be interesting to see how this affects the scare industry. When an evening Halloween event can cost in excess of £35 for a few hours entertainment, will venues see a drop in attendance as people struggle to keep their money in their pockets? Or will people want to escape the bad news and face their fears in a dark maze somewhere?
Only time will tell, but rest assured that ScareTOUR will be with you all through the year keeping up to date with all the latest attractions and posting the best and most comprehensive reviews on the web.
Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest information or head over to our forums to join in the chat.
Wow - three months sicne the last post! Oops - for that i can only apologise but hopefully you have been following things on the ScareTOUR facebook page including the advent calendar and all the halloween posts?
Well the year is almost over and its time to sit back and reflect on the year that's just gone - what were your favourites? Why not reply to this blog and let us know
The official ScareTOUR results will be posted soon but in the mean time have a great New Year's Eve tomorrow!
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?