As the nights draw in, the air gets colder, and the end of the season starts to get closer and closer, the theme parks here in the UK are starting their preparation for what is arguably the biggest event month of the theme park calendar – October. Horror mazes and scare zones, rides in the dark and actors all costumed up to terrify the life out of you, it cannot be disputed that the level of fear and depth of experience certainly increases each year in the parks.
But let’s glance back over what has happened this September in the UK theme parks as the summer season has come to an end, and take a look forward at what the British parks have in store for us this Halloween, whether it is ‘getting corrected’ for the first time in the dark at The Smiler’s first Scarefest, or crawling through narrow caves to escape from a pick-axe wielding maniac, no doubt it’s going to be the most thrilling, horrifying and exciting Halloween yet.
The final weekend of Thorpe Park’s “Reserve ‘n’ Ride” system ran on the 7th and 8th of September, after Thorpe Park appear to have taken a step in Disney’s direction of ‘virtual queuing’. The “Reserve ‘n’ Ride” scheme ran as a trial, and allowed users to pre-book a timeslot on The Swarm for free, potentially opening up the possibility for them to operate this system on more rides during the 2014 season.
There has also been some interesting ticket news for Thorpe Park in September and into October. They introduced the £20 off-peak tickets from September until the end of the season (excluding Fright Nights), which could be seen as revealing their struggle for numbers as attendance dips again between the summer and Fright Night period. Fright Nights tickets are being advertised online as less than £30 per adult if booked before the end of September, encouraging advance bookings as Thorpe Park always tries their best to do.
But of course, the biggest (and quite possibly the best executed) event of Thorpe Park’s year is Fright Nights, taking place on the 5-6th, 11-13th, 18-20th of October and 25th of October until the 3rd of November this 2013 Halloween. They are certainly vamping up the excitement for Halloween events this year, as Thorpe Park are partnered up with Lionsgate and taking on a movie blockbuster theme to produce 2 brand new mazes, 1 new scare zone and 1 new park wide actor experience, based on The Blair Witch Project, You’re Next, My Bloody Valentine and The Cabin in the Woods movies.
Thorpe Park have been releasing teaser images for Fright Nights during September, with famous lines from these films being posted on their social media sites with the hashtag #FrightNights.
On the 10th of September, they also began to release their 6 Fright Night “experiences” – starting with The Cabin in the Woods scare maze where those that are brave enough will get to “decide their own scare maze fate” for the first time in horror attraction history. After choosing which room to enter, based on popular scenes from the movie - the Hallway, the Dolls Room, the Bedroom or the Facility, you will discover whether your decision has allowed you to escape the cabin or succumb to your own fears by the power of the control room.
The Saw Alive Horror Maze will be open for its 4thFright Night as Thorpe Park continue to use their fantastically scary horror IP that is already in place at the park. Will there be pig masked actors this year? It’s certainly possible!
Thorpe Park have announced that a live action horror maze, based on the ‘My Bloody Valentine’ movie, will be the 3rdHalloween experience on their Fright Night line up. With what sounds terrifyingly claustrophobic, this maze will involve crawling through tunnels and being separated from the rest of your group, all to get away from the “pick-axe wielding murderer”. ‘My Bloody Valentine’ certainly sounds like a mix between the previous Experiment 10 and The Passing mazes, with the separation from the group and wriggling through tunnels playing a huge part of this maze’s fear factor.
A scare zone, based on the 1999 movie “The Blair Witch Project” will be located in a “derelict and disused area at the back of the park”. Most likely rumoured to be situated in the old Canada Creek railway station area, Thorpe Park invites you and your friends to join in the hunt for the Blair Witch and explore the dark woods. It will be great if this speculated location is true as the abandoned station and wooded area of the park makes for quite a creepy atmosphere that could easily be developed into a fantastic scare experience, especially one based on more psychological fear - not what you can see, but what you can’t see, exactly like in the Blair Witch movie. If this is the location, Thorpe Park certainly wouldn’t need a lot of theming or actors to make this one a very terrifying experience.
Characters from the recently released movie ‘You’re Next’ will be roaming the park, scaring guests in animal masks in the same fashion the prisoners did last year during 2012 Fright Nights, when the whole park became “Thorpe Park Penitentiary”.
Finally, the extremely famous ‘Asylum’ will be the final Halloween experience instalment for Thorpe Park, making yet another come-back for the 2013 Fright Night events. It has been part of Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights since 2005, and is arguably the most popular and iconic horror maze in Fright Night history, particularly the chainsaw section.
It is also the first Fright Nights for the Crash Pad, Thorpe Park’s recently opened budget on-site accommodation, made up of 4 person rooms inside old shipping containers. This has proved to be extremely popular throughout its 2013 launch year, let alone during a couple of weeks when the events run into the night and it is much more convenient to stay overnight.
There will be no charge for the new mazes this year, which makes last year’s decision to charge for “The Passing” appear to have been a one-off.
So with 5 new experiences overall, 3 new mazes, 1 scare zone and 1 returning infamous horror maze, Thorpe Park’s line-up for Fright Nights 2013 looks set to be the most terrifying yet.
Old McDonald’s Farm will be undertaking some fairly major changes in the near future as Alton Towers released the plans for a refurbishment of the area. Very little is known at this stage but rumours circulating online indicate it is likely to be a complete re-theme, the new IP looking probable to be Moshi Monsters. The plans for the area seem to show the removal of the tent, “There’s Something In The Dungheap” attraction, and a new toilet block.
No new blockbuster horror mazes for Alton Tower’s Scarefest this year, running from the 19th of October to the 3rd of November, but there will be 3 popular scare mazes to look forward to this Halloween as Alton’s line up for the Scarefest is announced – The Terror of the Towers: What Lies Within, Carnival of Screams, and of course, (for those who missed it last year as a prequel to Secret Weapon 7), The Sanctuary is making a return.
Alton Towers won’t be following in Thorpe Park’s footsteps and making all of the mazes free, however, The Carnival of Screams will be included in the theme park admission, as well as the Zombies! scare zone. The Sanctuary and Terror of the Towers are an additional cost.
This will be The Smiler’s first Scarefest of course, so expect many pumpkin-shaped smiley faces to be scattered around the park as Alton continues to push their latest and greatest attraction. Let’s hope it remains running smoothly after its very rocky start to the season, especially during the colder winter hours and longer days of operation. It will be interesting to see if Alton Towers decide to bring actors back into the X Sector and Smiler area during the Scarefest events to improve the atmosphere and enhance the Halloween experience even further.
The Altonville Motel scare room is a popular overnight attraction at the Alton Towers Hotel, making a return, due to popular demand from the 2012 season. Alton Towers’ scare rooms are an iconic part of the Halloween experience, where brave guests can check themselves into a horror themed room in one of Alton’s hotels, and be subjected to terrifying special effects, detailed theming, and visits from live actors throughout the night.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Blackpool Pleasure Beach will be bringing back their Vampire Pleasure Beach event on Halloween night (31st of October) this season. This includes the chance to dance with zombies to some of the hottest bands play live onstage. Some of the rides (The Big One and Infusion) will remain open after dark, and the Chinese Puzzle Maze will be re-themed into a terrifying horror maze for the night.
Chessington World of Adventures
Finally, Chessington World of Adventures’ ‘Halloween Hocus Pocus’ events will run from the 19th of October to the 3rd of November, with attractions such as VAMPIRE: The Haunting in the Hollows, The Mystery of Hocus Pocus Hall, and Burt & Bilge’s Big Bad BOO! These attractions are great, spooky fun for the whole family this Halloween.
So that’s it from the UK parks this past few weeks and into October. With plenty of brand new blockbuster scare mazes and rides after dark to look forward to this upcoming month, the Halloween events taking place in theme parks across the country will no doubt be the scariest but most exciting yet.