Michael Holmes travels to Staffordshire to experience a spine-tingling adventure at Alton Towers
If creeping through the gates of Alton Towers under the cover of darkness isn’t unsettling enough, I had to do it surrounded by a ghost bride and her ghoulish bridesmaids.
Invited to sample the Staffordshire attraction’s Scarefest event, I was able to see the park as it is seldom seen before.
With it being 9.30pm on an autumn Friday night, no rollercoasters were running. Instead specially-erected floodlights gave off an eery glow as still figures with pumpkin heads watched on nearby.
An army of bright white beauties – as well as an outgoing fellow called Pete – welcomed me and other journalists from around the country with a choreographed dance to hits such as Ghostbusters, before whisking us off and placing us at the mercy of a freak show.
There, in the shadow of the famous Towers, we were forced to walk through a dark, narrow passage as a circus master, jester, bearded woman, strong man, et al, asked if we’d like to stay and play.
Unnerved, I declined an invitation to become a deadly knife-thrower’s next victim.
Unnerved, I declined an invitation to become a deadly knife-thrower’s next victim. “You killed the last one,” I blurted as I wandered past a little quicker than I’d like to admit.
“Yeah, but you’ll be okay,” came the reply, almost close enough to my slightly distorted face for me to be able to smell what they had for dinner.
Next came the main attraction: The Altonville Mine Tour.
Inside were the skin-snatchers, we were told by our tour guide, whose US deep south accent wobbled at times. She was happy to show us around, although she didn’t think the mine’s ugly residents would be too pleased to see us.
Placed in a group of 10, a person at the front, middle, and back were given hard hats fitted with a head lamp to wear, while those under the age of 15 or of a nervous disposition weren’t allowed to enter.
And I can see why. One person dropped out almost immediately, fleeing backwards to safety after panicking in terror. The rest of us endured a pulse-racing but incredibly enjoyable journey through the mine, which was complete with live actors, sights, smells, and sounds that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror film.
Particularly unsettling was a narrow passage complete with two rows of stuffed chemical suits that kick-started a deeply hidden fear of enclosed spaces, and a wooden tunnel that forces you to double over and run as a madman followed close behind.
Sadly, the ride ended just as it reached its chilling crescendo, no doubt planned, but a little frustrating.
Our evening ended with a trip through the House of Monsters, a more family-friendly, though still not suitable for younger children, tour through a haunted house, complete with puzzles, fun and games, and a thrilling escape.
Scarefest runs this weekend, and then from October 21 to 31. Tickets start from £20. Visit www.altontowers.com