On Saturday 5th October we attended Alton Towers for the first day of their Scarefest event for this year. Boasting two new mazes this year, as well as the addition of The Alton Towers Dungeon early in the season this year, it was set up to be one of the most exciting Scarefest line ups for many years so we were excited to see what the event had in store for us this year.
As we arrived at the park, we could feel the season all around us. Pumpkin's litter the entrance of the Splash Landings hotel and we felt like we were home. After sitting in the newly, Scarefest decorated giant deck chair and having a few photos it was time to head to the park and get the day underway!
We made our way to the bottom of Towers Street and with coffee, in hand, we suddenly saw the appearance of many ghostly apparitions. The year 2019 must be an extremely spooky one as more ancestors graced us with their presence, more than we have seen before. Victorian maids, perilous pirates and joyous jesters were some of the ancestors present and after a quick chat, music filled the air and then, in unison, the ghouls started to move their feet.
Alton Ancestors Show
The Alton Ancestors perform a 'flash mob' (synchronised dance) show several times a day, starting at Towers Street in the morning before slowly making there was to The Towers in the afternoon before finally arriving at their final resting place, Gloomy Wood.
The show lasts around eight minutes and features lots of Halloween music throughout the show such as Ghostbusters and Thriller. The ancestors don't like to just dance with themselves however, they often want you, unsuspecting mortals, to join in too.
The show has been at Alton Towers for many years and always sees a change in the soundtrack. It's a great start to the day and gets everyone in the Halloween spirit!
The Attic: Terror of the Towers
After a few hours at the park after watching the Alton Ancestors strut their stuff, it was time to experience our first maze of the day, The Attic: Terror of the Towers.
As we entered the queue underneath the nicely designed 3D logo (which also has lighting visible at night) and walked around the perimeter of Her Ladyship's Gardens and entered the conservatory, we then walked into the Towers and made our way into a small 'U' shaped queue.
In the middle of the queue was the standard brick-a-brack you would probably see stored in an attic of a stately home: Paintings, Candelabras and ornate cabinets to name a few of the items in there.
After we were batched into the maze we entered a small living room filled with a fireplace and bookcases and within the room was a finely dressed gentleman who, once we were all in regaled in the horrific take that took place in the building we were just in. This would set the scene for what we were about to witness within the maze.
Interestingly, as you would expect for a maze called 'The Attic' it is located within the top floor of The Towers which means having to get up there in the first place. I feel this ruins the flow of the maze as there are no scare's allowed on the stairs for obvious health and safety reasons!
The initial climb up to the top floor has some theming and after the initial scene adds a sense of uncertainty, however, as the finale of the maze is also upstairs it means after the final scare you have to make your way back down which in a way feels anticlimactic and also means that by the time everyone is down they look like they haven't been scared at all to those unknowing souls in the queue.
Of course, we shouldn't be judging mazes by how people react when coming out of it, so within the maze itself, it is beautiful. It could potentially be one of the most detailed and well-themed mazes to come out of Towers within the last couple of years. Each room is filled with tons of stuff and really wanted to just stand in a room and take it all in, however, the residents of the house were not going to let that happen.
Within the maze, there was lots of good scares to be had and is of the same quality of scares as some of the other mazes at Towers, albeit a little bit short, but is a solid part of the line up for Scarefest.
After surviving our time in The Attic it was time to experience what is being targeted as the 'family' scare attraction, Darkest Depths. As we entered the area of Mutiny Bay, the mazes soundtrack filled the air with a creepy and malevolent tone.
Darkest Depths is located within the Mutiny Bay Courtyard which usually in the season is just an area to eat your various foodstuffs bought at the various snack counters, however, since 2017, they have used it as an ideal footprint for a smaller scare maze.
The area was originally used to promote Wicker Man with a maze titled 'The Welcoming' which further portrayed the story of The Beornen, an ancient civilisation closely associated with Wicker Man's story.
However, this year, it's home to a new maze, themed around a sunken ship known as 'The Mutiny' which, rumour has it, often returns to recruit new shipmates, wonder if tonight will be the night?
As we enter the maze, we see ourselves in an Inn, where we meet the proprietor of the establishment who tells us the story of The Mutiny and its fate. After being led through a secret passage we suddenly find ourselves within the fabled bounty itself.
Once again, the maze is beautifully themed and is a visual spectacle, but again, we didn't have time to take it in fully as pirates and crewmates appear in front of us out of nowhere.
During our run through we thought the maze was rather intense for a family maze of a recommended age rating of 10+. We do believe though that the host at the entrance of the maze informs the actors on whether the group is family orientated or not.
Overall, Darkest Depths is a great addition to Scarefest. The maze is a great fit and is a good replacement for The Welcoming. It’s not so much as a replacement for House of Monsters, however, as it is less family-friendly with more scares, however, those brave enough to enter will not be disappointed!
It was then time to experience the final three mazes, all included on a join maze combi ticket which includes The Altonville Mine Tours: Legend of the Skin Snatchers, Sub species: The End Games and Project 42, all of which have been at the event previously.
Project 42 is the youngest maze of the three, with it debuting at the event last year. In our opinion, it was the weakest maze last year so we were interested to see if any changes would have been made.
A deadly virus has broken out within the Phalanx building in Forbidden valley and it is up to you to head in and locate the only scientist with the cure. Utilising the space of Nemesis: Sub Terra, the maze uses some of the exterior queue and all of the internal rooms and as probably mentioned before it is an incredibly detailed maze but, much like last year, scares were a bit lacking and we find it hard to invest in the story when everyone inside is 'Zombie' like creatures. It would be great to see some personnel inside that were left within the facility and fighting it out for survival that would interact with you and build on the story of the maze.
One thing we noticed this year was that the doctor that you were supposed to find is missing, as last year a person in a lab coat could be seen on the floor, motionless, expressing that your mission is a lost cause and now you just need to find your way out and survive the ordeal.
Apart from that, the maze is the same. The maze has some real potential to be great but when we visited it felt like this project wasn't quite at its full potential.
The Altonville Mine Tours: Legend of the Skin Snatchers
Altonville Mine Tours is the middle child of the three mazes included in the maze combi ticket, being introduced to the Scarefest lineup four years ago. Located within The Towers, Head to Altonville and enter the mine, where stories tell of a group of inhabitants known as Skin Snatchers who have a habit of taking flesh from other humans, however, it's just stories right?
As you enter the mine you soon realise that these stories are factual and now you are in a life or death situation, find a way out or find yourself become victim to the terrifying Skin Snatchers.
This year sees some additional theming and a slightly tweaked route making the maze slightly longer but follows the same storyline and order of scenes. It's a rather intense maze with the members of the underground community getting very "friendly" with you, especially if you have great skin!
We really enjoy our time in Skin Snatchers but it is suffering a little from "maze fatigue" as the maze has been at Scarefest since 2016 with very little changes, although we love the maze, we think this ought to be the last year before trying out a fresh maze idea or completely change it up and bring almost a second chapter to the Skin Snatchers story!
Sub Species: The End Games
Sub Species: The End Games is the big brother of the other two mazes, as this year, it has been at Scarefest for five years. Located mainly with The Towers, you find yourself the main stars of a "rat race" held by a colony of sewer-dwelling creatures. Some may bet on you surviving the End Games so you best not disappoint!
The maze is received a small change to the end room compared to previous rooms, with slightly different routes, however, the rest of the maze seemed to remain the same on our runs. You'd have thought we might be as tired with this maze as we are with Altonville Mine Tours, however, the multiple routes keep this maze exciting as you may enter areas you've never been in before.
The main praise I have this year is the actors, as they are really invested in interacting with you and misleading you to go down the wrong paths.
For example, during my run, I got to one of the final rooms and was told to wait by a wall. Once it was just me and him in the room he grabbed me by the arm and let me all the way back to the first section of the maze, meaning I had to find my way back all over again. This meant I was in the maze for around 15 - 20 minutes, whereas other of the members were out in 5 - 10 minutes and said they were extremely disappointed.
I suppose this is the downside of having actors so heavily focussed on an individual as it means they are taken away from the many other guests going through the maze leading to a lot more inconsistency, however, It's great to see that, although the maze itself may not have changed, the actors within are acting differently to previous years making the maze still enjoyable, which, if I'm honest was not something I was expecting to say and my experience has made me think of Sub species much more fondly.
By the time we had gone through all the mazes, the sun was setting and the lighting was beginning to illuminate the park in an all-new light. Alton Towers have gone through a lot of effort with lighting this year. The old-style lanterns on the walkway between Mutiny Bay and The Towers have received red gels, giving the path a slight red glow, Wicker Man is set to receive an extensive lighting package (sadly on our visit this wasn't in place)
Much like last year, the skeletons projected onto the Towers windows are back as well as a new spooky ghost projection for this year that is located to the side of the Skyride near Mutiny Bay.
The park really does have a great atmosphere and ambience as the night sets in, the only thing we think is lacking is some more street theatre around the park as during our visit we only saw The Alton Ancestors at the start of the day.
Overall Scarefest is a solid event this year and there is something for everyone. Whether it's the Monster Ball in Cbeebies Land, the entertainment at the Freaky Fun Zone at the bottom of Towers Street or the terrifying scare mazes, Scarefest is an event that will appeal to every demographic and will be sure to keep them happy!