As has been evident from observing construction in recent weeks, the Resort has opted to use outdoor space for new scare maze, Freak Show: Toxic Junkyard. It has also relocated Darkest Depths to the backstage area near The Towers and Dark Forest, last home to Zombies! Scare Zone, so that it can be made bigger to aid social distancing. It has also been confirmed that other mazes have been modified with more access points for actors and increased ventilation throughout.
The Resort have provided the following summary of measures that will be implemented in this year’s scare mazes:
- Guests will enter each maze in small, household groups of up to 6 people, which is reduced from the historic size of around 14 guests, meaning there will be nowhere to hide from what awaits inside
- All guests will also be required to wear a facemask throughout each maze experience
- The Resort’s costume team have produced more than 200 bespoke protective masks for each actor, as part of their costume
- Adequate spacing will be given to each party on entry to the maze and the Resort have created a novel way to utilise additional case members within each maze to ensure guests maintain social distancing throughout
- New style interactions and techniques will provide actors with ‘safe spaces’ to perform and frighten from, with these methods including an emphasis on new-style jump scares that provide the illusion of closeness whilst maintaining effective social distancing
- Mazes have been re-designed to have additional ventilation points or relocated and rebuilt to make them larger in size to help with social distancing
- Theming and props will be used to create new exciting set designs and physical barriers between actors and guests to ensure social distancing
- Within the mazes, additional cast members will emerge from the shadows at regular intervals to carry out enhanced cleaning of touch points, props and scenery in an eerie ghost-like manner
- Unlike in previous years, there will be no physical contact between actors and guests in mazes, and guests are asked to not touch the scenery when making their way through the maze
- Removal of dark spaces within maze experiences and introduction of new, additional special effects
- Guests will be asked to sanitise their hands at the stations provided on entry to each maze
Chris Carter, Head of Entertainments at Alton Towers Resort, explains:
“When designing this year’s Scarefest we have adopted tried and tested safety methods that we have successfully implemented on our rides and attractions since opening in July.
“Whilst the experience will be different to previous years, we are confident it will be equally intense whilst being safe. We have re-imagined and then re-designed the scare mazes to provide larger spaces for both our guests and actors and have worked hard to give the illusion of closeness whilst maintaining effective social distancing. We are really pleased with the results and know the experience will be equally intense.
“Scarefest is built around the knowledge that different people are scared of different things and in different ways, whether that’s a fear of the unknown, a specific character such as a clown, or the reaction and anticipation of being made to suddenly jump. Simply taking someone out of a familiar environment and into a fantastical world, like Scarefest, instantly makes people unnerved, so there is lots of scope to make changes to what we do and still achieve the ultimate fear factor.
“There has been lots of work done around the ‘scare points’ of each maze too. Where we would normally rely on darkness, we are opting to use additional lightening effects to enhance that unsettling feeling, as well as strategically placed slam downs, air cannons and pungent smells to ensure a truly multisensory and unforgettable terrifyingly terrific time.
“If you think about your favourite horror movie and the integral part the music plays to inducing fear, this can be the same in a maze experience, so we have done lots of work around the audio also.”
Dr Stacey Bedwell, author, neuroscientist, lecturer in psychology at Birmingham City University and tutor in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, said:
“The majority of the feeling we know as fear actually comes from the anticipation of something unpleasant. This anticipatory fearful feeling is quickly replaced by pleasure in safe scary experiences like the scare mazes, which explains why so many of us like being scared – we come to associate the scary experience with the pleasurable feeling.
“The scare mazes this year not only maintain the anticipatory feeling that something unpleasant might happen, but are actually likely to heighten that feeling for many, for two main reasons 1. The actors are never going to actually touch guests, so the anticipation will remain 2. Guests will be in smaller, more exposed groups, where the feeling of threat is likely to be greater. As humans, we feel more secure and protected in groups.”
The Resort will also continue to implement other safety measures throughout the theme park during Scarefest. All guests are required to pre-book both their theme park entry and maze tickets, with reduced guest capacity in place. Temperature checks will also occur on arrival and guests are requested to maintain social distancing in queue lines, walkways and restaurants, as well as rides and attractions. Alongside the scare mazes, face masks are also required to be worn in indoor spaces and on many attractions. Hand sanitiser is available around the theme park, including the entrance and exit of each maze experience and ride, and there are enhanced cleaning measures throughout the Resort. Guests are encouraged to download the NHS Test & Trace App and ‘check-in’ during their visit using the QR codes situated around the Resort. The Resort continues to urge guests to refrain from visiting the park if they are display any symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Scarefest takes place on the 9-11th October, and 16th October – 1st November.
Are you planning a visit during the Halloween season? What do you think of the safety measures introduced? Make sure you share your thoughts over on the Attraction Source Forum.