Take a hair-raising journey through the spectacular twists and turns of the cursed Manor and discover the horrifying story of Emily Alton, the troubled daughter of a pair of Victorian high society figures who preferred partying to parenting, until one night when they and all their guests disappeared into thin air. With Emily remaining unaccounted for, it is said that she still haunts Alton Manor to this day looking for the one thing denied to her – play.
- Min. Rider Height: 0.9m
- Unaccompanied Height: 1.1m
- Max. Rider Height: None
- Ride Photography: Yes
- Fastrack: Yes
- Manufacturer: Mack Rides
- Type: Dark Ride
- Opened: 18th March 2023
- Track Length: 300m
- Max. Speed: Approx 5km/h
- Passengers per Car: 6
- Capacity: 1500 riders per hour
- Duration: 4 mins
As you face Alton Manor, the queue line entrance is off to the left, marked by an archway that is actually the relocated crypt cover from the ride’s predecessor, Duel – The Haunted House Strikes Back.
The main exterior queue line takes you on a winding path through a woodland graveyard. Whilst making your way through the queue line, guests can spot many quirky headstones, some of which provide a nod to past theme park attractions including Corkscrew, Black Hole, Air and Duel. You will also find a series of plaques which tell the backstory of the Alton family and the events of New Year’s Eve 1891, when Henry and Elizabeth Alton as well as all their party guests disappeared into thin air, while their daughter Emily remained unaccounted for. Other features in the queue line include a doll watching from afar and a seemingly abandoned picnic.
The queue eventually leads guests along the front of the building, where a sign reading ‘open house today’ is displayed in one of the windows. The premise is that guests are undertaking viewings of Alton Manor which has been put up for sale, with the property having remained empty since the fateful night. It is just before entering the building where the main queue merges with the Ride Access Pass (RAP) queue and newly created Fastrack queue. The RAP queue follows a pathway along the right-hand side of the building. The Fastrack queue can also be found on the right-hand side, with this marked by removable rope fencing that leads to a set of stairs up to the merge point.
Upon being batched into Alton Manor itself, you first enter the foyer area where many of the paintings and artefacts have been covered with sheets to prepare the property for sale, and signage is on display with information about Alton Manor. Whilst there is a modern-looking sign from Burton & Ward, there is another dating back to 1893, suggesting it has perhaps been a struggle to find a willing buyer for quite a number of years…
Moving deeper into the manor, you enter the ride’s pre-show. The pre-show is approximately two minutes in length and centres on the doll’s house which is on display. After a voiceover tells another variant of the ride’s backstory, which culminates in the events of New Year’s Eve 1891, the ghostly whispers of a little girl can be heard saying “let me show you what happened”. It is at this point that the Alton family appear inside one of the rooms of the doll’s house, utilising a small scale version of the Pepper’s Ghost effect. After being banished to her room by her father, Emily becomes overcome with purple energy, beginning to levitate as the queue line floor vibrates, before she explodes into a purple cloud that extends beyond the confines of the doll’s house and kills her parents and their party guests in the process. This is synchronised with the room being illuminated by UV lights which reveal the entire space to be covered in messages from Emily, conveying her troubled nature. The room then resets to the faint sound of Emily giggling.
You exit the room through a doorway beneath a portrait of Henry and Elizabeth Alton, which shows Emily cowering in the background. This leads into the ride’s station, where the remnants of the party can still be seen, with streamers stretching from wall-to-wall across the room and a Happy New Year banner hanging above where the ride vehicles exit from the station and move into the main ride layout. In some places, the wallpaper is peeling away, revealing yet more messages from Emily.
After climbing on-board a carriage, it is time for you to journey even further into Alton Manor. As the ride gets underway, it is as if guests are transported back to 1891, moments before midnight as the ‘storm of supernatural proportions’ instigated by Emily engulfs the manor. The spirit of Emily can be seen emerging from a portrait of her and her parents, declaring “this is my house”, before appearing to travel through a keyhole, into the manor.
You then travel through the Great Hall, where the charred skeletons of the party guests pulse with purple energy, while a ghostly Emily appears off ahead before disappearing in a flash of a light. After encountering a demon amongst the darkness, the footprints of Emily lead you on through a giant fireplace. Upon doing so, you ride through a giant trommel tunnel where messages from Emily swirl around you and a clock face can be seen rotating up ahead.
Shortly after, you find Emily waiting for you, with her silhouette transforming into a demonic creature as she prepares to play a game of hide and seek with you. The carriage then journeys through a section of complete darkness, where Emily can be periodically heard, as if following you. You then meet Emily’s ‘perfect family’ in puppet form. This is quickly followed by a jump scare, as a the giant hand of Emily appears from the darkness upon finding guests.
Moving beyond, the ride travels through the manor’s attic. Here you are tormented by dolls and spiders, with Emily heard asking “are you scared of spiders?”, as her silhouette contorts into a spider. At the end of this scene, you encounter what is assumed to be Emily in her spider-form. The carriage then travels along a corridor of mirrors, although not before another jump scare from Emily. As you watch yourself in the mirrors, you may find yourself momentarily disappearing from the carriage and instead being replaced by Emily.
After another dark scene, this time featuring demon heads and figures lit up with UV, guests reach the garden. This areas is home to scarecrows, as well as a hearse being pulled along by Emily’s rocking horse. Emily can be spotted on her swing, at least momentarily anyway, before seeming to vanish in front of your eyes…
The final section of the ride then begins with Emily declaring that you’ll “look perfect in my doll’s house” with a lighting cue synchronised with the carriage speeding up, as if you are being shrunk down and pulled inside the doll’s house. Here you encounter lots of giant-sized toys which feature countless Easter eggs referencing past attractions and more, including the iconic duck from The Flume, now in a new home. Projections and screens are used to make it appear as though Emily is trying to grab you, with the finale of the ride seeing a giant Emily crash through the doll’s house whilst screaming “you’re mine” in a last attempt to stop you from escaping!
After disembarking the ride, you exit along a corridor covered in writing that repeats “you’re mine”. This leads you into the ride’s gift shop, Attic of Antiquities. Here you can firstly view and purchase you on-ride photo. Opposite the kiosk can be found a free photo opportunity where you sit in a giant rocking chair next to a portrait of Emily Alton. However, if you watch closely, it may just seem as though Emily’s eyes follow you around the room – not to mention that you might be in for even more of a surprise if you continue to stare! On sale within the shop is a variety of The Curse at Alton Manor themed merchandise. A final feature are multiple sets of dolls which incorporate motion-activated effects that sees them light up and sound effects play, suggesting Emily isn’t quite finished haunting guests…
After exiting from the shop, guests emerge back into the Gloomy Wood area, perhaps questioning just quite what they experienced inside Alton Manor!
Alongside the Runaway Mine Train, the Haunted House was a brand new attraction to open its doors in 1992. This year saw a huge development for the park, introducing the two brand new rides as well as two brand new areas in the form of Katanga Canyon and Gloomy Woods, where the Haunted House resided.
Throughout development, the Haunted House consistently proved to be a huge technological innovation. Unlike other dark ride transit systems, the Haunted House worked on a conveyor type system to which the cars didn’t stop to load and unload people. This system was created to remove the element of lost surprise that was given away by clearly being able to see the ride car ahead of you.
When the press event for the Haunted House came around, it was discovered that the ride wouldn’t be able to run due to needing new parts from German based manufacturer, MACK Rides. With twenty minutes until the broadcast went live, John Wardley came up with the idea of dressing staff members as undertakers and having them sat in the ride car along with passengers in order to continuously reset each ride car’s computer for the system to work. This worked much better than Wardley had hoped, with the news crews commenting it was a nice touch without even realising the truth purpose of the undertakers!
The Haunted House remained an iconic attraction ten years on after its opening into 2002, however it soon became apparent that change was coming for 2003. Brand new props were brought in, a brand new storyline was introduced and ride vehicles were installed with blasters and scoreboards. Duel – The Haunted House Strikes Back, was born!
Duel also underwent seasonal changes during the Scarefest season of 2008. The blasters and targets were turned off, and live actors were placed at regular intervals around the ride, creating Duel: Live. In 2010, Duel: Live was changed and became Skelvin’s Haunted Adventure, based around the friendly Scarefest mascot, Skelvin.
Over the 2017/18 closed season, Duel was subject to some refurbishment works as part of the Resort’s Towers Loving Care programme. On the attraction’s exterior, the ivy was cleared from the façade, whilst the crypt also saw a new resident added. The queue-line saw the addition of some moving portraits which replace the TV screens which used to play the backstory to the ride. Much of the ride was also repainted with neon and UV paint, which was complemented with UV lighting. Duel also received a new soundtrack, composed in-house by the Resort.
Throughout the 2022 season, rumours started to circulate that the ride would receive an extensive overhaul for 2023. On 23rd August 2022, a sign appeared in the attraction’s exit stating “06 + 09 = The Duel is over. This is my house.” This was interpreted to mean that the attraction would close for the final time on 6th September 2022. It was also thought that the message of ‘This is my house’ could be coming from the ghost of Emily Alton who lives within the haunted dolls house in the queue line, potentially alluding to the ride’s updated theme and storyline.
Sure enough, on 7th September people woke up to the news that the property had been repossessed, with signs appearing around Duel stating as much along with the message: “Strictly no unwanted visitors. Due to unnatural displays in the area.” Similar also appeared on the Resort’s app and website.
During Scarefest, the possession of the building grew, with walls going up featuring peepholes that provided a hint at some creepy goings-on inside and posters urging guests to call a phone number for more information. The eagle-eyed also noted that they contained the phrase ‘I want to play’.
With attention then shifting to the closure of Nemesis at the end of the 2022 season, it was not until late January 2023 when activity picked up once more. The day before the first details being revealed for The Curse at Alton Manor, journalists began to share photos on social media of packages they had received in the post from the Resort. These contained a creepy dolls-head jack-in-the-box along with an image of the visual for the attraction.
In February, a giant haunted dolls house appeared in London, to coincide with the announcement that the ride would open at the start of the 2023 season on Saturday 18th March and centre on the character of Emily Alton. It was noted that the ride would feature special effects that would be a first for a UK theme park, from twisted projection mapping technology that transports riders into Emily’s own dollhouse, to mirrors that play tricks by blurring the line between reality and Emily’s demonic world.
Five days ahead of the ride opening, the Resort released further information about The Curse at Alton Manor, including some first look photos at what awaited inside! It was stated that the attraction would take brave riders through a dozen extraordinary scenes exploring each step of Emily’s awful revenge.
To mark the ride’s opening, the Resort also painted a mural of Emily Alton on the side of a building in Manchester’s northern quarter, with this taking on a whole new, and much more sinister, look after-dark…
Whilst it was intended that the new attraction would open with the park at 10am on Saturday 18th March, its opening was slightly delayed by apparent technical issues. Nonetheless, shortly before 11am, an announcement was made by one of the roaming characters that Alton Manor was ready to open its doors, which was met by delighted cheers from the gathered crowds!
Upon opening, The Curse at Alton Manor was widely praised as reinvigorating an existing attraction with a strong storyline and through combining physical effects with projections and screens. However, there were still a few effects to be added, as evidenced by there being a handful of dead spots, as well as other tweaks and enhancements to be made to perfect the ride experience over the next weeks and months. In the initial few weeks following its opening, the ride did also experience issues with reliability of individual effects as well as the entire attraction remaining closed for periods of downtime.