Legend has it that whilst travelling through the woods surrounding the Alton Towers estate, the 15th Earl encountered an old beggar woman. She placed a wicked curse on the Earl, decreeing that for every branch of the old oak that should fall, a member of his family would die. During present day restoration work, a secret vault has been uncovered, and located inside is a branch from the cursed tree. You have the opportunity to venture inside, although whether the curse has been banished remains uncertain.
Guests enter Hex through two large wooden doors which are set slightly ajar. Once inside, the queue line snakes through the Towers’ armoury past numerous artefacts and paintings discovered during the ongoing restoration works. In fact, the sound of workers chiselling away can still be heard, and some of the architecture remains enclosed in scaffolding.
Once batched through a turnstile into a group of just less than 80 people, a painting of the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury is illuminated on the wall, whilst the audio of a foreboding narrative is played. It is revealed that the restoration works have unearthed some remarkable discoveries and guests are invited deeper into the ruins in order to learn more.
The doors into the next room then open, sealing once again when everyone is through. At the opposite end of the room, a screen displays a projection of the legend of Hex, informing guests of the Earl’s fateful encounter with the old beggar woman and his desperate attempts to vanquish the curse.
As the video fades to darkness, doors below the screen open, enabling guests to continue their journey into the Octagon – which prior to its restoration has been without a roof for hundreds of years. A second video is then shown to guests on numerous screens around the dimly-lit room; although guests are unexpectedly plunged into darkness when the generator situated high one of the eight walls blows. A wind picks up, causing the drapes to billow, and the sinister curse of the old beggar woman can be heard whilst her apparition appears above guests. After a sudden crash of a falling branch and the distinct sound of horses’ hooves, the generator restarts and the restored lights direct guests up a small staircase and then left along the recently discovered passageway.
There are two doors into the Vault which in its centre lies a branch from the old oak that is hooked up to a machine covered in dials at the other end of the room. As guests take a seat facing inwards they have time to observe the walls lined with shelves of artefacts and flickering candles, before a lap bar is lowered and two members of staff perform final checks and leave.
The doors close behind them and the machine begins to whir as smoke starts to pour from the branch, whilst the lights flash accompanied by building atmospheric music. Oddly it then seems as though one side of the room is being pulled towards the branch whilst the other is pushed away. This is achieved by seating the riders on a swing which can move 15 degrees in each direction, independently to the room’s 360 degree rotation. The sense of movement becomes greater and greater, until guests feel as though they are being repeatedly turned upside down. As the music reaches its climax, a mass of roots is revealed above the riders’ heads which contains glowing red lights as eyes, giving the overall impression of a face amongst the arboreal tangle. With the room then returning to its starting state, the branch is lit-up with twinkling lights as the curse is seemingly lifted.
Guests then exit the attraction out of the opposite end of the Vault to which they entered and follow a corridor which emerges close to the Conservatory in Her Ladyship’s Garden. However, as the Conservatory is used as part of a scare maze’s queue line during Scarefest, an alternate exit is used which takes guests past the building containing the Vault.
It was in the winter of 1846, when a carriage was travelling through the area woods near to Alton Towers, Staffordshire. On it rode a local aristocrat, returning home from a grand banquet. Through the mist and driving rain a figure appeared in the road, the coach stopped! It was an old woman shrouded in rags, an involuntary shudder went through the Earls body.
“Spare a farthing for a beggar woman”
She pleaded with the Earl to spare her a farthing. But when the rich Earl mocked her request she placed a wicked curse on him and his family…
“For every branch of the old oak that falls, a member of your family will die!”
During freak weather conditions of the following night, a branch was struck off the tree and true to the Witches prophesy a member of the Earls family suddenly and mysteriously… DIED.
The Earl immediately ordered his guards to chain the tree up to prevent further misfortune. He dragged the fallen branch back to Alton Towers, where he conducted scientific experiments in an attempt to banish the evil curse. Now As Alton Towers uncover a secret vault the branch is found!
The tree can still be found in local woods today.
Under Tussauds’ management, the Towers saw repair and restoration, particularly the Armoury and Octagon. Before the introduction of Hex, the Armoury was used as the Towers Gift Shop whilst the Octagon was solely restored for the addition of the attraction.
The Vault is the only part of the attraction which isn’t situated in the actual Towers ruins, and is instead housed in a specially constructed building. The transition both internally and externally between the ruins and the Vault is almost seamless as you exit the Octagon into a fully supported stone tunnel, whilst outside its building is disguised to publicly accessible areas by a facade.
Although Alton Towers didn’t have to create the Hex’s storyline due to it being a local legend, it was somewhat embellished to include the Earl’s experiments on the branch and his frantic battle of science versus the supernatural. It is possible to visit the real chained oak, which is situated close to the resort.
To the dismay of many, Hex remained closed during the 2016 season as part of the Resort’s Towers Loving Care programme. Therefore, the announcement that it would reopen for 2017 was well received, with the attraction having received a number of refurbishments, including a new sound system, new flooring, a refresh of several special effects, and a thorough deep clean and refresh throughout the attraction, restoring it back to its original condition.
Hex was the first ride to make use of the Towers Ruins, when it opened in 2000. Although the main ride is in an external building, it still brings attention back to this historic building.