Fright Nights – Thorpe Park’s annual Halloween shindig, and by far the best horror event within the M25 – is back, and we were there at the media preview ready to be scared senseless. Roller coaster fans are in for a treat; with the park open till 10pm, the five big coasters are all totally different experiences in the dark. Plus, there are four excellent ‘horror mazes’ – walkthrough attractions, featuring live actors, that are designed to scare the living crapsticks out of you – and an eerily dark ‘Blair Witch Project’-themed woodland path that’s just plain creepy.
Here are our five top tips on how to survive Fright Nights:
The horror mazes are all frickin’ freaky this year, so try them all. Three are based on Lionsgate films: ‘My Bloody Valentine’, ‘Cabin in the Woods’ and the ‘Saw’ franchise. ‘The Asylum’ is the only Thorpe Park original concept, and has been a regular at Fright Nights since 2005. It’s still the most fun: lit only by strobe lights and filled with enough dry ice to lift Westlife off their stools, it’s brilliantly disorienting. The park’s open from 10am, but the mazes don’t open until 3pm. Our advice: get to a maze about 15 minutes before it’s due to open. You’ll be one of the first through, with minimal wait.
Be a leader
Before stepping inside a maze, you’ll see queuers unashamedly showing their fear by arguing about who’s going to lead their group through. ‘I don’t want to go first! You go first!’ It’s certainly scarier taking control, but it’s the best experience. You’re the one exploring what’s in the next room, setting the pace, and the actors really catch you off guard at the front. Be brave, and lead your group to safety.
Explore the cabin
We were most looking forward to venturing into the ‘Cabin in the Woods’ maze as, unlike the other walkthrough, it is actually a maze: you can choose multiple paths, go through different doors and get lost. Our first trip through was a tad lame: rooms kept getting clogged up with lost groups. But on our second visit, they’d solved those problems and the scares came thick and fast. We found a secret, hidden room, where we took control of effects happening to other maze-explorers. How do you find it? That’d be telling.
The park’s latest roller coaster – The Swarm – is mighty popular, and the line gets LONNNG. Get to it first thing in the morning, as soon as the gates open, to avoid the crowds, especially if you want to ‘brave it backwards’ in the reverse-facing seats.
Be prepared to queue
Fright Nights is wildly popular – pre-booking is essential on some dates – and the wait times can be frightening. The mazes were all topping an hour on our visit, are are likely to get longer in the lead up to Halloween. For those who can afford it, fast-track tickets are available for a price. But it’s possible to fit in all the mazes and major rides, if your plan your day carefully. Ben Williams
Find out more about Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights.