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Sunday 20th October 2002

The 19th October dawned upon us, and the Alton Towers Spooktacular was underway. It was time for me to head up to Alton Towers to sample the goings on. Fortunately the journey was made a little nicer as I had a lift so didn't need to worry about the incompetence of Central Trains. Anyway, on with review!

Depending how you get into the park you'll probably spot the first bit of Halloween around the Monorail station and in the driver's cabins of the trains. However the true sense of Halloween is noticable when you hit Towers Street; the usual music replaced by the likes of Monster Mash, Ghostbusters, One-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater, etc. Also, the skull is back in the 'pond' (although that's been in there for a while now) - this does make an ideal meeting place - and Halloween bunting adorns the street. It was nice to see Guest Services decorated and several of the staff there in costume. As you move down the street you'll notice a few figures on the upstairs balcony of Coffee Corner and one of the Cadbury Spooky Zones on the lawn.

First stop was Merrie England for donuts. Now when I looked at the container of them in the unit I was grossed out. They looked mouldy but it turned out these had caught the Halloween theming too, and had been coloured green. Once I'd realised what it was, I thought it was a nice touch! Heading through Merrie England and Katanga Canyon, there isn't much extra theming in place but you might spot the odd hot chesnuts stall. Gloomy Wood doesn't really need anything changing and the Forbidden Valley theme is retained. However the Air photosales staff had all become a bit "horny" and one of the running figures in the window had been decked out in a new costume.

One area which had been themed well was Fountain Square. Close to the Towers, this is an ideal location really and this is where much of the Halloween efforts are focused - Terror of the Towers in particular!

Terror of the Towers

In previous years, Alton Towers have put on a spookily-themed ice show as the 'main' part of the Halloween celebrations. This year, however, they've gone for something a little different: a walk-through attraction, inside the real-life towers themselves. Terror of the Towers has been staged by Lynton V Harris of Horrorwood Studios and is designed with a fright factor never before seen in the UK.

If the wind is right and the smoke machine in the queue is going then from Towers Street, the Towers are shrouded in an eerie mist which looks really effective. A crumbling arch sits over the entrance to the queue and some information about the ride is displayed here on the 'Fun & Safety Guide'. Might be worth taking a read of this before you join the queue.

The sounds of a heavy storm and deep, eerie music are pumped out into the queuing area and give the line a bit of atmosphere. Depending on the wind direction, the smoke can result in the whole queue doing a 'Stars in their Eyes' type effect. Further into the queue there are some charming gravestones, which look freshly dug. One reads...

Here lies

Nigel Hoyle

Departed this life
on 6 October 1963
by another hand

May he
Rot in Hell

The others are along similar lines, but we won't spoil those for you. Further into the queue, bats hang from the trees and lights are placed to provide clever illumination as night falls.

I thought it was too good to be true, and I was partly right. Understandably the queue line was going to be temporary but it looked rather hastily assembled. A lick of dark green paint on the railings wouldn't have been much effort and would've enhanced the area greatly. Also no attempt has been made to conceal the large, 3-pin, bright blue lighting connectors and these stand out. A final gripe - the queue is slow moving and there is no indication of how long is left, nor is the end in sight. However we can tell you that once you're out of the end of the tunnel there is only a fairly small amount of queuing to go (and this bit is a little more entertaining).

Once you get inside, the experience is absolutey brilliant, very different to anything I've experienced before. Due to the nature of the attraction we could spoil it with a review... so we won't put one online for a while yet.

A "ride-photo" is also taken inside the attraction so try and smile! These can be purchased upon exit at a cost of £4.50.

Unfortunately the throughput of Terror of the Towers is very low, letting groups of 6 people in every 2 or so minutes results in a throughput of around 200 people per hour. This does mean the queue moves slowly and you could be in for a long wait but I feel it is well worth it. And all the other queues in the park will seem extremely quick moving afterwards...!

Cadbury Spooky Zones

For the under 12's this year, three colourful Cadbury Spooky Zones, which seem to have been a hit with the kids!

Trick or Treatsize Zone - Towers Street
Why not take your chance in the Trick or Treatsize Zone - but choose carefully!

Monster Play Zone - Adventure Land
Visit this zone for lots of spooky fun. Try bobbing for Cadbury Treatsize or visit our haunted hall of mirrors!

Eerie Edna's Story Zone - Cred Street
Where kids will be entertained with dastardly stories of wizards and warlocks, goblins and ghouls, all told by a cackling old witch. Are you afraid?

Chris Bennett