Thorpe Park is a theme park with a proudly spooky edge.
Alongside the world-class rollercoasters is a chilling thread of horror running through proceedings.
Which actually seems logical.
The resort’s managers have clearly clocked the tastes of those drawn to make the journey to the furthest reaches of suburban London – the wish to be scared.
And for those who enjoy being suspended in their air as they corkscrew upside down it has already opened the Derren Brown Ghost Train, a spine-chilling virtual reality experience where you are herded on to a mocked-up tube carriage to experience truly dark horrors (we’re not allowed to say what, but I would say it’s not for the faint-hearted).
It takes 13 minutes and you have to be 13 years old to see it.. Mwah ha ha ha…
And there are also their horror mazes, Saw: Alive, Platform 15 (new for 2016), Containment and The Big Top – a spectacularly weird and scary circus experience which is like nothing else.
But now it is offering The Walking Dead fans a chance to experience the show in real time with two live-action scare mazes for its Fright Nights season.
The Walking Dead: Living Nightmare actually features exclusive scenes from season seven, taking you and your group of “survivors” through a terrifying ordeal (which I won’t detail too much to avoid spoiling).
What I will say is the detailing of the set is quite beautifully recreated – it is as if it has lifted the drama wholesale and planted it in this Surrey resort. You also begin by meeting (apparently) Negan and his barbed-wire covered baseball bat Lucille at the start of the experience, though you probably do not want to be the one he promises to pick out to get “smashed”.
From there you’re off to a hospital and a fenced area where there is an eerie school bus and plenty of zombies trying to get you.
In theory, a group of actors screaming “get out” or posing as the undead may not seem frightening; but the immersive experience– the darkness, the confusion, the screams – is truly unsettling. You know it’s all made up but we are essential physical beings and, though we know it’s make believe, somehow experiencing it with your body is of a totally different order. I was genuinely pleased to get out.
In The Walking Dead: Sanctum you can experience a live-action outdoor maze, with more actors speaking folksy American. You begin your journey following in the footsteps of survivors, experiencing first-hand how to stay alive in the face of several obstacles placed in their paths. The aim is to navigate past the roaming walkers or risk being captured.
I certainly think the Living Nightmare is (as the name suggests) the more terrifying experience – the Sanctum prompted a few giggles from my group, which on one level is perhaps no bad thing but for a horror experience may not be quite what the creators were after.
Still, who wants to be too scared? For super fans the chance to physically enter the world of the show (and survive) will be more than enough.
Fright Nights is running at Thorpe Park Resort until 31st October – to book tickets visit www.thorpepark.com/frightnights
Ben has worked as a professional journalist specialising in TV and the arts for nearly twenty years. After a two year stint on local newspapers in the mid 1990s, he spent more than 5 years as the broadcast reporter at the Stage newspaper. Following that he enjoyed staff reporting positions at the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Times breaking stories and writing features before settling as a full time freelance writing for an array of newspapers and magazines - but mainly for the Guardian, Evening Standard, Broadcast, Independent and the New Statesman where he wrote a column.