Anyone with a fondness for speed and the small screen should head to Thorpe Park this summer and try out its new ride – a rollercoaster inspired by TV favourite The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead: The Ride is adapted from an old Thorpe Park favourite called X: No Way Out, with additional experiential touches and a live cast. It was created by the resort’s in-house creative John Burton who researched it by watching 150 episodes of the hit US series about a zombie apocalypse.
Burton claims to have created the first so-called multi-sensory rollercoaster. So you walk, you run, you feel, you touch… and you also get chased by the undead. This is a rollercoaster ride where live actors add to the terror.
It all starts sedately enough. You wait in a darkened area where zombie growling sounds emanate menacingly from just beyond the chicken wire – their faces suddenly staring you down as you flee.
You’re hurried along and strapped in the rollercoaster car. Your goal, you are told, is to make it to the sanctuary of the Safe Zone.
You have to run along corridors and gangplanks before and after the ride, enlivened with special effects from the show. There’s even a replica of the Watch Tower soaring above some corrugated iron.
There is also a distinctly unpleasant aroma of rotting flesh (I don’t think I imagined this) throughout the experience, which is about as immersive as you can get.
The rollercoaster ride itself isn’t especially fast or frightening. Most of it is experienced in the dark, so you don’t get an adrenaline rush from the speed or the sensation of the world rushing past. What I confidently believe will scare you is the other stuff.
It should perhaps come as no surprise that midway through your ride – sorry, journey to the sanctuary of the Safe Zone – the rollercoaster comes to a complete halt, and zombie hands seem to claw at you from the darkness. A bellowing voice over the tannoy tells you that all is lost.
After that you’re sent on another run from the zombies – easily the most terrifying part of the experience, especially when you get clawed at or happen (as I did) to spot the dismembered body parts that litter the floor when occasional flashes of light relieve the darkness.
The combination of sensory deprivation and a constant sense of movement is certainly unsettling.
Unsurprisingly, the ride is not suitable for children under the age of 13 or people with heart, neck or back problems, epilepsy or claustrophobia.
I’d add that you should probably avoid it if you’re terrified of zombies.
Thorpe Park’s The Walking Dead: The Ride is open now. You can book tickets here