Kentwell Hall – October 5th-November 5th, from 7pm – prices vary
By day a romantic, moated red-brick Tudor Mansion and picturesque gardens to rival any National Trust property, but for one month every autumn, Kentwell Hall near Long Melford in Suffolk gets a macabre makeover for brave-hearted thrill-seekers looking for a Halloween experience to give you nightmares.
In 2016, Scaresville: The Haunted Village “mysteriously appears” (so reads their website blurb) in the historic parkland grounds for its tenth year of award-winning fear, trepidation and mania. Voted one of Britain’s top scare attractions and winner of a “Screamie Award”, it truly delivers as a heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping maze of spooks, scares and dire disorientation.
Last night, along with my girlfriend and a couple of her friends, I ‘eagerly’ braved the experience for the first time – and the good news is I lived to write this review! After collecting our pre-booked tickets from the box office, we were invited to soak in the pre-show atmosphere in the “Unfairground”, replete with myriad ghoulish props, photo opportunities and a food trailer.
When the ringmaster called our ticket number over the sound system we were sent to the waiting pen, where a looped video – intercut with clown-based jump-scares – hammered home the main rules (essentially, stay in your group and don’t hit out at the scarers!) and amped up the fear factor with continued warnings: “It’s called Scaresville for a reason…”
As a group of four we were put with another group of six, and after briefly being introduced we were instructed to arrange ourselves into a line with our hands on the shoulders of the guest in front. This makeshift human centipede (minus the surgery, thankfully!) was how we would remain for the duration of the attraction, ambling our way through dark spaces with no guide and only the person elected (forced!) to go at the front to find our way.
Promising a runtime of “over an hour” we definitely got value for money, with our relentless thrill ride clocking in at closer to two – and this was despite us being in one of the later slots meaning we didn’t even enter the “ScareZone” until gone 9.20pm! Immediately plunged into darkness, we had to grope, feel and holler our way through numerous themed zones (none of them safe), encountering all manner of bogeymen and beasties from chainsaw-wielding hicks, deranged surgeons, Weeping Angels, pig-men, giant (male!) brides and much, much more besides!
The atmosphere was tense and relentless, aided by a truly impressive attention to detail, with claustrophobic conditions, strobe lighting, uneven flooring and shrinking corridors accumulating into a truly superb and immersive bonding experience. Sometimes camaraderie was our only distraction from the terror – and even then we still found yourselves ambling the wrong way down a one-way system and getting trapped in a tiny room unable to locate the exit door with just a haunted doll to ‘help’ us!
The actors/scarers were all at the top of their game, herding us through the well-oiled experience while never breaking character. If tight spaces, pitch blackness or killer klowns aren’t your bag (and, really, who can blame you after the disturbing recent trend arrived in the UK?) then Scaresville is not for you. However, if you fancy a pant-wetting challenge to make you laugh and cry, then grab a gang and get on down to Kentwell Hall for a Halloween to remember!
CR@B’s Claw Score: