all started in 1821 on an old carriage road approaching the then
residence of the Earl of Shrewsbury, the Towers, which then was
one of the largest stately homes in the whole country.
haggard old beggar approached the Earl and his horse drawn
carriage. She asked the Earl for some change; tired and eager for
slumber the Earl snubbed this woman, and ordered the carriage to
continue. Insulted, the vagrant in a blind rage warned that from
that day, for every branch that fell from the old oak, so too
would a member of his family.
same night, lightening struck one of the oaks’ prominent
branches, and true to the curse, a member of the Earls’ family
died. The felled branch was hastily taken and locked tight inside
a hidden vault, upon which the Earl experimented on its so-called
powers that it possessed. It is on this fable that Alton’s
newest ride would be based.
Alton Towers boasting more cutting edge technology than a top of
the range Mercedes Benz, lest we forget the heart of the park,
both the Towers and the Gardens. Although the Gardens have been
looked after meticulously since year dot, the same can’t be said
about the Towers, which fell into a state of disrepair following a
then, the empty shell of a building has been free for visitors to
roam, yet served no real purpose as although it afforded you good
views of the park, it came nowhere near explaining the rich
history behind the Towers themselves.
Towers Gift Shop was the closest to inhabitancy that the Towers
could offer. It has a roof, intact windows and even doors. So, it
was here that the ride would start, in the room that was formerly
occupied by the Armoury.
ride has a pretty unassuming entrance. You climb a few steps up
between two statues of the Talbot hounds that the Towers are
famous for. You go through two 30ft doors and into the former
queue here slaloms off into the distance of this dark, candlelit
room. As it does, it weaves between recovered artefacts, furniture
and paintings discovered by historians working on the restoration
of the Towers. Covered in dustsheets protecting them from the
heedlessness of builders, each is carefully labelled with a code
and details telling the significance of this piece of history.
upon stone plinths set into the walls, suits of armour and statues
of past Earls stand again covered in sheets. Supported by
scaffolding, televisions around the queue have details on the
significance of the legend, and how it relates to the ride. Not
presented by actors but by historians and employees, all who have
a story to tell and can impart their knowledge to previously
weave through the armoury you approach a delicatessen-style
counter. From 78, it counts down the amount of riders as they pass
through a turnstile. Once you pass through this, in front,
scaffolding arches over two oak double doors, sheets and blankets
draping over the sides. On the walls, more paintings covered in
have uncovered some exciting artefacts for you to download,
on tiled designs found on Hex
on logos, designs and photos
legend here is briefly set out. Historians working on restoring
the Towers got way more than they were bargaining for, something
we would soon be experiencing first hand. This is explained under
the shadow of a painting of the 15th Earl of Shewsbury standing
proud with the Talbot hounds at his feet.
doors then swing open, and you are to shuffle further into the
armoury, which is dimly lit from above by flickering lights. In
front, like the room before, scaffolding bridges the doors in
front, and this time supports a large projection screen.
lights dim, and the doors behind shut, the screen fades into life
showing a vivid dramatisation of the legend behind the ill-fated
15th Earl and his cursed family. It is long, but holds
your attention well, and after several rides still proves to be an
interesting watch. This is an improvement to the previous version
that ran up until the summer months of the rides’ first year.
This had one of the historians behind the restoration up on the
roof of the Towers hugging ramparts in the effort to look like an
eccentric archaeologist as opposed to a bad actor. Needless to
say, he didn’t, and it’s good to see the park acknowledged
film ends, the doors open and people move on into the newly
restored and highly impressive octagon. Unsurprisingly, it’s
octagonal, and reaching up the centre is a stone pillar. Around
the sides, television screens burst into life with more on
the restoration and the discovery of a hidden passage previously
hidden by a bookcase. The film jumps and cuts out. The lights
dimly pulse in time to a heartbeat. A flash of lightening attracts
your attention aloft before the voice of the old beggar attracts
your attention to another covered statue, presumably of her, as
her ghost appears in the window.
this time, it is time to walk up some steps under a raised
curtain, past the bookshelf that was hiding the hidden passage,
before turning to the left along the darkened passageway. Work
lights hang from rotting beams as you are taken through this
underground corridor, sods of earth dangle down and the air is
musty and malodorous.
two pairs of doors, they swing open as you walk past the Talbot
family crest and into the overwhelming vault, supposedly hidden
for centuries. In the manner of every other haunted swing, four
rows of seats line the room, two on each side facing the centre.
That, however, is where similarities end.
people filter into the room, the air is murky and pungent as the
dim lights above sharply flicker. Above you, an arched ceiling in
a state of disrepair. Plaster is fraying and the paintwork is
wearing. Chained tightly down in the centre upon a wooden lattice,
the mythical branch, twinkling in the muted luminosity.
raise your arms as the lap-bars come tightly down, and the two
operators leave the gloomy room, the doors sliding shut behind
them, both showing an image of the Talbot hound rearing on it’s
attention is immediately drawn to the mythical and whimsical piece
of apparatus at the far end of the room. Fronted by dials and
scientific typescript, pipes and beacons flash in a thunderstorm
of lighting effects; it’s deep whirring swelling into a loud
hum, lights flow into the branch from wires and pipes from the
machinery, and as this contraption flashes with vivacity, both the
room and gondola move in time.
perplexed looks are exchanged as people either slump backwards or
lean forwards as the room and gondola are pulled to an angle. With
nothing moving in the room, confounded looks soon change to an air
of anxiety as the music swells, the far-end gadgetry allays and
the gondola pulls away from the room and slowly begins to swing in
time to the music.
obvious at this point that people have been tricked into thinking
it is them moving. They are, but only by a small margin. The room
too is moving, and therefore tricking the mind into thinking that
you are rocking far more than you actually are. There is nothing
to fix your eyes on, and even to the accustomed rider gauging by
how far you’re moving is a challenge.
music overwhelms, the room astounds. The attention to detail is
inconceivable and beggars belief. The brick walls are dark and
inconspicuous. Upon them, the shelves in various states of
disorder are home to the Earl’s books on science and the
supernatural, jars of curious potions, propping the books at one
end is even a not-so-neatly manicured bonsai.
up in one corner, a crown and robe, dustsheets cover boxes and
storage at the opposite end, candles sat upon the shelves
providing little light in the form of a small, flickering flame.
Capacity per ride
of the Legend Video (Theatre)
Haunting (Drayton Manor)
Castle (Six Flags Holland)
gondola’s swings increase, more detail is revealed. Underneath
the gondola stone steps are covered in a knotted mass of roots,
curling over every step and into every crevice. Deep inside this
accumulation, two dark orange slits are lit up in an ominous
fashion, almost leading you to see a face inside this wooden form.
music erupts into an epic climax as the room hastily orbits around
the bewildered gondola of riders, and with this show of effects,
sound and light, many scream or applaud. Even cocky teenagers who
spend the pre-shows mocking something that is clearly
high-and-over their levels of intelligence are silenced.
room slows, the lights darken and as the orange eyes of the
knotted roots glow, a blizzard of violet strobes from the wooden
mass in the now-inverted room light the inky blackness with
incredible drama. As the grand orchestral score comes to an end,
the branch in the centre of the gondola bursts into life,
sparkling and twinkling with a beautiful ferocity before the
lights above flicker back into life and the doors open.
walk to the exit is a long one. You go through Her Ladyships’
Gardens via the restored conservatory. Many are surprised merely
by the nature of a ride. Many enter with the expectations of a
historical dark ride. Upon experiencing the first pre-shows, many
perhaps even doubt the existence of a ride at all.
popularity certainly arises from riders’ ignorance. Nobody
expects the finale to be quite so spectacular, and even when sat
in the seat ready to go, the air of anticipation is almost as
amazing as the ride itself.
for you haunted swing veterans, this is no less of an experience.
Villa Volta, often considered the best of its kind now has a
serious rival. The décor in Hex is enough to make Villa Volta
look bare. It isn’t just the décor either; the lighting and
special effects are just awe-inspiring. The smoke rising from the
centre, the branch twinkling with life, the gadgetry at the end of
the room, everything is so perfect and the little touches such as
the books and candles on the shelves are often forgotten on other
music too is prominent and very tuneful. Although it hasn’t got
the ‘hum factor’ of Villa Volta, it, along with the special
effects is more than enough to make the hairs on your neck stand
few painful months, the pre-show was patronising and making the
legend behind of the cursed Earl a mockery and appear to be a
fictional farce. A historian explained the legend, before you
moved on into the octagon for a three-minute storm of strobes.
Since then, a far more moving dramatisation has replaced the first
show meaning that you actually learn about the legend that you are
soon to experience, first hand.
for the latter, soon after opening it improved by adding the
statue and ghost of the beggar, bringing in the televisions and
decreasing the level of light. Almost every visit, this pre-show
differs in some way, something which perturbs me somewhat. It is
best experienced in the dark and eerie atmosphere that ended the
season last year. Effects like the generator, the witch and the
ghost play an important part in the legend, and on the sporadic
occasions where there has been too much light, these effects go
unnoticed making this particular pre-show rather redundant.
it's glory, allow yourself to succumb to the superb aura and
experience Hex offers. It is hard to improve upon and is an
incredible example of well-choreographed special effects. It is a
fine balance though. Modest changes in the level of light, lights
not working where they should, and other trivial things mean that
you may miss out on the perfect ride. If not perfect, though, near
25 March 2005