Coaster Kingdom


Fright Nights is very much bitter-sweet for me. While it is one of the best Halloween events you can find at a British theme park, it also epitomises theme parks’ restraint when it comes to making the most of a successful event.

Before we start, allow me to sing my praises for Fright Nights. This isn't an article about making a poor event better. It is about making a great event the best there is.   

2004 map

Fright Nights' in 2004

Still in its infancy, the event is very much still in a period of test and adjust. Over the years, the mazes have been tweaked and improved upon, the problem with disorganised queues acted upon (Freezer being the prime example here), and the security problems on the second year dealt with by increasing security presence at the park.

With two mazes and two shows (one live, one film), Fright Nights is excellent value for money. But, it seems the park have either hit a ceiling in terms of how much they can offer on the house, or are in the very least limiting Fright Nights’ success.

Compounded by the limited opening hours of the mazes, last year saw almost three-hour queues for Freezer (now Asylum), which is testament to the popularity of this type of attraction.

This year, the park's other maze, Freakshow, becomes Hellgate with the park spending the most money on the maze they have done since opening, so it doesn’t seem Fright Nights is a lost cause when it comes to spending money.

What it does show, though, is that the park seems to be following a different agenda to those visiting the park. Whether or not people wanted to queue for it for two hours, last year they did. So, beyond all reasonable doubt, both mazes are established attractions, and both are uncomfortably busy.

Yet, Fright Nights’ budget is frustratingly channelled towards tweaking and fine-tuning mazes that already have an established following, while there’s a clear need for more similar attractions.

Freezer in 2004

Freezer has become The Asylum for this year, although changes inside are reportedly minimal

Yet, despite my frustration, I feel for the park as to a certain extent they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The biggest problem is taking the step from offering a few gratis special attractions on top of a normal day to a fully-fledged up-charge event.

While I feel uncomfortable encouraging parks to capitalise on special events, Halloween is a time where I think the parks should look over the pond for inspiration. There’s no doubting that Americans embrace the idea of Halloween far more whole-heartedly than Europeans – the British in particular, but you don’t need to look any further than the end of the queues on Thorpe’s mazes to see that there is a clear need for Fright Nights to expand.

Of course, rumours abound that most of Thorpe’s extra attractions this year will have nominal charges, but with this is the concern that despite money being made from the event, it won’t go directly back into the event. We’ll see. Continues...

Coaster Kingdom Magazine
Issue 11: Oct 2005

Issue 11
A New Dawn for Fright Nights?
How to improve Thorpe Park's Fright Nights