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Issue 20, Volume 1  

Several months ago, we interviewed Lynton V. Harris from The Sudden Impact! Entertainment Company who gave us a unique insight into how his attractions around the world scare – and more to the point, entertain hundreds of thousands, nay, millions of people every single year.

While the Sudden Impact! empire continues to prosper, Lynton V. Harris returned this year, as he does every year, to Tussauds’ Warwick Castle, one of the largest and most-visited Mediaeval castles in the world, to prepare Ghosts Alive for its third season.

Lynton V. Harris

Lynton V. Harris travels from New York to oversee Ghosts Alive

Ghosts Alive intended to give Warwick Castle’s Ghost Tower a new lease of life in 2003, admittedly an ironic image considering it’s a ghost tower, but wanted an attraction that would not only tell the story of the ill-fated 24th Earl of Warwick, Sir Fulke Greville, but deliver it in a way that was entertaining, too.

Ghosts Alive wasn’t the first time Tussauds and the Sudden Impact! Entertainment Company had worked together – The Freezer and Freakshow 3D were both enormously popular walk throughs at Thorpe Park, while the same can be said of Terror of the Towers at Alton Towers, and Serial Killers: The Chamber Live in the landmark Madame Tussaud’s in London.

But this was the first time such an attraction would be used by Tussauds to have the additional purpose of teaching a history lesson at the same time.

Furthermore, in order to support a full time cast, Ghosts Alive would have its own separate admission ticket, at a charge of £2.50, therefore standing on its own success both creatively, and financially.

At the end of March, as the final preparations were made for Ghosts Alive, we were invited to Warwick Castle to see how various elements of a Sudden Impact! show come together to form Ghosts Alive.

The Stage

Dating back to the 11th century, Warwick Castle has a rich and colourful history. The first foundations of significance were laid by Ethelfleda, the daughter of Alfred the Great in 914.

Warwick Castle

Guy's Tower was completed in 1395

William the Conqueror established the castle as a motte-and-bailey forte in 1068, building a timber stockade built upon an earth mound. By 1263, stone had replaced the wooden ramparts, before the next year the castle was besieged by the Earl of Leicester who held the Earl of Warwick, William Maudit, and his lady wife.

The iconic 127ft Guy’s Tower was completed by 1395, yet, having been passed from earl-to-earl, the castle became dilapidated by the end of the 16th century, before it was passed to Sir Fulke Greville as the 24th Earl of Warwick in 1604.

Greville spent thousands on restoring the castle to a magnificent stately residence, leading a bishop to remark that “it seems nor art nor force can intercept [the castle]. As if lover built, a soldier kept it”

The Story

The story of Warwick Castle becomes more relevant to Ghosts Alive when in 1628 Greville was stabbed by his incensed manservant, Ralph Heywood.

Sir Fulke Greville was born in Beauchamp Court, Alcester in 1554. Despite his untimely downfall, Greville became a nationally distinguished figure and was known for his love of writing poetry.

It was as Greville read his last will and testament that he told Heyward that he would receive the sum of just £20 every year for the rest of his life. Enraged, Heyward stabbed Greville twice, killing him, before – overcome with guilt – he stabbed himself.

Watergate Tower AKA Ghost Tower

The Ghost Tower, home - strangely enough - to Ghosts Alive

Greville was buried in St. Mary’s Church in Warwick, yet his ghost is still said to haunt the Watergate Tower where he resided, now known as the Ghost Tower. It is here where Ghosts Alive is set.

Many of the finer details of Greville’s life and indeed death have been lost or misconstrued through the passage of time. Some were quick to censure the accuracy of Ghosts Alive, saying that Greville was not killed in Warwick, but London.

It is also not known whether or not Heyward intended to kill the Earl, and it is said the Earl did not die immediately, but three weeks later, after which his body was returned to Warwick.

A former professor of English literature at Birmingham University, Joan Rees, has been most vocal about the attraction, calling it ‘spurious’ and a ‘shameless insult to the memory of one of the country’s foremost renaissance poets’.

Professor Armchair Critic is correct – at least historically speaking – although her understanding of Ghosts Alive’s plot leaves much to be desired. Ghosts Alive merely uses the Ghost Tower as a poignant and relevant place to tell the story, and as such doesn’t actually suggest that Greville was killed – or died – inside the tower, much like Cinderella didn’t necessarily go to a ball at your local theatre.

Indeed, some of the hosts go into quite a bit of detail about the legend, including the fact Greville was in London at the time of the murder. Despite the historical bias, much of the emphasis in Ghosts Alive is the fact the Ghost Tower is apparently still haunted by Greville, and his assailant Ralph Heywood.


Critics argue that the murder didn't take part in Warwick, although Ghosts Alive doesn't suggest it did

The plot of Ghosts Alive is introduced at the entrance to the Ghost Tower, before in the first room the ghost of Sir Fulke Greville tells the simplified story of his murder before visitors move upstairs into the living quarters.

While on Ghosts Alive the stabbing takes place in this room, this isn’t to imply that this is the same room where the Earl died – it is merely telling the story, while packing in a few scares while it’s at it.

Moving on, the tale takes a twist as a mentally tortured Ralph Heywood takes his own life, before guests leave the Ghost Tower after the 6-8 minute long show.

To coin a phrase, Rees’ criticisms of Ghosts Alive are ‘spurious’. The story of Sir Fulke Greville is complex, has been subject to various interpretations over the years, and while in the quest for simplicity Warwick Castle are economical with the amount of information thrown at guests, Ghosts Alive covers just one of the many stories that make up the colourful history of Warwick Castle. Continues...

Coaster Kingdom Magazine


Issue 20: Jul 2006

Issue 20, Volume 1
Volume 1
A History of Ghosts Alive and interviews with the cast

Issue 20, Volume 2
Volume 2
Diary from spending the day with the cast as they prepare for the 2006 show 

Open Mic - John Thorp
Travelling Coasters
Phil Ariss looks at how travelling coasters have changed over time in Open Mic

In The Picture
In The Picture
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