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Issue 23, Volume 1  

In their short history, Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights have become quite the institution. Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights and Knotts’ Halloween Haunt have become cathedrals to the religion of scare on the opposite side of the pond, and now in old Blighty, much the same can be said of Fright Nights.

Mini Profile

Technical Statistics

Size of groups: 8, 10 in peak times
Time between groups: 40 seconds
People per hour: 720-900pph
Duration of mazes: 3-5 minutes

Finally, in terms of mazes, the event is finally coming of age.

This year sees a new maze, Se7en, join the existing two; Asylum and Hellgate. It also sees the previous auditorium-bound Circus of Horrors being freed and allowed to roam the park.

Perhaps as we approach Halloween, it’s time to take stock of the sad fact Halloween will never afford British parks the opportunities it does in America generally due to apathy towards the holiday, but it seems that Fright Nights’ natural progression has started after a stagnant few years.


Hellgate map
Coffin run
Dungeon scene
Revolving tunnel (trommel)
Library scene
Ghost corridors
Boudoir scene

While Thorpe Park put the finishing touches to the mazes, we were given exclusive access to behind the scenes to see just how the scares are created. It’s not as simple as you may think, and relies on all the senses and more than just actors jumping out at you in darkened corridors.

This is the first of several Magazine articles this month that will cover Fright Nights.

Naturally, this article will go into great depth about this year’s incarnations of Hellgate and Asylum, and to a lesser extent, Se7en.

It includes layouts of all the attractions as well as exploring each in explicit detail – these mazes rely on the element of surprise, so if you have yet to enjoy them, read with discretion.


The most important sense that the mazes at Thorpe Park rely on is the one of sight – and often the lack of.

Mini Profile

Actors on mazes

Hellgate: 12-16 actors
Asylum: 12-16 actors
Se7en: 7-10 actors

On both Asylum and Hellgate, there are modest set pieces depicting scenes such as cells and dungeons respectively, while on Se7en, the seven deadly sins are presented in rather graphic detail in seven rooms.

These, along with clever use of shadow mean that actors can appear and disappear with relative ease, with the darker passages working on their own to disorientate and intimidate guests.

On Asylum, the entire room is lit by strobe lights and nothing else. Each strobe has a different flash rate meaning that your sense of direction is completely overwhelmed with often the impression being given that even the walls are moving around you.


Asylum uses a maze of chicken wire fencing, smoke and strobes to disorientate...

The inside of Asylum is also enshrouded in a thick fog, which amplifies the effect of the strobe lights, while limiting your visibility.

The effect is created by several smoke machines that blast a stream of dense smoke periodically into the air. Each works by passing glycol-based liquid through a heated chamber that condenses into a fine mist. Each tank lasts just a couple of days.

Hazers are also used, and work similarly to smoke machines, just with a broader and more subtle spread of smoke that is more difficult to see, yet lingers in the air reflecting light.

Yet, while smoke effects are used on Asylum, the sensitive fire alarms on Hellgate mean that the task of disorientating guests is left to lingering periods of darkness as opposed to a pea soup of haze and smoke.


...Hellgate, on the other hand, uses subdued lighting and extended periods of darkness

Another trick employed by Asylum is the use of mirrors. It makes the maze appear larger than it would normally, while disorientates those passing through. It’s a simple effect, and with actors and other groups of guests passing through the maze it is difficult to tell what’s a chicken wire fence with a group of people behind or what’s a chicken wire fence with a group of people behind reflected into a mirror.

A cast of at least 12 actors in Hellgate and Asylum and seven in Se7en prowl around stalking guests. On Hellgate and Asylum, the mazes are divided into four zones with up to four actors per zone. Each actor works in 1.5 hour shifts with 30 minute breaks in between. On Se7en, there are six or seven actors, each with a room, or sin. On Se7en, some actors are visible, while others operate effects behind the scenes. Continues...

Coaster Kingdom Magazine


Issue 23: Oct 2006

Issue 23, Volume 1
Volume 1
Behind the scenes of Asylum, Hellgate and Se7en at Thorpe Park

Open Mic - Jamie Shoesmith
Southport: an Inquest
Jamie Shoesmith explores just why Southport closed

In The Picture
In The Picture
Click to enlarge image