Mikey and Ryan Nixon report on their terrifying and unsettling experiences at Manimortis, Body Snatchers, and Psychomanteum
Hello! This is Mikey, and this blog is based on Episode 131 of our ScareTrack podcasts. Today we’re doing an on-location review from the ValenTerror
event at Scare Kingdom Scream Park. We’ll be going through three of their fantastic scare attractions—Manimortis, Body Snatchers, and, of course, the sick and twisted Psychomanteum. All three have brand-new themes for this Valentine’s event.
Unfortunately, nobody from the ScareTrack podcast was able to make it on this occasion, but I was lucky to have a guest host join me—Ryan Nixon from the Inevitable Theme Park Podcast
A First Timer’s Experience at Scare Kingdom
Before we went in, I asked him how he was doing.
“I’m very, very nervous,” he replied. “I love scare attractions, but, as a lot of people who know me personally are aware, I don’t react great to them, so this should be interesting.”
I thought it was a shame we couldn’t take the recorder into these attractions, because the screams would have been off the scale. I’d packed my earplugs just in case. I asked Ryan if he’d been to Scare Kingdom Scream Park before.
“No, it’s my first time. I’ve known about it for a while, and I was quite surprised they’re doing something for Valentine’s day. I love that.”
What we love about Scare Kingdom is they have their main Halloween run—which is one of the longer runs in the UK—and they also do out-of-season events like Christmas and Valentine’s as well as an event halfway to Halloween as well—that will be on May 4 this year.
Manimortis is their main, big attraction. It looks beautiful inside, and the theming is phenomenal—Disney level. It’s rethemed every season. This year it’s Baskerville Hall. I asked Ryan how he felt about werewolves.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question. I don’t think I’ve ever done a werewolf maze,” he said.
I may have done one or two, but it’s something that isn’t touched on as much as zombies, vampires, ghouls, and ghosts. I understood it was going to be pitch black and guests get a glowstick.
“Uh… that’s news,” stuttered Ryan.
“We’ll see how we go there,” I told him. After that comes Body Snatchers Waxworks. The Body Snatchers is set in a sort of funeral parlor, and it changes every time. We’ve met Jack the Ripper in there and a whole host of people. This year it was Waxworks. I was excited to see how that translates into Body Snatchers.
Then, last but not least, is the infamous Psychomanteum, returning yet again, and this time the subheading was Heartbroken. For the first time, they let people enter in pairs. I told Ryan we’d see how scared he was and decide whether to do it together or alone. He’d never done anything quite that extreme.
“I’ve known about Psychomanteum for a while. It was the first thing that drew Scare Kingdom into my peripheral. I have no idea what to expect,” he said.
I asked him if he’d seen any social media from the people who’d gone through previously.
“No. With these sort of events, I avoid reading anything, so I have a clean slate and a fresh set of eyes.”
With Psychomanteum, you have a fresh set of eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hands, feet, bum, everything. I told him he was going to be in for a treat. This was a multipart event, so, I put the recorder in the car, and we went through all the experiences. Then we emerged to do a full review.
We came out of the last experience, Psychomanteum, and Ryan’s face was a picture. He looked a bit shaken, to say the least. But first, we’re going to talk about the first two attractions, which are included in the 15 Pound price. I asked Ryan what he thought, overall, of ValenTerror at Scare Kingdom Scream Park.
“I’ll definitely be coming back. It was really good,” he replied.
Baskerville Hall was different than the usual Manimortis, but they always have a theatrical person at the beginning to set the scene. This time, it was Inspector Holmes, and his characterization and the whole set-up was really nice.
“The host at the beginning, whether he has a script or not, makes or breaks an attraction, in my opinion, because it’s your first experience of it,” observed Ryan. “Both hosts were fab, and I have to give massive props to them.”
The host explained what we’d be doing in the story, not just, “You’re going to have a glowstick, and it’s going to be dark.” He explained the reason why it was dark—it’s because the power’s gone out. And you don’t have a glowstick, you have a vial of glowing blood. It wasn’t a raver glowstick. It was the color of blood. There were lots of actors in the Baskerville Hall of werewolves, which was great. You’re batched up in groups of eight or nine and make your way to the actual manor of Manimortis. Once inside, the host talks to you as a group, and then you proceed in twos. There wasn’t dead time in between the twos. The host would continue his story, do the next six, the next four, the next two, and it was seamless.
“Massive credit goes to whoever wrote the scripting for that, and to the performers as well. I wanted us to be the last two out of that room, because I wanted to hear what else he had to say,” said Ryan.
It was a really good start, and it’s such a gorgeous little room. Guests had to walk through the actual fireplace.
Ryan was surprised at that. “Oh, we’re going through a fireplace? The level of theming overall really surprised me,” he said. “I’m sure everybody knows that when it comes to scare attractions, they can be hit or miss. This was absolutely a hit.”
I told Ryan he needed to come again and see it in the Fall when you can see the entire set design. All we could see this time were small little spotlights and glow sticks. You could still see some great theming elements in there, but it’s so much more theatrical at other times of the year. You’ll get sharp, impact scares in certain rooms, and then you’ll stop and have a bit of a theatrical speech. You can really see that it’s a beautifully themed attraction.
“Even giving back the glowstick was worked into the story of the maze, and it’s those little details that really stood out to me,” said Ryan. “When I came out, there wasn’t somebody standing there saying, ‘Can I have the glowstick, please?’ It was worked into the story, into the script, and perfectly done by the actress who took the glowstick from me.”
Manimortis always looks beautiful. Even in the dark, it’s great. There are quality actors in there and lots of impact scares. It’s a really good attraction.
“What impressed me above everything is it’s one of the few mazes I’ve done that ties off at both ends. It had a great set-up and it had a great ending. This was carried throughout the story with the acting, the performance, and the sets.”
Next, Body Snatchers Waxworks
We’d barely caught out breath before we were taken into the next attraction, Body Snatchers Waxworks. We went into the funeral parlor and were blown away by the first scene. It took place on two levels and was really impressive.
“It clearly shows the effort they put in, and it set up a standard that was kept up right to the end. It was almost like a taster event of what they do at Halloween. It made me want to come back for that, because I’d seen the sets, I’d seen what they can do, and the actors they employ are fab,” said Ryan.
They always introduce themselves and the mazes, which is nice. You don’t get that in many places. If you do, it’s sometimes a little bit too forced, whereas here, they write it well. And, as Ryan said, the acting quality is top notch. Also, we got to see the entirety of Body Snatchers. At other out-of-season attractions I’ve been to, you only see half of it, but, this time, we got to go into the cellar. However, there wasn’t a huge amount of scares there. It was more theatrical and jokey.
“I felt it built that tension of, ‘You’re going to be scared, but you’re going to have fun.’ That was a real favorite,” said Ryan. “Scare acting is such a talent, in and of itself, because not only are you managing the scene, you’re managing the flow of people and constantly dealing with the general public—which, as I’m sure we all know, can be hard to deal with. I can’t say the scares were less in the second half, but it still built tension.”
It was a very well-themed, well-scripted attraction, and we want to commend Scare Kingdom for their script work. It’s always top notch. Scare Kingdom is different than your textbook scream park, purely because there’s no sort of hub, as such. The bar hop is at the end, so you can mingle, have a chat and a laugh, and talk about the scares at the end rather than in between scares. That’s different from other scream parks. It also gave us the chance to pluck up the courage to go into Psychomanteum Heartbroken.
Last, the Indescribable Experience of Psychomanteum
I didn’t want to tell Ryan too much about Psychomanteum. He knew it was a psychosexual, in-your-face kind of thing. All you listeners and readers know how I feel about it: I hate that I love it. Other people have said, “I don’t know what to think. I think I hate it. No, I think I love it.”
I asked Ryan if it was as intense or extreme as he’d worked it up to be.
“There will probably be a lot of eye rolls now about what I’m about to say. I’ve heard it’s the UK’s sickest scare attraction, and I’d probably brand myself as a scare-attraction amateur. A lot of my experience comes from theme parks. I’ve done the odd individual scare event here and there, but they’re quite new to me. Even before going in, I knew this was going to be one of the most intense things I’ve ever done. I had thoughts, multiple times, about turning ‘round and not doing it,” Ryan confessed.
The closer we got to the door—which meant every time the door slammed, it was louder—I could tell Ryan was like, “Oh, no. I don’t know, oh, maybe I don’t want to do it.” I asked him if he was glad he did.
“I feel I’ve jumped the hurdle,” he replied. “There was a safe word, so you could get out at any point, but you just have to go and do it—balls to the wall. Since it was about Valentine’s, you had to option to go in pairs, but we went in individually.”
I told him we could hold hands, do it together, and I’d keep him safe.
“My take on it was, if I’m going to do it, I’m just going to do it,” said Ryan.
We were going to go in as a pair, but Ryan decided to just go balls-in. But he looked a little shocked when he came out.
“It was like a weird, out-of-body experience. I’m not going to say when, but there was a point in there when I just completely shut down. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can pay attention to what’s happening right now.’ And that, to be honest, is an absolute positive for the attraction. That’s what it’s designed to do. Would I do it again? My heart says yes and my brain says no. I don’t want to say my heart, because that sounds like I’m in love with it, but I’m intrigued about how they do different themes. But it’s definitely a weird one. I don’t know whether to recommend it,” he confessed.
I recommend it to my friends, but I don’t recommend it to my mom, I offered.
“That’s so perfect. Recommend it to the people you think will be able to deal with it. Common sense will tell you which people those are. I don’t know how much more I can say without going into detail, so I’m going to refrain.”
There was less nudity in this one. I saw a lady in a bra and some cleavage, and there were some sexual acts going on. This attraction is more visual in that you watch things rather than have things happen to you.
“It’s almost like it never happened. It’s almost like a part of me is saying, ‘That didn’t happen, so let’s just forget about that.’ But, then, there’s another part of me going, ‘I wonder what would happen if I did that again?’ It’s a case of curiosity killed the cat. That’s how I feel about that attraction,” said Ryan.
“So,” I asked, “you’d potentially do it again?”
“Yeah, I think so. It sounds naughty saying yes, you know what I mean? It feels like a hidden secret.”
I wouldn’t class it as a scare attraction, and I’ve said that before. It’s an extreme type of attraction that scares people. It’s not like walking through a dark house with people shouting at you.
So, we went to three very cool attractions at Scare Kingdom that very different from each other.
I have a little bit more to add to your scare collection, because the real R. Nixon, which is his Twitter handle, is more of a theme-park guy, and I know him through the theme-park world. With theme parks and scream parks, the worlds do merge in some aspects. Ryan has a podcast, so I asked him if he fancied giving that a little plug—talking about his podcast, what it’s all about, and how people can listen to the podcast and get in touch with him on his socials.
“The podcast is called The Inevitable Theme Park Podcast. The best place to find it is by searching on iTunes, SoundCloud, or YouTube. Just search ‘The Inevitable Theme Park Podcast.’ My social medias are @TheRealRNixon on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Steam, and YouTube,” said Ryan.
Steam? What? I’d never heard of it, so I asked him to explain.
“You can buy games on there with your computer. I don’t use it that often, but I love playing Park Attack, which any theme-park game players will know. Park Attack is on there, Planet Coaster, and you can get pretty much any PC game on Steam. You have an account, and you can link up with people to play with them. I have it mostly because it’s another way to contact me. I did an episode on theme park gaming. Anyway, my podcast basically covers theme parks.”
On his podcast, Ryan talks to people in the theme-park industry and does trip reports, so it’s of interest to anyone who’s a theme- or scream-park fan.