Alton News

New Haunted Attraction Planned!

Gloomy Wood and the Haunted House within were the brain child of the themetastic ride designer John Wardley. He believed that there was a need to create and ultimate dark ride which would exceed anything seen in the UK and Europe before. Alton Towers and the Tussauds Group gave him the platform and opportunity to develop his creativity and ideas further.

Planning 1990 - 1991

John Wardley prepared detailed plans and conceptual ideas during this time period. He considered the needs of the public and the park and tried to come up with a happy medium. After showing his plans to the Alton Towers board and receiving the go ahead and most importantly a budget he proceeded to put his plans and thoughts forward to someone who had further knowledge about staging dark ride attractions - that person was Keith Sparks of Sparks Creative Services.


John gathered his plans and ideas and called upon the collective opinions of Sparks Creative Services. Ideas were discussed and thrashed out at several meetings where ideas were designed and redesigned until at last the final plans were set. The ride went through many different changes whilst on the drawing board; initially John Wardley had no intention of creating a graveyard; instead he favored a watery swamp with its own watery sound effects. Thankfully at a later meeting the swamp area was rejected and the swamp didn't get taken forward to the final draft, and Gloomy Wood cemetery arose from the ground. The cemetery and its gravestones with poetic dark humor grew to become one of the best themed external queue areas at Alton.


Gloomy Wood was to become a self sufficient area between Katanga Canyon and Thunder Valley, with an attached walk-through shop, called 'Something Sinister'; a food kiosk aptly named 'Wicked Things'; originally planned to be an open sided games station alas this idea was redesigned and the food kiosk was developed. Gloomy wood also had its own toilets and phone station.. One of the original plans showed the toilets under the house facade which would be accessed from under the tower near the shop.

The final design was much more than the original concept John Wardley had planned for. Wardley and Sparks Creative Services created a monster of a ride. Based upon gothic architecture and Hammer horror, and the ride awoke like Frankenstein's Monster on the 31st March 1992.

The Construction

The construction of the Haunted House took just under 18 months and was introduced to the park for the 1992 season. The ride area is equal to that of two football pitches and most of this is covered by a warehouse-style building that is cleverly disguised by the frontage of the abandoned gothic house.

The house is built using a combination of steel, timber, brick and concrete block work which is covered with a sand and cement render finished in an aged stonework effect.

The vast ride transit system was developed and produced by a German company called Mack rides. They designed the cars and the complex fin track system, which allows the car to speed up and slow down depending upon the fin contact between car and rails. The cars have an onboard computer system that communicate between the ride station control room, other cars and blocks that were connected to the fin track. Each car reportedly cost Alton Towers eighteen thousand pounds, of which there were 34, so this was a dark ride with a high budget and even higher expectations.

The construction went well and things ran to time, with the ride being promoted for the new 1992 season.


Nestling in a dell surrounded by skeletal trees the lonely house stood in a state of decay. Just waiting....

It Lives!

Originally opened in March 1992 by such celebrities as Philip Schofield and Michaela Strachan, the Haunted House and the Runaway Mine Train were met with great approval from the paying public and was promoted by Alton as a flagship rides for the park..

However during the 1992 season the ride was inspected and it was thought that the effects were relying too much on blacklighting and the effects were not haunting enough. Some areas were given paint jobs and UV paint was recovered using tungsten paint and UV lights were replaced using tungsten lighting and gels. Such scenes to get this change included the giant and giants fingers, the hall of spiders and the sinister garden.

In the Poltergeist Room an ironmaiden was added above the ride tracks, also some large black chains were draped around the room.

The Grand Hall was given a new look by painting the entire set.

John Wardley was very specific about the effect in the Grand Hall, it was important to keep this room simple to allow the illusion of a continuous room to work to the max. Green and red paint was used and the walls were stenciled with black bats and gold patterns.

Trommel had falling masonry added to the opening of the tunnel.The Giant sequence had a new paint job, plus the window of the giants face was glazed and relit. The grabbing fingers were also repainted but by June of 1992 their fate had been sealed and new masks were commissioned to change the fingers into demons. The hall of spiders was ordered to be repainted this also included the large spider effect. Also some additional lighting was added. It was thought that the large spider wasn't hidden well enough and some columns were also created to to block the effect from being seen when the carriage first entered the spider area.

The ghost corridor was a major concern at this particular time and a lot of work was needed to get the ghost to reset and release in time for the next car. By the end of the year, after a lot of hard work to save the ghost corridor it was decided that the effect just wasn't reliable and the whole corridor was to be rethemed and Electric Bill and his skeleton friends where installed. This also included adding new sounds and lights.

The screaming room was also in need of change and that included new heads and the repositioning of the Tiger monster who originated from the haunted house swamp. The tiger effect was causing problems in its original position and needed a new home. It was then moved to the screaming room where it resides to this day. A new effect was added to the areas created by the relocation of the tiger monster this effect was the Ghoul teacher or better known as the screaming witch. Another effect to disappear within the first year was that of the mythical swamp creature. Removed due to mechanical failure.

Over the years effects came and went and scenes changed, some people thought for the better others the worse.

Both the haunted house and the runaway train rides had cost Alton Towers over 6.5 million pounds to bring to life. The Haunted House became a firm favorite with park employees and guests alike. However, over the years the ride became worn and integral effects failed, causing the rider numbers to diminish and a revamp was ordered for the 2003 season. In 2003 the interactive Duel ride was opened and with the new title came the strapline,'The Haunted House Strikes back'.

Zombies were the new residents at the house and with them came the laser guns.

Haunted One

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