Wrapped up in oversized jumpers and coats, myself and my three housemates bundled into the car excitedly, anticipating the night which lay ahead. We chatted cheerily, trying to keep our minds off the fact we were heading to one of the top scare attractions that the UK has to offer. As we neared Burton upon Trent, where the park is based, even the road signs took on an eerie, ominous quality that filled us with both excitement and dread.
‘Screamfest’ doesn’t exactly sound like a family-friendly evening out, does it? But despite this, I was sceptical. I consider myself the rational, level-headed type, much too sensible to be scared by a few mazes and actors. “How frightening can it really be?” I teased to my friends, trying to act far more nonchalant than I really felt as my palms glistened with sweat inside my jacket sleeves.
The staff on entry were lovely and efficient – waving us through and handing us wrist bands with a deceptively cheery smile. I began to relax as we walked into the park itself, aglow with the lights of fairground rides and the delicious aromas of the various tantalising food stands. Why had I been so worried?
Almost immediately, I realised my newfound confidence was misplaced. A woman, clad in a jester-style outfit with a white painted face and ghoulish make up, stalked towards us.
Me, losing all self-composure (and being the selfless friend that I am), threw my housemate in front of me screaming “TAKE HER, NOT ME”. Much to my despair, this tactic had quite the reverse effect as the creepy (and extremely convincing) actress proceeded to chase me around the park whenever she caught site of me, for the whole rest of the night. As you can imagine, this was much to my housemates’ entertainment (and is in fact shown below on film – you’re welcome).
Already terrified out of my wits, we proceeded to the first scare. ‘Le Theatre Noir’: Even the name sounded like some horrifying episode of Midsomer Murders. The queue moved quickly as a spooky-looking police officer banged a baton angrily on the wire fencing next to us, the blood-curdling noises he was making a taster of what was to come.
The scare itself did not disappoint. I shan’t spill too many secrets, but let’s just say it’s set ‘in the round’, as though you’re watching a real theatre play. Oh and, if you’re not a fan of demonic nuns, I’d give the front row a miss.
Buzzing with adrenaline and now hungry for more terrifying thrills, we immediately made our way to the next scare: ‘Love Hurts’. Set in the ‘Diced Heart Pub’ (it’s about as friendly as it sounds), the smell of petrol and occasional roar of a chainsaw told us everything we needed to know before we’d even stepped inside. The lady in front cheerily informed us that she was a Screamfest veteran: “I come every year and it never gets any less terrifying!” I’m not sure if this was supposed to be comforting, or just merely an exclamation of her enthusiasm, but we walked into the scare with her ominous words echoing in our ears.
The actors were utterly brilliant. Never breaking character for a second, even as we were shrieking “Please don’t eat me” helplessly in their faces (which would have been enough to warrant a snigger from someone less professional). Another brilliant scare – so far, Screamfest was more than delivering.
We decided to take a short break, perusing the wondrous array of bars, fish and chip stands, hot drink kiosks, burger trucks and doughnut stalls on offer. Myself and my housemate decided to share a gigantean Biscoff Spread doughnut (vegan may I add, for those like myself who often worry there won’t be any veggie/ vegan treats on offer!). Utterly delicious and an incredibly affordable £3.50, it gave us the little sugar high we needed to face scare number 3.
“We MUST have witnessed the worst of it?” we laughed to each other with very little conviction, it was evident we were just trying to comfort ourselves. How wrong we were.
‘Freak Out On Tour’. As the name implies, this scare was filled with nothing other than a terrifying selection of ‘circus freaks’. As someone who had a somewhat irrational clown fear as a child, this was perhaps my worst nightmare.
I applaud you if you have the rationality and composure to remember it’s all ‘just acting’ when there’s a blood-stained clown breathing down your neck
Inside, a mirror maze means you see the reflections of terrifying circus performers, long before you have any idea where they actually are. The actors never touch you, of course, there are strict protocols and you’re perfectly safe, but I applaud you if you have the rationality and composure to remember it’s all ‘just acting’ when there’s a blood-stained clown breathing down your neck. We were chased out of the maze screaming, followed by breathless fits of laughter. A 10/10 scare by my standards. This scare was, for me, the most frightening, but also the most top tier, adrenaline-inducing, heart-pounding fun.
The next two scares ‘Hillbilly Joe’s Zombie Zoo’ and ‘Creed Farm’ did not disappoint. From crawling through a tunnel, to actors jumping out from behind curtains, they were both perfectly timed, well thought out, and spookily hilarious.
The extensive selection of fairground rides deserves a mention, too. A huge spinning arm with visitors dangling off both ends was perhaps the most noteworthy. Bear in mind that these rides do incur an extra charge, however.
To finish off the evening, we watched a thrilling and nail-biting performance from a selection of fire breathers and fire dancers on the main stage. Throughout the evening, there was upbeat music being played by a band and DJ here too, so it was the perfect break from all the scares if you just wanted to have a sit down and a drink with friends to recover.
I left the park exhausted but exhilarated
All in all, Screamfest truly did live up to its terrifying name. With a hoarse voice from shrieking and some brilliant memories with my friends, I left the park exhausted but exhilarated. Overall, it was a fantastic night and something so different from your everyday student activities. If you want to get into the Halloween spirit, I can assure you that Screamfest is the perfect way to do just that.
The Park gates open from 6:30 pm. Scares open at 7 pm and the Park closes at 11 pm.
Note: The park is a little way outside of Nottingham, so it is most easily accessible by car.
Screamfest is located at the National Forest Adventure Farm on Postern Road, Tatenhill in Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire. The postcode is DE13 9SJ. For full access to all five scares, tickets are £22 and for a fast-track ticket to cut the queues, you would pay £32. Tickets are more expensive on the day, so make sure to book in advance for the best deals.
Safety note adapted from Screamfest’s website: The experience is not recommended for under 16s as it is very scary. Under 16s will not be admitted without an 18+ responsible adult with ID. Proof of ID is required to be served at the bar. Strobe lighting and smoke machines are used across the site. Screamfest is not recommended for pregnant women, people with heart conditions or breathing problems. However, it is ultimately the right of the individual to decide whether they want to attend.
Featured image courtesy of Niamh Robinson. Permission to use granted to Impact.
In-article video courtesy of Niamh Robinson. Permission to use granted to Impact.
In-article image courtesy of @screamfestuk via @instagram.com. No changes were made to this image.
Second In-article image courtesy of Niamh Robinson. Permission to use granted to Impact.
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