Review: The Making of the Haunted House

Haunted House building, Alton Towers
4 star review

Alton Towers’ Haunted House opened in 1992, and was seen as playing a part in transforming the park’s fortunes.

Last weekend, it of course re-opened in its latest incarnation: The Curse at Alton Manor.

But the night before it re-opened, an hour-long documentary appeared on YouTube from Euro Theme Park Archive.

The Making of the Haunted House is a chapter-by-chapter programme covering the original ride’s conceptual beginnings, through to the design and execution phases.

Interviews with the original project director John Wardley and then Alton Towers marketing director Nick Varney are a big feature.

There are anecdotes and humorous insights into what went wrong including on the eve of opening.

The programme uses considerable archived news footage, some of which will not be new to enthusiasts who have trawled through YouTube over the years, but it is seamlessly edited together with original content.

Scary but friendly ghosts

Wardley walks around the later Duel incarnation with the programme’s creator Peter Lambert and shares technical insight into varying sections.

We see gangways and parts of the ride which are unknown to most riders, including a spectacular flying ghost effect which was sadly almost never seen due to poor reliability.

John Wardley
Wardley was the project director after working on themed attractions at Chessington World of Adventures

The insights into the design process are also interesting, including those into the late Keith Sparks, who was just as big a part of the Haunted House as Wardley was.

It is explained how the original vision was one of ghosts who can’t help being scary but actually want to be friendly.

Elsewhere, the programme effectively uses the ride’s original music in certain moments, which serves as a reminder of just how timeless that soundtrack was.

Looking to the future, there’s a moment where Varney describes a fairly recent moment where he took his family onto the latter-day Duel and it was at that point he realised the ride was in need of a major overhaul.

The Making of the Haunted House is a thorough insight into one of the UK’s greatest original dark rides, whose ‘spirit’ is now likely to live on for many more years to come.

The Making of the Haunted House is available on YouTube now.