Derren Brown’s Ghost Train is now simply Ghost Train, and Thorpe Park reopened the attraction last Friday.
With the existing ride system retained, the reworking of the attraction has been left to Merlin Entertainments’ creative Magic Making department.
Outside, the building has been nicely refreshed in shades of turquoise and off-white. It is themed as a fairly modern train station.
Ghost Train still runs from only 12 noon each day, but the troublesome virtual reality element has now been removed.
But it is the mysterious Chapel Station that perks the curiosity, marked as closed on the Easter Egg-laden signage visible as you queue.
Even several days after it first reopened, on this half-term weekday Ghost Train still attracts a large ‘queue for the queue’ before it opens.
Staff open the gates to the queue on-time, but it moves fairly slowly, giving ample time to enjoy the excellent re-texturing of the ride building.
New, old touches
New touches include vintage-style posters, with many subtle references to Thorpe Park’s past courtesy of Merlin Magic Making’s creativity.
We have a very long wait in the final batching area, with the internal ride system still seemingly prone to prolonged stoppages.
SPOILER WARNING! This review contains descriptions and images of the ride experience.
Entering the new pre-show area – now themed as a waiting room – an actor rudely shouts at guests to take their place.
An old-school-style train departure board flicks departure times. It takes a closer look to realise it’s actually a rare and excellent screen effect, and not real.
Angelus Mortis then appears. He’s the replacement for Derren Brown in the re-used projection technology.
He describes a cult known as the Believers, who subscribe to post-death theories of life at Chapel Station.
Hinting at his own spiritual nature, he invites you to either leave now or board the last train.
The Pepper’s ghost effect remains impressive, nearly as good as the original but with less suspense and the audio isn’t quite loud enough.
Moving forward from the pre-show, again loudly ushered by the actor – the next holding area displays vintage Ceefax screens, and nonsensical news & weather reports.
Entering the main warehouse, the Victorian carriage is gone and the frontage is now more like the train’s internals – a fairly modern Underground train.
There is no mirror and floating illusion, with a convectional platform now evident. A lot of time and money has been spent here but it feels like something of a downgrade on the original.
Inside the increasingly dirtied and distressed train, actors play the roles of creepy conductors.
They have microphones taped to their cheeks, which means you can clearly hear their voices throughout the ride’s system.
You feel the train move as good sound effects accompany, with no fiddly VR to content with you are left to focus on the actors.
There are requests for tickets from the friendly female, but then a couple of stares follow as it becomes clear the conductors are not all they appear.
It’s not long before it is declared that we are stopping at Chapel Station – now known to be a focus of the Believers.
As the doors open, everyone on board is a little hesitant before proceeding into corridors adorned with plastic skulls and black camouflage not even half-way up the otherwise bare black walls.
The group are ushered into a large area with a central stage on one side. The two conductors stand either side and continue the elaborate story – but sadly one of their microphones appears to have failed.
It is almost classic Merlin Entertainments Dungeon-like with the actor-led show feel, and at one point you might be left wary of being picked on to play a part.
The female’s voice suddenly transforms into a deep demonic tone, as a crypt is opened and the emergent light suggest something has been awoken.
The lights cut out and a wraith-like figure similar to those associated with Alton Towers’ Thirteen appears – or was it the grim reaper as promotional artwork suggested?
Strangely, its cloak appears almost rubbery as it moves slowly towards the group. It doesn’t feel anywhere near as scary as it should be.
Maybe the conductors-turned-Believers think they have gone too far as they soon usher you back to the train, but some terrified youngsters are ahead of the game and are running there already.
The return trip sees a few light drops and the conductors doing strange possessed movement which are akin to a robot dance.
More movements of the train are felt, but it’s not as forceful as in the original Derren Brown incarnation of the ride.
The only true jump scare
The doors open and the experience appears to end abruptly as you are returned to Platform 13 at Thorpe Junction.
But as you enter the gift shop, the experience added to the second incarnation of Derren Brown’s Ghost Train is almost entirely replicated.
But now the fake shop worker serving as a possessed character in what is criminally the only true jump scare in our entire Ghost Train experience.
We understand that numerous effects were not functioning during our run through on Ghost Train, but if they are that unreliable this soon after opening, it’s not clear what you can expect in future.
Also, the number of actors appears to change, as we observed several fewer than several others have reported.
On Facebook, Thorpe Park has responded to feedback on Ghost Train, saying it knows where the weaknesses are and intends to make improvements.
Hopefully that can be achieved, but the park has its work cut out to bring this attraction up to standard.