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The Original Alton Towers Haunted House Website
Smoke and Mirrors




When the UK theme park Alton Towers invested millions of pounds in their ground-breaking Haunted House, a new era of dark rides was born. The spectacular attraction amazed and spellbound theme park enthusiasts and dark ride fans for many years, with its breath-taking illusions and state-of-the-art technology. The original concept was retired in 2002 to make way for the interactive zombie blaster, Duel. However, the Haunted House left a lasting impression on some of those intrepid riders who braved the Poltergeist Room and were scared witless by the Grand Hallway's grinning demon. Michael P Eley was one of those riders. Through the pages of this book he will guide you back into the darkness, offering behind-the-scenes insights into the making of creator John Wardley's 'laff in the dark' attraction, as well as serving up a brief history of dark rides and haunted houses.



 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 an 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 changes whilst on the drawing board. 

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 which would be accessed from beneath the tower near the shop.


The final design was much more than the original concept John Wardley had planned for. Wardley, Sparks Creative Services, Rex Studios, Mike Blackmans Scenic Construction Company and many others craftsmen 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 Haunted House came about when Alton Towers realised that the perceptions of the park by the visitors showed that it was seen as a teenager and young adults' entertainment venue. The management decided that this image had to change and a new direction to family entertainment was required. Also Disneyland Paris was due to open and Alton needed to introduce a new area to help keep them a head of the game. Originally a wooden rollercoaster was planed, through the gardens but this was rejected by planners and from this the runaway mine train and haunted house were built in its place. The plan was huge and would be developed in phases. Phase one would be to incorporate a Runaway Mine Train into an area around the Congo river rapids and flume, and this area would be rethemed into an African mining township called Katanga Canyon. It was also thought important to add gloomy wood to an area located between Katanga Canyon and Thunder Valley. The Haunted House ride would become a jewel in the Alton Towers crown for theming and experience. The ride took just over two years from ride design to opening day.

Haunted House Year of Design 1990

Haunted House Year of Opening March 1992

Haunted House Year of Closure 2002

Haunted House Reopens as Duel the Haunted House Strikes Back 2003


The Haunted House was completed on time and was ready to open its doors on the 30th March 1992. Special guest including Philip Schofield, Michaela Strachen, Andy Crane, Gabby Roslin and Geoff Capes were invited to see the opening of the multimillion pound  ground breaking attraction.

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