Be afraid, be very afraid, as PrimEVIL offers some wicked Norfolk nights out
- Credit: Archant
It's Shocktober time at Dinosaur Adventure as one of the region's favourite family attractions transforms itself into the east of England's biggest live scare attraction when the sun goes down. STACIA BRIGGS finds out why 10,000 people love to be scared witless at a Norfolk theme park every October
Do you dare walk in the woods at Dinosaur Adventure after dark?
If you go down to the woods today (or to be precise, from tomorrow night) you're sure of a big surprise. By day, the theme park is a child-friendly attraction where the biggest scares come from the roaring dinosaurs on the woodland trail, but as Halloween draws closer, as darkness falls, the park becomes the stuff of nightmares.
In the forest, creatures are lurking, beasts are bellowing and strange people hide behind trees, elsewhere, a family of insane clowns have set up a twisted maze to trap innocent walkers, there are zombies on the prowl and a ghostly pop-up hotel where checking in could mean a hasty and permanent check-out.
PrimeEVIL is in its sixth year as a dedicated 'live scare attraction' and has established itself as the biggest event of its kind in the region, offering brave visitors the chance to be scared witless in five different scenarios including a pitch-black cottage that visitors must grope their way around, woodlands infested with scare actors and a terrifying hotel where chocolates on the pillow are swapped for apparitions in the walls and undead staff.
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In America, the concept of live scare attractions such as PrimEVIL at Dinosaur Adventure is nothing new, but in Britain the craze has only recently started to catch on as increasing numbers of people line up to feel the fear.
Across the pond, Halloween is huge business with more than 2,000 commercial 'haunted houses' and 1,000 Halloween attractions across the US and ticket sales that soar over the £500 million mark. People know their frights and they're increasingly prepared to dig deep in order to get them.
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As in America, the so-called scare attractions aren't actually haunted and don't claim to be – what they are is a series of horror film-style scenarios through which the brave walk while actors dressed as vampires or ghosts or zombies or mutants attempt to scare the living daylights out of them.
At PrimEVIL, office workers, waiters, students – all are transformed into nightmarish creatures for just over a week following months of training, dress rehearsals and costume fittings. Each scare actor is given their own character and must stay in it during opening hours – even if they're walking to the toilet.
This year, there are five attractions to scare the living daylights out of willing victims: the return of The Dark, The Forest of Fear, Circus of Terrors Homecoming, Zone 64 East and Mayhem Manor Hotel. Whatever your poison – ghosts, zombies, killer clowns, beasts, werewolves – there's a horror to suit all fans of the fearsome.
Martin Goymour, is managing director of Dinosaur Adventure and gets into the spirit(s) of things by taking part as one of the 80-plus scare actors at PrimEVIL.
His character's name is Skullmore and, over the past six years, he's appeared as all manner of creepy creatures, swapping his day-to-day role as the charming head of a multi-million pound company for a whole new career as, for example, a ghostly Victorian.
'Six years ago, I wanted to offer something with a bit more of an edge and so PrimEVIL was conceived,' said Martin.
'This year will be even bigger and better with more than 80 scare actors and with the benefit of several purchases made earlier in the year following a visit to the Transworld Show in St Louis, Missouri, the biggest Halloween trade show in the USA.
'Our in-house team has been frantically at work with the construction of sets, wardrobe, lighting and sound systems to enhance every corner – there is no escape for night-time visitors!
'It's exhausting to organise but the exhilaration and energy experienced once we've recovered is addictive!'
By day, Ben Francis is the mild-mannered community manager at the Wells Maltings Trust but for PrimEVIL, he is Charlie 'Freakini The Magnificent', a failed showman who was driven out of town with his extended family of insane clowns and has found a new home in Weston Longville woods.
'When I was 11 years old, I watched Poltergeist without my parents knowing and the scene where the clown doll pulls the boy under the bed absolutely terrified me and left me petrified of clowns,' said Ben, who has been involved in amateur dramatics in Fakenham and King's Lynn for 18 years.
'I also used to be quite scared of the dark, particularly being in the dark on my own. Now I am the scary thing in the dark waiting for people – so really, it's a form of therapy, and on top of it all, I get to scream, too. It's a great form of stress relief!'
Ben, who is leader of the clowns in what is normally the dinosaur maze at Dinosaur Adventure, said that this year's PrimEVIL had been completely reworked for 2015.
'Attractions like The Dark have new elements in them, the clowns are back in the maze and we've got our circus tent back. Then there's the Mayhem Manor Hotel which is new and absolutely terrifying. I walked round it during the day with the lights on the other day, with no scare actors in it and I was scared stiff. It is incredible.
'I think that everyone is afraid of something and PrimEVIL taps into those feelings.'
Ben visited PrimEVIL in its first year as a customer, loved what he saw and has been involved as a scare actor ever since: as a clown on four occasions and a mutant on one ('I'd rather be a killer clown than a mutant. The teeth are better.')
'It's a great idea because it plays on our fear of the unpredictable. No one knows what they're walking into and that's the thing that makes it absolutely terrifying. It's scary enough being in the woods at night as it is, but when you add people's imagination into the equation, it's petrifying.
'It may feel like it's out of control but it's actually incredibly controlled. We don't touch anyone, ever, and we do tailor how far we push the boundaries to the audience we've got in the maze with us.'
Wearing a half-mask and clown suit, Ben will be hiding in the maze to surprise visitors to his PrimEVIL attraction after they been greeted by his fortune teller and ringmaster. He is hoping the experience will be less terrifying than the time he used super glue on his false teeth.
'I tried to mend them at the last minute and then it was showtime and I shoved them in my mouth quickly,' he said, 'I only realised an hour or so later that my lip was stuck to my teeth! I won't do that again!'
PrimEVIL is at Dinosaur Adventure, Lenwade, from tomorrow night to November 1. Please note the event is not suitable for children under the age of 12, and under-16s must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets cost £15.95 (off-peak, October 16-22) and £19.95 (peak, October 23 to November 1) and are available from www.primevil-scare.com.