Encounter characters from Staffordshire’s gruesome past and hear their dark tales told in the grim surroundings of Alton Towers’ Dungeons...
|Theme Park||Alton Towers|
|Park Area||The Towers|
|Audience||Older Families and Thrillseekeers|
|Opened||23 March 2019 (replaced Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)|
The Alton Towers Dungeon is a 45 minute long interactive experience which takes visitors back in time to witness at first hand some of the more disturbing stories and folklore from the history of the Staffordshire Moorlands.
The Dungeon is based on Merlin’s successful Dungeons brand of Midway attraction – the original London Dungeon was opened in 1976, and the concept has been reused to open similar attractions worldwide in recent years.
In common with other Dungeons, the version at Alton Towers is comprised of a series of interactive actor-led shows portraying various grisly events with plenty of dark humour. The production quality is as high as in the other venues, and several segments have been lifted from other versions of the attraction. In general, it feels like a condensed version of a normal Dungeon experience.
Alton’s Dungeon features the familiar courtroom, torturer and plague doctor shows, together with wo shows involving Dick Turpin and the local legend of Molly Leigh. If there’s one criticism, it is that the torturer and plague doctor shows are almost word-for-word copies of the versions that can be found at almost every other Dungeon attraction.
Before it was the Dungeon, the show building was the location of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory dark ride. Whilst the former ride’s theming has been gutted from the building, the old boats have been retained to become The Black River Boat Ride.
Although some may object to the £7.50 upcharge (£5 if prebooked online), the Dungeon is worth paying the extra for. It maintains a much higher standard than usual theme park live-action horror attractions, much more akin to one of the usual Dungeons.
The following descriptions may contain spoilers - click to reveal more information about each show
Taking place in a courtroom ruled over by the Bishop of Stafford, the first show at the Alton Towers Dungeon is interactive and sets the scene for what follows. Three guests take it in turns to stand in the dock to plead their case in front of the Bishop who will decide their fate … although most probably he will Hang Them High as his oft-repeated mantra suggests.
Visitors to other Dungeons attractions will be very familiar with the show, which is a duplicate of those found in most if not all of the other Dungeons. It’s a firm favourite though, and nicely executed (if you’ll pardon the pun) as the start of the Alton experience.
The only ride in the Alton Towers Dungeon, this next show takes visitors on a journey down the river which runs far below the Towers ruins. Along the way they encounter some of the Dungeon residents - for those expecting a Madame Tussauds style Chamber of Horrors, this is the closest they will get.
The ride is the former boat ride from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, although of course the old theming has been replaced with something more appropriate to the Dungeons. However, those who rode the old ride will recognise the mirror walls from the old Nut Room near the end of the journey.
Much of the boat journey happens in darkness, which is atmospheric but means it is not in the same league as the one at the London Dungeon.
Another staple Dungeons show, the torturer is keen to demonstrate his skills in making his victims talk, and will choose one lucky volunteer to help model his instruments.
This is the weakest of all the shows, and a direct copy of the same show on offer at other Dungeons in the Merlin chain. There has been almost no effort to give it an Alton Towers flavour – the script even includes the same joke to choose a volunteer as used in the London Dungeon!
Set in the Welsh Harp Inn, this is one of the most well rounded of the shows. The landlady greets guests at the door and ushers them inside, seating them on two rows of benches facing the bar. She’s a strong character, with some nicely scripted lines and a good chance to interact with the audience in the first half of the show.
She explains that the Inn is used as a hideout for highwaymen. Before long, the most infamous of them all can be seen casting his shadow in the window – Dick Turpin has come to pay a visit!
The lights go out, plunging the room into darkness as he enters. His footsteps can be heard pacing the room, before various effects including air puffs, back pokers and a seat drop create involuntary screams from the audience.
Yet another classic Dungeons show, the plague doctor show has an actor describing the effects of the plague, before giving a practical demonstration by literally ripping the heart out of a dead body on the mortuary table.
Of course, the doctor is offering various remedies and cures too – and is eager to show off their effectiveness with the help of another “willing” volunteer from the audience...
Acting as the finale, The Haunting tells the tale of the legend of Molly Leigh, who was a local woman accused of witchcraft in late 17th century Staffordshire. Visitors to Scarefest a few years ago will be familiar with the story, which was previously used in the Haunting of Molly Crow scare maze.
The show is similar to that found at a few other Dungeons, although the story has been much customised to fit the Alton legend. With guests seated on the edges of the room, all facing inwards towards a large table, a slightly mysterious woman recalls the story of Molly.
Strange things begin happening in the room – objects move across the table by themselves, the lights flicker, a sudden wind picks up sending the curtains billowing. The lights go out, coming on again for a few split seconds as the ghost of Molly Leigh appears in the room, bearing down on shocked visitors.
A quick switch later, and the woman from before is back in the room – hoping the guests enjoyed their audience with … her mother.
As a Dungeons show, The Haunting is great. However, it provides a rather abrupt finale to the Alton Towers Dungeon experience. The transition from slightly scary mysterious woman to staff member thanking guests for visiting the Dungeon feels odd and clunky. On the whole, a bit of an unsatisfying ending compared with those, such as London’s drop ride, on offer at other versions of the attraction.
The Dungeon is set in the old Toyland Tours/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory building
Gallows mark the way to the Dungeon
Some previous Dungeon inhabitants
Hooded stone carving
Theming, and the old Chocolate Factory fascade now painted black
Entrance to the Dungeon
The shows on offer
One of the advertising posters around the park