Castle of the Dead – Day One
I’ve been going to scare attractions with friends for a few years now and I’ve often wondered if we could put one on. I’m a game designer by trade and occasionally a writer and I’ve mulled over lots of ideas over the years. But the first time I was able to play with them was Halloween 2017, where the Town Council brought in a haunted house fairground attraction and we upped the ante by opting to put live actors and a “story” into the mix.
Luckily, there are a fair few talented Councillors and friends of the Town Council because otherwise the idea simply wouldn’t have progressed. But we were able to make the event work and Sorrow House was born – the story of a group of escaped lunatics who had holed in up a HMO and really didn’t want to leave. :) One of the characters, “Big Baby”, was played by Sam Hoy who was far and away the most terrifying actor. So much so that when we bring the same haunted house back this weekend, the plot is a sequel called “Sorrow House 2, the Revenge of Big Baby” centering on that characters continuing spooky story.
But Sorrow House is just a bit of fun. The real opportunity to get our scare on came this year via the Wisbech Castle. I’ve been thinking how great a scare attraction had the potential to be and working on the plot and script for some time. What really made this possible was simply having such a lot of dedicated volunteers with a wealth of talent. I genuinely thought we could make this a special event and provide not just great entertainment for the town but also be a cool fundraiser.
And so Castle of the Dead was born.
Preparations for Castle of the Dead have taken over a month. Volunteers putting in their energy, skills and imagination to help develop the plot, the props, the property. It’s been quite a journey, made no less difficult by the fact that we had to simultaneously do all the normal work around the Castle, and open it for its public tours, and open the new Cafe. But somehow, thanks to a tireless group of very dedicated people, the project took shape.
It appears that the Town was hungry for something like this because by the time the week of the show came we had all but sold out of every timeslot. We had space for a handful of walk-ins but otherwise there were no more tickets available.
Tonight the Castle of the Dead open its doors for its first evening (of three) and the guests – or should I call them “official observers” – began to arrive.
Our team is as varied group from teenagers to pensioners, from every walk of life. Three members of the team are autistic in one form or another. Two are disabled. Yes we do also have a few more experienced actors, but many of our volunteers have never ever done anything like this before. In fact quite a few never imagined they WOULD do anything like this. And yet – wow. They just knocked the ball out of the park tonight. The opening night could not have gone better. It really couldn’t. You could hear the screams for miles – but when the survivors of the Zombie Onslaught emerged from their final encounter with Wisepenny the Clown and moved into the Castle for hot chocolate and cake, it was all laughter and smiles.
I am so proud of the team. You can feel when something just goes well – the buzz, the click, the feeling that there’s an energy to what you are doing. Yes, we were scaring people – in the best possible way. But it was a whole lot of fun and everybody said so. Tonight the Wisbech Castle Working Party, volunteers and Friends Of the Castle put on an incredible, sold out, blockbuster of a first event. Not a penny of public money was spent, rather we have raised a considerable sum for Wisbech Castle.
Not only that, but I feel we may have a new annual event on our hands. Because when you have this much fun doing something the first thing you begin to think about it “how can we make it better next year…”
We still have Thursday and Fridays shows to get through. I can’t wait.