/ Travel & Leisure

Would you pay for a ‘scare’ experience this Halloween?

Halloween is nearly upon us – but do you enjoy the haunted holiday and would you pay for a spooky experience?

Autumn is my favourite season for many reasons: the weather begins to cool, the trees turn a beautiful orange, Starbucks releases its Pumpkin Spice Latte and, at the very end of the month, it’s Halloween.

I’ve loved Halloween since I was little. There’s so much theatre to it; so many characters to dress up as, it can be difficult to choose which one.

Parents warned to be vigilant with Halloween costumes around flames

When I was a child, we would go around our neighbourhood trick or treating. As a teenager Halloween, was all about the parties.

As an adult, I prefer the spooky season for a much more frightening reason. For the past few years I have enjoyed going to horror experiences.

The horror! The horror!

Essentially, the idea of a horror experience is that you, and a small group of people, walk around a horror set, traditionally a ‘haunted house’, in an effort to be frightened.

If you’ve never been to one of these before, trust me when I say, it can be very scary.

Gone are the days when people would hide in a dark room and jump out at you – that’s just the warm up.

Last week, I visited Horror at Hinchingbrooke House with a group of friends. The event promised us ‘a unique, terrifying venture where the public becomes the victim’. Well, at £26pp, I am happy to report that it was quite a terrifying experience.

Scare story

The maze of scary rooms took us about an hour to complete and featured; clowns, Beetlejuice, Michael Myers, the Demogorgon and zombies (to name a few).

We were chased with chainsaws, had to crawl under barbed wire and then – when we thought it was all over – had bags put over our heads and had to find our way to safety using only a rope guide.

Overall, it was a great evening and one that my friends can’t stop talking about. These experiences are popping up all over the UK and seem to get more popular each year.

Horror experiences are great and there are enough around the UK to certainly keep you busy but they do come at a price. Would you pay to be scared? And what do you feel about Halloween overall?


It is strange how we differ in our approach to danger – bungee jumping, mountaineering, Isle of Man TT – and how many like to be frightened. So Alex’s experience will suit many people. I’m not one of those; I am over-cautious (perhaps), don’t like horror films, don’t see the point in activities that put my life at risk.

So you never cross a road, then? Or drive? Or fly? After all, there’s an element of risk in all those pursuits .

There are necessary risks in normal life and those that are unnecessary. This logically includes ones like mountaineering etc were deaths happen in the course of the hobby.

It would be helpful if people were made aware of the risks and that does mean going beyond actual deaths to include immediately crippling events and long term effects which are under-reported in the media.

Not done skydiving, but have done a lot of parascending, climbing, sailing and other potentially hazardous pursuits. You’re certainly safer flying than you are crossing the road, based on the stats, but managing risk is something we should teach children and especially their parents.

Halloween can be a subtle way to prepare the younger generation to cope with what may occur in their future lives and can add to their emotional growth, provided it is approached in a theatrical and fun manner. It can also assist in teaching children to differentiate between good and evil. I am not too sure about the ethics of trick or treat which seems to conjure up suggestions that bullying is a good thing.

Personally I have experienced enough real horror in my life to want to join in the parties now, but by the same token I have also experienced much pleasure as well. The actual word ‘horror’ conjures up intense feelings of fear and shock, but maybe one needs to experience real horror in order to gain a heightened sense of and appreciate real pleasure as and when it arrives.

As long as kids don’t suffer nightmares as a result or grow up believing that horror is is to be enjoyed rather than endured, I don’t see the harm.

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A bit like religion?

Pay to be frightened? Surely it requires a suspension of logical thought to believe there is something frightening in a staged event?

Seems bizarre way to spend money when one considers that it is scary facing a life of renting possibly, and paying for good care when elderly. Now that IS scary.

I guess I do not like commercialisation, superstition, or the invention of new ways of selling tat.

I can understand that suspending rational thought does help in enjoying the event, and socialising with friends is hopefully good. I was going to say “always” but when I think of some of the pisartists I have known, and what they thought was fun I had to modify the sentence.

On a more general point to Conversations which may need some thought is the implicit recommending of businesses by Which? staff. Would the Conversation have been written if the event had been dire or simply disappointing? Was the venue typical of many or are there better?

I throw it out for discussion.



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I’d be interested to see Alex’s horrorscope. 🙂

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Did all astrologers make exactly the same predictions given the same information – such as the stock bottoming out around Mar 9 2009?

We can always find someone, or some people, who get a prediction right, and many more who get it wrong, by simply not knowing but hazarding a (n educated, maybe) guess.

I am not condemning astrology but would suggest that a good deal of controlled experiments would be necessary to decide whether it has any merit or not. We need to eliminate chance and selective reporting.

I wonder what astrologers say about Brexit and its outcome?

Hi Patrick. Hope you’re well. The purpose of this Conversation (and many others) is not to recommend/rate/review businesses, but to discuss the experience and pose questions for debate.

Would this Convo have been written if Alex hadn’t enjoyed it? Absolutely. We’ll always discuss our opinions, whether they’re positive or negative. Would I visit the Horror at Hinchingbrooke House? Definitely not – scare experiences aren’t for me (not a scary film fan either) – but I’m glad Alex had a good time.

The majority of Alex’s post was actually written before she’d attended, with the remaining part giving her personal thoughts afterwards. We can of course only give an opinion/raise a topic such as this if we’ve had a personal experience to share 🙂

Thanks for a prompt reply. I accept that the Conversation would have been written if Alex had not enjoyed it but wonder at its tenor if it had not been as much fun for her.

A couple of questions:
1. I cannot recall a Which? Conversation that was agin’ a small company. Do you have any examples? I make the point as a Conversation complaining against national rail companies obviously is a different scale and adds nothing beyond the general view. Or Ryanair for that matter.

2. Would the article have suffered if the actual venue had not been named? I do not think so.

Generally I am in favour of naming names most particularly if consumers would suffer. However when it comes to Which? being complimentary one experience seems insufficient to provide such useful positiveness. At the least it will disadvantage competing venues who marginally will lose business to the one Alex visited.

I suspect anyone who has run a business knows how irksome it is if some local rag ignores your business and talks-up another – often based on column inches purchased, or family, or financial connection.

We had planned to discuss Halloween scare experiences in the build up to the 31st either way – I had originally intended to discuss two that I knew of (Tulleys Farm and Thorpe Park, which are more local to me). It just so happened that Alex was attending this one, so could add a personal touch and her own experience of an event near where she lives.

– It isn’t very often we discuss smaller businesses, no. But with seasonal pop-up events like this it can help to name them for context. Which? Conversation certainly isn’t an endorsement or recommendation – we haven’t provided any links through to them (in fact, they’re only mentioned once).
– Perhaps it wouldn’t have suffered, however those with no knowledge of events like this may have preferred to Google for their own research. Alex enjoyed it, but there are plenty of contrasting opinions (including my own) and that, after all, is what Convo is all about.

The tawdry tat that has taken over big spaces in the supermarkets is really what puts me off Hallowe’en.

I am not a fan of the grotesque or the gruesome either. I don’t think I have ever seen a horror film. I don’t think many people pass out in the cinema during horror films so they obviously don’t live up to their billing.

I don’t mind groups of children coming round demanding sweeties with menaces, but I hope they have been instructed to expect the unexpected – I like to make sure they get a good fright when I open the door.

What should one give the children in these days of mass obesity? A giant humbug, perhaps, that won’t fit in their mouths.

The little boys and girls drag their parents around with them nowadays so you have to be careful and can’t do anything too outrageous, tempting though it is to absolutely terrify them.

I wouldn’t pay to go to a fake horror experience but if it takes money out of the economy that would otherwise be in competition with mine it has its good points, I suppose.

Observing again the hideous mock-horrific junk that is on sale in shops as essential accessories for trick-or-treat, it occurred to me that nearly everything was made of plastic and was probably going to have a
single use; much of it is probably already in the bin. So why isn’t there a special levy on this utter trash? Why does anyone need a little orange bucket in order to collect their ‘treats’?

I see no harm in children dressing up and putting on ghoulish make-up, but in the name of Beelzebub can the parents not be a bit more responsible and creative and dress them up in some adapted old clothing that has already had a full life instead of flimsy and ugly costumes shipped thousands of miles half way round the globe? Ghastly plastic spears and tridents, idiotic outfits, and pallid masks that probably frighten the wearer more than the target: whatever possesses people, in this age of austerity, to spend hard-earned money on this appalling gear? If I had half a chance I’d consign it all to Room 101.

I think people should be able to spend their spare money as they wish but we do seem to have lost (well many) the ability to make, and improvise, stuff for ourselves.

I agree about plastics, and wonder when, or if, we will ever get to grips with the damaging waste they create. “Disposable” toys are a major problem, as is plastic clothing; we buy far too much and send non-degradable fibres down the drains via our washing machines.

The Which? Convos on packaging waste seem to have fizzled out; why no campaign to deal with unnecessary plastic packaging and using properly recyclable materials where packaging is needed? Maybe a big tax is necessary to try to reduce its use. Legislation prohibiting it would be better.

…in the name of Beelzebub can the parents not be a bit more responsible and creative

And there John puts his finger squarely on what is probably the major issue in our society today.

What really scares me is being asked to pay for this stuff.

What really bothers me is that kids may feel hard done by if no-one buys them any of it.

On the plus side, trick or treating, does at least make on-street begging legal for one day each year.

I agree with Malcolm that people should be free to spend their spare money as they wish – but I don’t want to hear them whingeing over the cost of living or the price of everything they buy if they kitted their kids out in plastic for one night only.

Really, I am castigating the shops for offering this wasteful rubbish for sale while at the same time proselytising their environmental credentials. They are the irresponsible ones because at the bottom line the only thing that matters is profit and exploiting children’s emulation of their peers is just a means to an end without any moral underpinning at all.

If the parents resisted the urge to buy this stuff the shops wouldn’t sell it. Maybe parents should take more responsibility for their actions. However, they probably don’t see the plastic waste issue. Much like the waste of money spent on unwanted gifts at Christmas and birthdays. Part of many people’s way of life though and all are free to live their lives as they wish, within societies rules. If we want to stop something happening we need to regulate so it applies to everyone. But how far do we want to be regulated?

The commercial exploitation of the public and the willingness of the public to buy seasonal goods is out of hand. When I was a kid all I remember doing was to make a turnip lantern at Halloween. I remember putting a battery and torch bulb in mine, instead of a candle.

“The willingness of the public……is out of hand” . Are you suggesting a stop should be put to what the public are willing to do at Hallowe’en by those who disagree with what they choose to do? Perhaps it would be better to publicise the downside of the waste of plastic and pumpkins and let the receptive ones make their minds up. Legislation on unnecessary plastic packaging could be imposed without taking away people’s freedom of choice.

It’s not just plastic and pumpkins. Did you have a look what was on sale in the last couple of weeks? In principle it’s great to have freedom of choice but I think we need a more sustainable approach. I don’t know the answer but John is right in saying: “Really, I am castigating the shops for offering this wasteful rubbish for sale while at the same time proselytising their environmental credentials. They are the irresponsible ones because at the bottom line the only thing that matters is profit and exploiting children’s emulation of their peers is just a means to an end without any moral underpinning at all.”

Is it possible that the primary schools also do their bit to stoke up the enthusiasm for the Hallowe’en experience? I would like to think they would present an alternative view and do nothing to encourage trick-or-treat, if only because at one level it is antisocial.

Schools could do their bit in encouraging environmental awareness in the young.

Where we live there are no paid-for scare events – or events of any kind really, but on the night itself we do have a few of the farmer’s kids call round, often all being taken on the tractor – significantly more scary and life threatening than anything the supermarkets can contrive.

Because of some things I did in a former life, I have access to a projector, which cycles through a series of ghostly apparitions projected on the front wall of our cave, while a smoke machine produces appropriately eerie (and green) smoke A couple of bass bins, located surreptitiously in the undergrowth, produce barely discernable 14 – 26 MHz rumbles (they feel a sense of dread and unease…), while a broader range unit provides the occasional blood curdling scream.

Great fun, Hallow e’en.

That sounds good. I’d like to be able to do something like that and shake up the suburb. I think sound effects are great and it’ll be dark early tonight so more chance of a sudden shudder. Ooooh, Spooky.

I have been reflecting on my attitude to Hallowe’en. I don’t like horror stuff myself but seem to relish inflicting it on others [especially children]. No real harm intended. Perhaps Beryl can advise. I did have a v. scary incident when I was young that gave me nightmares.

Don’t forget the bats Ian – or did the smoke machine scare them off too?

They’re hibernating – I think.

I used to sleepwalk apparently and experience a few night terrors when I was a child John.

Nightmares are very common in children but there is a difference between nightmares and night terrors, sleeping walking etc.

Nightmares usually occur during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep whereas night terrors are often forgotten the next day because they arise during short-wave sleep, a time when neurons in the neocortex, the brains centre for higher mental functions, are less active.

Read more: http://www.nhs.uk – Night Terrors and Nightmares

Or for a more interesting and scientific approach:
http://www.neuro.hms.harvard.edu – Dept of Neurobiology – Nightmares and the Brain

We went to a local garden centre last week and was surprised at how busy it was with a noticable presence of children. Not Santa’s Grotto already surely?

Nah, they were cashing in with a Halloween grotto. 👻 🎃 👻

I don’t blame them actually, Alfa.

Garden centres have been suffering from the supermarkets taking away a lot of their trade during the planting and growing seasons with special offers on weed control products, tools and accessories, bulbs and seeds, and gardening gear. They suddenly emerge in the ‘seasonal’ aisle and then disappear when the next promotion is due so the supermarkets don’t have any proper commitment to supplying this market year-round, just cherry-picking the profitable period. They don’t exactly beautify their own environments with attractive planting either.

So, good luck to the local garden centres, say I. Get what trade you can in the off-season and if that means cashing in on Hallowe’en and Mother’s Day [some people think they’re the same thing on different dates] then so be it.

Our local (chain) garden centre is always busy, selling cards, books, pottery, pet food, pets, providing a cafe, Christmas decorations……and plants (but no cut flowers). Much of the stuff they grow is well looked after but not cheap. Garden tools and equipment can usually be found significantly cheaper elsewhere. I don’t see why I should support it unless it is competitive.

Last year I bought all my plants for tubs and hanging baskets from B&Q at good prices. Not always well looked after you have to be a bit selective – make sure they’ve been properly watered.

I prefer our local family-run garden centre who have some expertise, concentrate on plants, seeds and garden-related bits and pieces. However I prefer to raise most plants from seed, particularly flowers and veg. More fun, more rewarding and far cheaper.

We once had plant nurseries that raised stock and knew what they were about. A couple still survive near us and are a pleasure to visit. No Hallowe’en, Christmas stuff, fireworks, to negotiate there.

Not discussed directly but the Which? article on Halloween costumes and fire was interesting. As to the cheapness of these once a year costumes this BBC article on the Chineses slave labour used might be a useful lesson in Horror.

Should consumers be told?

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It would be interesting for Which? to set Duncan’s horoscope for Alex up on the bench in their horoscope testing laboratory and run a number of comparative tests on it alongside examples from other horoscope suppliers. How similar or different would they be? Given the millions of pounds that consumers spend on horoscopes and personal predictions it would be a valid exercise in consumer research and in exposing the charlatans. I think Duncan would win hands down on value for money and score quite highly on interpretation, reliability, and hopefully on durability.

On the basis that no two people are identical [because of developmental factors after their birth] even if they share the same dates, times and other characteristics, and given the probability that no two horoscopes are identical, consumers need guidance how to choose an astrologer and what they can expect at different levels of engagement – basic, detailed, and intense, perhaps.

Given that most of the horoscopes I have read have leaned towards the positive aspects of people’s attributes, I have sometimes wondered what happens when a psychopath requests one. Does it hide the dark side? And does the astrologer alert the authorities? – Presumably not because of their code of confidentiality, but that opens up moral and ethical questions.

This might be deemed off-topic, but if we can’t raise these issues on Hallowe’en, when can we do so?

Years ago I had two reading from Astrologers: both were notable in several aspects:

1. Neither said anything negative.
2. Neither was precise nor detailed, so they essentially flim-flammed their way through them.
3. Both disagreed with each other.

A while ago I popped along to a Medium show (not rare) and was fascinated to see how they operate. There seem to be some basic methods:

1. Say only positive things. If you say something like ‘You are creative and hard working’ then most aren’t going to disagree.
2. Be incredibly imprecise: “Did you know a John? A George” A Michael? A person?” is better than “Did you ever meet a short Aborigine violinist on the Bridge of Sighs at 0452 on a Wednesday?”
3. Play to your audience: tell women they’re influenced by emotions, while you tell men they’re too strong minded and reluctant to discuss their emotions.
4. Never, ever reveal anything detailed which could expose you as the fraud you know you are. The Psychics and Astrologers that prey on the recently bereaved or desperate are not only charlatans but deluded and potentially dangerous, but they know they have a ready made audience in the gullible, the desperate, the bereaved and the lonely.

The other methodology widely employed is to do background research. ‘Good’ astrologers, mediums and psychics are usually adept at reading small cues in the victim’s voice, eyes, facial expression and sometimes from information gained as people enter. They can use that information for their own ends very creatively.

My better half and I both attended a Psychics convention some years ago and bought a set of Tarot cards for use in tricks I was doing. The psychic concerned was very pleasant and delightful to talk to, but it was interesting when she asked me did I have a bank card when I paid by cheque…

If there was anything at all to psychics, astrologers and mediums you woudn’t have to tell them anything at all. As a member of one of the regional Magic Circles in the UK we had a standing challenge to any psychics, astrologers and mediums to give us a reading based only on our presence. No information would be provided, since if there were anything to this rubbish they would ‘know’. The challenge was never accepted in thirty years.

If anyone would like me to do a reading for them, please let me know in here. I’ll do it in the Lobby. No charge. 🙂

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I wouldn’t use the internet or a script, Duncan. Magicians and astrologers have something in common: illusion. Now, astrologers at least have a pseudo-science to which they adhere; psychic and mediums have none, but they all rely on the ability to read their audience and evoke a degree of sympathy from the group.

But I’ll happily do one for anyone – in the lobby. I might surprise you.

Obviously Ian’s not pshysic or he’d know if he had any potential customers… 😉

What’s that I hear? It’s a voice – Debbie, Dennek, Derek – it’s Derek! Derek- did you know someone whose name started with a consonant? Or a vowel?

I do believe in mind readers having exceptional powers. When at a conference dinner the evening entertainment included a mind reader. He picked on members of the audience and subjected them to his act. When he was looking intently at our table one of my colleagues said afterwards that he had thought “if you pick on any of us I’ll punch your ******* head in!” And it worked.

As for astrology and horoscopes has anyone seen any scientifically conducted research? https://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/astrology_checklist https://www.llewellyn.com/blog/2009/10/an-astounding-proof-of-astrology/

You are going on a journey.
A friend will call today.
Your wife will soon get “yearney”
If you don’t attention pay.

Your stars are in the ascendance,
That means it’s time to act.
Jupiter shows your dependence
On skill to show some tact.

Someone close will need advice
You might need to give it.
Not always, always being nice,
Will fend that pointed digit.

Feelings run a little high
On Thursday, in the street.
Best to smile and give a sigh
Keep utterances discrete.

Work day colleagues need a boost
When news on Friday bothers.
You decide who rules the roost
And when that job’s another’s.

Today’s the day to be quite daring,
Push the boat out make that leap.
Stop pausing at that move, and staring
This is a promise you must keep.

You know you said what you regret
Now’s time to make amends.
No point getting so upset
A few kind words and you’ll be friends.

You might feel a little blue
On Saturday or Sunday.
Others need to have a clue
To why you want your own way.

Wednesday watch for some commotion
Keep in readiness to act.
Wait until you have a notion
To sort the gossip from the fact.

Book that appointment right away
You know the one I mean.
It’s time to face it, come what may,
Then you’ll see what can be seen.

I predict that all of you
Will find here truth, perhaps oblique.
And that’ s the way in which to do
A horoscope column each week.

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Well put, Duncan – and very honest. Yes – intuition is simply a term that applies to the ability to detect a great deal about another person or situation from careful observation based on experience. Some people are almost magically intuitive. And I have no issue whatsoever with someone using that ability to help and support folk as you clearly do. Sadly, not all are as conscientious and the exploitative are always out there trying to con.

Among the paraphernalia on display at Halloween were a cauldron and skull producing water vapour mist, much as dry ice does in water. Dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) is not readily available, so I investigated and discovered that the devices contain ultrasonic generators. I don’t know what frequency they operate at but they could confuse any bats in the area.