Never mind the children, I'm still traumatised by Alton Towers' haunted house | Steve Canavan

I’m suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the moment, after a visit to Alton Towers.

Friday, 8th October 2021, 5:21 pm
Haunted House rides were less traumatising when Steve was young. Picture by Shutterstock

Now before Alton Towers call their solicitors and sue me for all I’ve got, which as it stands (given I have a four-year-old daughter who refuses to eat any type of ham other than thick cut Marks & Spencer‘s… boy, do I regret the day I first fed her that), is about £19.72, let me clear that it’s a fine theme park.

Indeed if what excites you in life is queueing for 45 minutes in inclement weather to eventually climb aboard a small carriage and be whizzed around for 90 seconds while holding your hands in the air and screaming like a demented madman, Alton Towers is wonderful.

However, I’m not a fan of theme parks.

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I enjoy them as much as I would running a double marathon over mountainous terrain while wearing a pair of ill-fitting clogs.

I have, as a result, always avoided them like the plague.

Or, to modernise that slightly outdated phrase, like Covid-19.

The problem I have is that I cannot go on any ride, even the very tamest, like a children’s carousel, without feeling an overwhelming urge to vomit in spectacular style.

Indeed this once happened, at Alton Towers actually, when six friends and I went on a ride called River Rapids – essentially a small boat floating serenely along some water and which is so pathetically unexciting and safe it’s suitable for under-twos.

Halfway around my stomach seemed to begin to do some sort of impromptu vigorous gymnastics routine, my face turned an odd off-green colour, and shortly afterwards I found myself leaning over the side and letting hurl into the water (I still feel a pang of guilt towards the blokes whose job it is to clean the rapids at the end of the day... “Hey Jeff, you seen this? What the hell is it?” “Looks like a carrot Dave, and maybe some sweetcorn.”)

Furthermore, by some interesting quirk of fate, my vomiting happened at exactly the point in the ride where there’s a camera positioned to take a photo of your happy smiling group, the idea being you can purchase it afterwards at some vastly inflated price before leaving it unseen in the glove box of your car for the next seven years.

On the photo, you can actually see me being sick.

I know this because my friends insisted on purchasing it and gave it me the following Christmas in a frame.

I had it on the mantelpiece for several years. If nothing else it was a conversation starter at family gatherings. "Hey Steve, what’s that coming out of your mouth on that photo?” “Well Uncle John it’s actually projectile vomit. Anyway, back to the buffet – feel free to help yourself to a vol-au-vent.”

Some people, of course, adore theme parks and can’t get enough of them.

Indeed, many years ago I worked at a newspaper located in Blackpool and a bloke used to come over from America every year, his mission in life to set a world record for the longest time on a rollercoaster.

He would spend months on end sat on the biggest ride at the Pleasure Beach, allowed only a five-minute break every hour to change clothes, freshen up, or grab some food.

He was successful in breaking the word record – spending 405 hours and 40 minutes on there, in case you’re wondering – but, and I don’t wish to be too critical of anyone with an ambition, but surely there must be something missing from your life if you spend six months of the year on rollercoaster in Blackpool going round in circles all day?

I assume, and I think this is a safe assumption, he isn’t married (or if he was, he isn’t any more).

I imagine him arriving home in Wisconsin, or wherever it is he lives, swinging open the door and shouting: “Hey honey I’m home”, to be greeted by deafening silence, empty cupboards, and a note stuck to the fridge saying: “I’m leaving you, you weirdo. I’ve gone to live with a guy called Martin, who’s an IT consultant and although he likes rollercoasters, only goes on one once or twice a year LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE.”

So, anyway, on Sunday we trekked to Alton Towers with our two offspring in tow and basically spent eight hours on a succession of rides ranging from the Peter Rabbit Hippity Hop, the Go Jetters Vroomster Zoom Ride and the Postman Pat Parcel Post.

The day flew by.

Alas the kids were enjoying it so much we got over-confident and took them on the Haunted House, which, though designed for adults, we thought would be fun for them.

I’m not sure if you’ve been on a haunted house ride lately but turns out they are a hell of a lot scarier than they used to be back in my day, with 3D ghostly figures popping out of walls along with ghoulish-looking creatures brandishing knives.

Halfway around, Mary, aged four, began sobbing uncontrollably and put her head up my jumper in a bid to escape the terrible sights, while our two-year-old Wilf emerged looking like a shell-shocked soldier seven months into particularly blood-curdling campaign.

Four days on he’s still wandering around with a hollow look in his eyes, repeatedly saying: “Monster, me scared, monster”.

We’ve been advised to seek counselling if he doesn’t improve by the end of the week.

So there we go.

If you love Alton Towers, fair enough and may you have many happy visits there.

Me? I won’t be rushing back.

And neither, I suspect, will Wilf.

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