‘The Curse at Alton Manor’ is a re-imagined haunted dark ride that originally opened in 1992 at Alton Towers. In September 2022, the ride was completely redesigned, removing the laser guns in favour of a narrative driven Victorian themed haunted house with a whole new storyline, set design and special effects.
The creative team at Merlin Magic Making crafted a home-grown story that would be uniquely tied to Alton Towers. Following consumer research, it was clear that those who had ridden the original attraction always remembered the little girl in the dollhouse (Emily), yet her story was untold, which gave the creatives the opportunity to develop a narrative focused on Emily, her dolls and the spirits that possess the Manor House.
‘Creepy ghost girls’ is a growing trend in the horror genre and it felt important to combine this with the rich history of the towers, developing a story rooted in the Alton estate with characters already at play across the resort. This way only Alton Towers could create such an attraction with deep storytelling at its heart.
Long ago, Alton Manor was home to the wealthy Alton family, who had a little girl called Emily.
Emily was a sweet child who wished for nothing more than love from her parents. However her parents were more interested in throwing lavish parties and crafted her a doll’s house from the finest Alton forest oak to keep her out of sight and mind.
As she played alone in the attic, the sound of the parties echoed through the halls of the Manor. Here she would pretend that she too was at the party and would play with her doll’s house and recreate what was happening in the grand hall below. But it wasn’t enough. She developed a bitter hatred towards her parents and society. Lonely and forgotten, that hatred grew and possessed her soul as she became a vessel of evil.
On a stormy night in 1891, Alton Manor was hosting a lavish New Years party. As the clock struck midnight, lightning struck, plunging the house into darkness. The screams of guests drowned the music. When the lights returned, all at the party were dead!
Nobody knows what happened on that fateful night. To this day, Emily’s laugh haunts Alton Manor as she searches for something or someone new to play with.
How the story unfolds:
When the attraction closed and was ‘repossessed’, the storytelling began. A curated marketing campaign tied in closely with the creative team’s vision as snippets of the story were released towards opening day, setting the tone of the ride.
Today, there is an open house and guests are invited inside. Guests are immersed in the story through a combination of physical set pieces, a bespoke musical score, which was developed to tell the story through melody, as well as special effects and poetry. By the time guest step onto the ride, the key beats of the story have been drilled into the guests more so than any other ride previously created at Alton Towers.
Through-out the design process of the attraction, the Victorian era storyline set a design principle of using classic Victorian illusions such as peppers ghosts but amplifying these with technology such as projection mapping and special effects to create a truly immersive experience. For example, Emily’s ghostly whispers can be heard by you and you alone, through specialised AV equipment.
The spirit of Emily joins guests on their tour of the house, revealing what happened on that night in 1891. After trying to play some creepy games, she grows angry and shrinks them down to be dolls in her doll house for a terrifying finale. Weaving through a giant demonic playset, they confront a huge screaming Emily crashing down from the ceiling.
Every scene was reworked and no stone was left unturned as Emily’s narrative weaves its way into everything from the building façade to the F&B offering. The ride opened in March 2023 to a tremendous reaction from lifelong fans of the park through to new guests as they finally discover the real story of Emily Alton.