In Blackpool's Tower Dungeon, I had found myself transported back in time to the midst of the War of the Roses. Lancashire and Yorkshire were engaged in a bitter conflict and here I was, a proud Bradfordian, stood in the heart of Red Rose territory being interrogated as to where my allegiances lay. A violent sadist, wielding various instruments of barbaric torture, demanded with increasing intensity if I was from the county across the Pennines or, indeed, if I even knew of anyone from there.
Deadly Diseases (which runs until the 30th September).
Having been greeted by a rather threatening jester, the tour of Blackpool's gruesome past takes us visitors through a series of rooms manned by ten live actors role-playing a motley gang of plague doctors, ruthless judges and perverted inquisitors.
Each location is perfectly decorated to represent the squalor of bygone eras and each of the actors is fully committed, some with lunatic abandon, to their larger than life characters. The result is a rather enjoyable piece of interactive theatre which flits from pleasingly scary to understated mirth. Whilst it should be noted that a few children (accompanied by parents) did decide to explore the dungeon during the show I attended, some of the younger, more timid ones left the show early - for those planning on taking kids, parental discretion is advised. The main frights come from jump scares in the dark and, rather than outright terror, the overall effect of Deadly Diseases is a continual sense of nervous laughter.
The experience ends with a rather short drop ride - I had no idea what to expect when buckling in and will refrain from spoilers in this review. My one tip is to note that your photo will be taken during the "death drop"; my gurning face, upper and lower teeth grinding heavily into one another, captured by the dungeon's camera is testament to the visceral anxiety I felt. Wisely, perhaps, I decided not to invest in this less than-flattering-photo from the gift shop at the end of the day.
Seeking a cold beverage to recuperate my nerves, I was very pleased to discover the presence of a beer-stop, The Hangman's Tavern, at the end of the trip. The olde style pub, replete with barrel-tables and saloon-style doors, was both welcoming and a welcome place to recompose myself after my voyage into some of the darkest times in this country's history.
The visit ended, of course, with a trip to the gift shop which sold a plethora of mementos and, even, show props (including these viking helmets). Unfortunately my visit to the attraction came a short while after the dungeons had taken part in a sell off of some of their most extravagant and extreme props at Blackpool market (as seen below on September 10th).
Whilst I did indeed invest in a souvenir picture of the day (a print of myself about to be beheaded), the opportunity to purchase a disemboweled body or a decapitated cranium had passed me by. Instead, I'll take home tales of terror and a growing fear of what is waiting for me in the shadows.
* Tickets for this review were provided free of charge but opinions, and horror, are entirely (and frightfully) my own.