Deeper. Darker. More intense. The demon has risen as Derren Brown’s Ghost Train has been re-vamped for 2017. A 21st Century re-invention of the classic ghost train ride which will make you question where perception ends and reality begin, Derren Brown’s Ghost Train: Rise of the Demon promises to take guests on a journey into the unknown combining both live action and virtual reality. Are you brave enough to face the demon as it rises from below?
Located at the heart of the Island in a disused Victorian warehouse, Derren Brown’s Ghost Train takes guests on a multi-sensory journey which will de-rail their minds and leave them questioning where their perception ends and reality begins. Masterminded by psychological magician Derren Brown, Thorpe Parks Resort’s latest attraction has been over three years in development and involved a team of over 1000 specialists to make Derren Brown’s vision a reality using ‘cutting edge technology’ including HTC Vive Virtual Reality systems, and filming using Nokia Ozo cameras.
As guests approach the attraction they pass through a feature sign leading to a partially covered queue area. Here guests will enter the themed queue line which is split into main, fastrack and disabled queues. The queue line features two photo points, one of which is themed as an ‘infection check point’ giving the first hint as to the storyline of the attraction. Once guests reach the front of the queue they are batched into one of two holding areas. Upon entering the main building guests are presented with a short pre-show featuring a projection of Derren Brown himself, before being directed towards the boarding area. On entering the main warehouse section of the attraction building guest are greeted by a seven tonne Victorian train carriage suspended in mid-air by Iron Chains giving the first indication of the journey which lies ahead. Guests then proceed to the ride vehicle over the first of two metal bridges, with each train capable of holding up to 58 guests. The ride experience features a mix of live action sequences, grand-scale illusions, 4D special effects, and virtual reality technology with guests playing a major part in the action to fully immerse them in the experience as they discover the consequences of Sub Core Energy’s programme of drilling into the Earth’s core. No two journeys on board Derren Brown’s Ghost Train are the same with a range of journeys featuring a range of different characters and, as of the 2017 season, an additional surprise at the end of their journey.
- Duration: 10-15 minutes
- Capacity: 58 Seats per train
- Ride Type: Multi-Sensory Ghost Train featuring a mix of physical transit, live action, grand illusion, 4D and virtual reality.
- Creator: Derren Brown and Merlin Magic Making with over 1000 specialists
- Ride Area: Purpose built warehouse occupying 2306 square metres
- Minimum Height: 1.4 metres
- Age Recommendation: 13+
Derren Brown’s Ghost Train is located on the site of the former Arena and Carousel. Over the years the Arena has hosted a wide range of shows from Spiderman to a variety of stunt shows. In 2006 the Arena was used as a temporary home for a succession of the Theme Park’s Fright Nights including Se7en, Experiment 10 and My Bloody Valentine.
In October 2014 plans were submitted for a “first of its kind indoor fully themed attraction’ located on the site of the former Arena and adjacent to X, Nemesis Inferno and Amity Boardwalk. Codenamed “Project Whitechapel” or “WC16” for short, plans detailed a purpose built building with a “warehouse themed appearance”, along with an entrance plaza and feature theming element. Inside the building a distinct ride area was shown with a baggage hold and loading and unloading platform indicating guests would board a ride vehicle of some kind. The plans were approved in the following January, paving the way for construction to begin later on in 2015.
The first signs of construction appeared in spring 2015 and the first foundations for the main building being laid in May. Construction progressed swiftly with the skeleton of the building being erected in August and much of the exterior walls being completed by the end of the main 2015 season in November.
Work continued to progress throughout the closed season with both Thorpe Park Resort and Derren Brown releasing periodic teasers relating to the attraction’s theme until, on Monday 18th January, the Island’s “Dark Secret” was finally revealed.
With the theme park opening for the 2016 season in March, there was plenty of opportunity to see the progress made over the closed season and observe the final stages of preparations to the attraction in the build up to the grand opening, which was announced as May 6th 2016. Throughout March and April a range of theming details were added to the exterior of attraction giving further subtle hints to the theme of the attraction. On Friday 26th March the Ghost Train Shop opened at what would become the exit to the attraction. In-keeping with the overall theme of the attraction, the shop included a number of features where all was not as it seemed, including a rotating wall, and a fortune telling machine, and offered a range of merchandise from your typical t-shirts, hoodies, and pens, to more unique items such as artwork and a levitating train.
However, despite the apparently good progress being made on the attraction, on Wednesday April 27th, less than 10 days before the previously announced opening date of Friday 6th May, THOPRE PARK Resort announced that they were delaying the opening of the attraction. There was no new opening date confirmed with the announcement of the delay with the Resort instead telling people to keep their eyes on social media and the Resort’s website for an announcement of the new opening date and any references to the May 6th date being replaced with ‘Arriving May 2016 – date coming soon’.
As May progressed the final touches appeared to be being made to the exterior of the attraction with queue time boards being installed at the ride entrance, additional signage added to the main, fastrack and disabled queues, and the temporary fencing being replaced with permanent fences around the outside boundaries of the building. Inside the Ghost Train Shop the ride photos were tested in seeming preparation for the opening of the attraction. The Resort also released the official television advert which advertised the attraction as ‘coming end of May’ raising hopes that it would not be long until Derren Brown’s Ghost Train finally took its first passengers. Despite the apparent good progress, on Tuesday 24th May the Resort released another statement on their social media channels stating that once again the attraction would be delayed and this time not giving any clue as to when the ride would open.
On Saturday 18th June the Resort held the first in a number of limited previews, with Shark Hotel and other invited guests being some of the first to experience the attraction. These previews were the first opportunities that members of the public had had to experience the attraction, however, anyone who experienced the attraction during these previews had to sign a non-disclosure agreement which prevented them from divulging any of the attractions secrets.
Following the limited previews, and without warning, on Friday 1st July the attraction entered ‘Technical Rehearsals’, offering the general public their first opportunity to discover what lay inside Thorpe Junction. The rehearsals saw the attraction opening around lunchtime each day, however the ride was subject to several periods of downtime due to technical delays, something which was only to be expected with the ride only in a rehearsal phase. Only a limited number of the available scenarios were activated during this rehearsal period with only one ending active, and a number of other characters kept under wraps. Despite this, reactions to the attraction were generally positive from those who experienced it.
The ride finally officially opened on Friday 8th July 2016 with no prior announcement from the Resort that the attraction was moving from technical rehearsal to official opening. Queues over the official opening weekend peaked at 200 minutes with the Resort having to set up a temporary extension queue.
Following the official opening the attraction had a mixed first half season with it being affected by several periods of short downtime and the ride frequently opening between one to two hours after the main theme park opened at 10am each day. Thorpe Park Resort planned a one off Summer Nights event at the start of August for annual pass holders to celebrate the newest addition to the theme park, however technical issues struck the ride once again resulting in the ride failing to open for the event.
Despite initially advertising in press releases that Derren Brown’s Ghost Train would have 12 possible journeys and 2 different endings, only a small selection of these were activated including just one of the two endings.
At the start of October 2016, Thorpe Park Resort started advertising a ‘new terrifying destination for 2017’ on posters around the Resort. Many speculated that this would be the addition of the second ending which was initially supposed to be active when the attraction opened, however the Resort were keeping any further details about the new destination top secret.
On October 19th 2016 Thorpe Park Resort submitted plans for an extension to the building housing Derren Brown’s Ghost Train. Described as comprising ‘an enclosed shop and open roofed lobby space’, the extension would also see a new set of solid timer doors and a themed window. Whilst the plans didn’t indicate what would happen to the existing shop they did state that the changes would ‘enhance the visitor experience’ suggesting that there could potentially be alterations to the existing interior layout, something which would point to an additional element of the attraction.
It would be on 17th January 2017 that the Resort would confirm the new name for the attraction, Derren Brown’s Ghost Train: Rise of the Demon, promising that the attraction would be ‘deeper, darker, and more intense’ than before, however exact details of the changes were kept a closely guarded secret.
Further details regarding the new version of the attraction were revealed on 9th March 2017, including confirmation that the attraction would include a deleted scene not previously signed off due to fears guests would find it too intense. A few days later the Resort would confirm the official opening date as 31st March 2017.
Throughout the summer weeks of 2015 Thorpe Park Resort teased various elements of the new attraction with a marketing campaign combining social media, posters around the theme park, and a dedicated website, Minds Wanted, revealing a series of clues for people to solve and win the chance to be amongst the first to experience the new attraction when the ride opens in Spring this year.
During Fright Nights 2015 a number of subtle hints were placed within THE BIG TOP scare maze, along with further clues on social media, all of which offered pointers towards the involvement of Derren Brown. Derren Brown’s involvement would finally be revealed at the end of October after a series of teaser posts across the Resort’s social media channels.
In the months following the announcement of Derren Brown’s involvement of the project, Thorpe Park Resort continued to gradually unveil further clues on MindsWanted.co.uk, each offering a hint toward the theme of the attraction. On Monday 18th January 2016 Thorpe Park Resort and Derren Brown finally revealed the secret they’d been teasing since summer 2015 with the announcement that the new attraction would be named “Derren Brown’s Ghost Train” and feature, amongst other elements, a carriage suspended by iron chains, and the use of HTC Virtual Reality technology in a 21st Century reinvention of the classic ride. The precise details of the experience are still being kept under wraps with Derren Brown wishing the attraction to remain a secret so that those yet to board the Ghost Train can experience it at its full potential.
On April 18th 2016 Thorpe Park Resort and Derren Brown unleashed a terrifying demon on the public as the Resort stepped up its marketing campaign in advance of the opening of the new attraction the following month. The demon type creature was revealed to be one of a number of characters who would feature in the virtual reality storyline of the attraction and was designed by Derren Brown himself, alongside a team of specially commissioned special effects experts and prosthetic artists.
With the confirmation of a delay to the planned opening date of May 6th the Resort reduced their marketing activity. On May 14th the official advert for the attraction was released featuring Derren Brown himself and a few subtle hints towards the VR content. The advert also offered a new opening date with the final frame stating ‘Coming end of May’. With the confirmation of the second delay on the 24th May, the advert was changed to simply state ‘Coming Soon’, leaving many frustrated at the lack of a definitive opening date.
After much anticipation the attraction finally opened on 8th July. Selected press and other invited guests were able to experience the attraction the day before the official launch allowing for one final publicity push to coincide with the official opening.
At the start of October 2016 posters started appearing around the Resort advertising a ‘new terrifying destination for 2017’, however precise details of the new destination were kept secret.
On 21st December 2016, Thorpe Park Resort released what at first seemed like a seemingly innocent Christmas video. However, the video was in fact another teaser for Derren Brown’s Ghost Train’s new destination and prompted a number of media outlets to report that the video was intended as a television advert which was banned due to being inappropriate for the timeslot it was reportedly booked for.
Further teaser videos were released during January 2017 promising a ‘service update’ for the attraction. On the 17th January these teasers revealed the new name for the attraction, Derren Brown’s Ghost Train: Rise of the Demon.
It would be March before the next flurry of marketing activity occurred, with the Resort publishing a blog seemingly promising the announcement of an opening date for the ride on Tuesday 7th March. However, no announcement was made on that date, instead those who questioned Thorpe Park Resort’s Twitter account what had happened received a cryptic reply telling them either to check their Direct Messages with a Gif stating ‘Did you think it would be that easy’, or that ‘We’re no longer looking for volunteers…We look forward to seeing you on the other side…’ suggesting that the Resort had something else planned before they announced an official opening date. On 15th March 2017, the Resort finally confirmed that Derren Brown’s Ghost Train: Rise of the Demon would open on 31st March 2017.
When the Island’s dark secret was finally revealed on 18th January 2016, these two videos were released by Thorpe Park Resort, giving guests an insight into Derren Brown’s 21st Century re-invention of the ghost train.
Ghost Train Shop
Ahead of the attraction’s opening, the Ghost Train Shop was opened at the end of March allowing guests a first look inside the disused warehouse and the opportunity to purchase a range of unique merchandise, which gave a hint at the mind-blowing contents of the Ghost Train itself.
At the beginning of December 2015, two life-size Victorian dolls spooked London commuters, then, with opening day just weeks away, Derren let a demonic creature loose on unsuspecting staff members.
As part of the marketing campaign for Derren Brown’s Ghost Train, people were tasked with solving seven clues on MindsWanted.co.uk several of which were given in the form of a short video clip.
6th May 2016
On the day that the attraction was originally supposed to open to the public, the exterior appears largely finished. What appear to be photo opportunities in the queue-line now look complete, with appropriate signage added. Finishing touches have also been added to the queue’s canopy, with themed brackets and rust paintwork being added to the supports. At the entrance to the attraction, signage detailing the restrictions, highlighting the height restriction and identifying the queue-lines have all been added, along with the LED panel that will display the queue time. The photo kiosk at the end of the attraction inside the shop also looks complete, with the screens and unique projected ‘head in a jar’ displays now functioning, along with the addition of signage.
16th April 2016
With less than three weeks to go until the attraction’s original opening date, work is progressing on adding some of the finishing touches to the exterior of the main building. Posters (which seem to indicate a fracking theme) and painted signs have been applied to some of the exterior walls in the queueline, whilst the main entrance sign now has a blue background giving it the same appearance as the logo published online. The attraction shop has opened to the public featuring a range of themed merchandise, as well as giving a peek at the photo counter which guests will pass after exiting the attraction.
13th March 2016
When the park opened for the Annual Pass Preview Day, the building looked vastly different to what it did at the end of the 2015 season. The warehouse exterior is now fully themed, including painted signage along with distressed and broken windows. The majority of the queueline has been installed, including the gated entrance to the ride and its signage. Unfortunately there is no sign of the tower theming feature shown on the plans, suggesting it has been scrapped.
Closed Season 2015/16
With the park now closed until March 2016, construction was now able to progress away from the prying eyes of guests. By January the structure was largely complete with the main ride building already receiving a significant amount of its ‘Thorpe Junction’ theming, whilst the lower section began to receive its cladding and the queue-line its canopy framework.
Images credit to THORPE PARK Resort social media.
1st November 2015
Almost all of the building’s steelwork has now been erected, with the tallest section of the building now having the first stages of its themed cladding applied. At the very front of the building a brick wall is being constructed, as the building’s interior becomes increasingly enclosed, keeping its secrets out of sight.
29th August 2015
The constructed portion of the lowest part of the building has received its red corrugated metal cladding, similar to the nearby building which houses X. Elsewhere on site, the concrete foundations for the other sections of the building have been poured. New promotional posters advertising the MindsWanted website have replaced those previously on the construction walls.
14th August 2015
Vertical construction has been continuing at a rapid pace with a roof now installed on the first section of the building. Metal supports have been installed around the sides to support the building’s exterior cladding. Inside, what appears to be some form of tunnel is being installed, however it is now known at this stage how this will fit into the overall attraction.
5th July 2015
Work is progressing on the main foundations for the building, with concrete posts being installed within a pit in the ground situated near the site of the former Carousel to help support the main structure.
28th May 2015
The outline for the building foundations has started to appear with a metal retaining wall in place ready for excavation.
Photos taken with permission from the top of Colossus during a coaster climb.