Amusement parks, theme parks, ride photography

Duel At Alton Towers, Behind the Scenes and History

The arguement rages on over Duel vs the Haunted house and I don’t think we will ever get a group of enthusiasts to agree which was/is better. For me personally it has to be the Haunted House and one of the reasons I wrote this article

Ive split this article in two, initially ill take a look at a behind the scenes tour done during July 2007 this will be followed up with some history and photographs of the haunted house written by the Mik the editor of the Haunted one.

Familiar scene outside Duel.

One of the first things to see when you enter the ride itself is he rocking table and chairs.

The guy is hiding in one of the corners.

Walls are covered in Spiders.

I must admit I have never seen this rat before and ive been on this ride an awful lot of times.

Signs not normally noticed when riding, this one is just before the revolving tunnel.

Revolving tunnel with club members in the way :-)

The illusion which creates bats flying overhead.

More zombies.


This guy swings out when you go past, again full of targets.

Scary Spider.

Skeleton, at one point this guy had a hat on.

Further around looking back at the skeleton.

Looking back from the garden room. This room is very hazy so ive tried to remove some of this in photoshop.

One of the most memorable characters the undertaker.

Looking back at the undertaker.

Grim reaper.

more theming.

A few coffins.

Approaching the end of the ride.

A couple of random photos.

The maintenance area.

and again.

One of the control system computers in the maintenance area.

Techy stuff.

In the control box.

Car location planel.

Finally back in the ride station.

Now for a look at the original Haunted House.

Designed by… John Wardley

In conjunction with… Keith Sparks and Sparks Creative Services

Ride Transit System by Mack Designs

Portraits produced by Alton Towers in-house art department.

Year of Design 1990

Year of Opening March 1992

Fibreglass and Poly-foam props produced by Rex Studios

Atmospheric smells provided by Dale Air

Foggers provided by Peasoup

The Haunted house was designed by John Wardley back in 1990 after Alton towers research showed that people thought that the park was mainly aimed at the teenage market.

John Wardley designs for the runaway mine train and the haunted house, were accepted and the ride build proceeded. It took a further two years to get the ride from drawing board to reality. Keith Sparks Company Sparks Creative services were drafted into helped to create the theming within the ride. Sparks creative services enlisted the help of a number of dark ride subcontractors these including Mack rides who designed the 300m transit system and 32 coffin style cars. Each Car cost £18,000 to make and contain an on board computer system that communicates between the ride station and other cars to help keep the distance and speed needed in certain sections of the ride. Rex Studios were involved in the fibreglass and poly-foam construction and Dale air and Pea soup used their expertise to create the atmosphere smells and foggers. Also involved in the construction was the Alton Towers in-house art department they helped create effect throughout the ride but mainly the dressing of the queue area.

The ride was opened officially in March 1992 by Philip Schoffield and the ride proved to be a great success. It was the first expensively created haunted dark ride of its kind in the UK and some thought it surpassed that of the haunted mansion.

The original haunted house integrated sounds, lights, animatronics, aromas and optical illusions on a massive scale. The original queue area is very similar to today’s Duel queue are however the atmosphere was far more intense with many people fleeing before they even got to the ride station.

The ride incorporated seven pieces of music that included The Entrance Hall, The Drawing Room, The Tunnel of Doom, The Giants Lair, The Ghoulish Garden, The Final Chase and Escape! It also incorporated several separate sound effects such as Emily Alton’s haunting lament and Thunder score. There is a debate at the moment to who actually composed the haunted house score, all I can say is that the music is copyrighted to G Smart at Beulah Music Wales.

The ride stood tall as a flagship attraction at Alton Towers for many years but slowly declined from Alton Towers favour and that of the general public, basically because the ride became shabby and under maintained and also rider expectations became too much. There is also a shadier side to the demise of the haunted house attraction, unbeknown to Alton Towers and the Tussauds Group copyright issues arose in relation to the portraits that hung within the ride and they were forced to remove them.

Tussauds need to do something fast to ensure that the expensive ride was able to continue and the idea of Duel and a revamp was needed. Guns were added and new props and portraits were installed and the ride became popular again. Unfortunately the revamp swallowed up the original special effects and new lighting enabled the rider to see the hidden mechanics of the ride. The concept of Duel was good but seemed to be rushed and ill thought through. Leaving die hard dark ride fans divided over the haunted house conversion. I myself felt that the mystery, magic and atmosphere of the ride was gone and didn’t provide the sparkle that a flagship Alton Towers Attraction should have. It seemed to me that the ride was lost in ideas, concepts and suspense; however I must admit that adding the blasters does give the ride definite re-ride appeal.

Haunted One

I would like to pass on a huge thanks to Mik at the Haunted one. for taking the time out to write about the history and provide me with the haunted house photographs. Anyone interested in finding out more about the attraction be sure to visit the

If you want to use any photographs that are watermarked on this blog please get in touch im quite happy to share and have high resolution copies of everything used, to see the complete gallery visit the Ridemad Gallery

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Thanks for Reading.

There Are 17 Responses So Far. »

  1. […] I was fortunate enough to go on a behind the scenes tour of Alton Towers with fellow members of Club Pleasure Beach at the end of July earlier this year. The tour consisted of a number of attractions including Duel, Hex, Air, Oblivion and the old Black hole site. One part of the tour I was looking forward to seeing was Rita the hydraulic launched coaster from Intamin which was introduced to the park in April 2005. […]

  2. thank you for that write up I thought it was very helpful and easy to understand. all the best. if you ever go again please tell me what the giant spider is made of and how much it weighs. from Paul Hincks

  3. Hi Paul,
    Thanks for the comment, its hard to say how much the spider weighs without reaching up and grabbing it, although it is quite high up in the attraction.

    I would imagine its made of fibreglass like most stunts/tricks these days.


  4. What a great behind the scenes look at the ride! I was there during the ‘Scarefest’ event this week, and from 3pm till 9pm they seemed to have reverted the ride back to its original form – they called it Duel Live and had (I think) 3 real people in costume posted around the ride to add extra scares. This added to the suspense for me as I didn’t know what to expect, dispite having ridden this ride in both its Haunted House and Duel forms!

  5. […] Duel Behind the Scenes Alton Towers Almanac: Attractions: Duel – The Haunted House Strikes Back Duel At Alton Towers, Behind the Scenes and History : nochmal Behind the Scenes Alton Towers Haunted House Website Website __________________ Ist der […]

  6. i think the scariest bit on duel is the demons cause as soon as you turn round the corner it pops out at you

  7. I think it’s fantastic to see so much interest about this understated ride! I work in there and it is my most favourite place to be! I just love the whole atmosphere of the ride with the combination of sounds, the music and the dark!
    Unfortunately I never had the opportunity of experiencing it as ‘The Haunted House’ so sites such as these are brilliant to see how it has changed. I found this web site very informative and interesting! :)

    I shall try and find out how much the large spider weighs! :)

  8. I didnt like this ride, Im 14 and cried on it :/ I think its a tad scary :( But thats just my opinion… I felt like punching one of those things that pops out

  9. I stumbled across this article and was interested to see that it has only changed a little bit. I was Project Manager on this scheme working for Sparks Creative Services in Colchester and know (or knew) the site intimately but more from a construction point of view rather than technical. Brought back many memories.

  10. Thanks for getting in touch Nick, I’ve spent many happy hours on that ride. A friend of mine runs the haunted One which is a site dedicated to the towers ride

    Very good site and well worth a look with allot more in depth information than i have provided.


  11. Thanks for the great photos. I have been on the BEHIND THE SCENES tour and have got some photos myself. Great, isnt it?

  12. ive just googled sparks creative and found this site> i used to work on this stuff back at mersea island nr colchester essex i had the best time i loved all that stuff i have lost contact with everyone now though i used to do keiths gardening but i used to get the job of going to the designers at first leisure in soho and showing the models of the rides a guy called Gently used to design and make the models in Northium kent … those were the days i wonder if keith is still about let me know if you do

  13. Superb, we had a great day, really interesting.

  14. im neil watson a ride expert i went to see haunted house with graham owens and john wardley i have the original sparks plan of haunted house would love to buy any thing from haunted house

  15. if anyone has any information or i can get in touch with haunted house ride staff please e mail me please or phone me 0121 745 3470 thank you im an expert on this attraction have photos and the original sparks plan i met graham owens who is now a freind of mine for some years ive now opened my own company neiols novelties so get in touch with me please i want a haunted house staff to get in touch please

  16. I remember my first visit to the Haunted House from 2001, I found it quite scary and frightening from the ride part, but the whole decoration of the exterior and interior is simply admiring to look at. But yet when you used to get on the ride, it can be scary though because its all dark and spooky. But when i had my first ride on Duel in 2003, it was still the same; just pimped up and re-touched. All the old HH stuff went. But it’s still a good ride to go on and you can also beat your scores and ride it and get another score, like if you had 16000 you’ll probably reach to 25000 or 28000.

  17. I’ve been on Duel loads of times and never get bored with it.

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