Ever feel like you’re being watched, like there’s something behind you?
At Scream Factory, the chances are you’re right.
The North East horror experience has made its return for the seventh year running and welcome an expected 25,000 victims to its nine scare zones over 13 nights, the last on Halloween.
Imaginative Productions has put together a cast of more than 100 and has 30-plus scare crew at hand as Halloween fans let themselves in for a fright of a night.
We’ve been for the last two years of its reign of terror, but the sense of fear doesn’t get any easier to handle.
As you wait in the crowd ready to be called in for the Extreme Tour, an unwelcoming party including zombie nurses and mute clowns create a menacing atmosphere.
When you think they’ve disappeared, they’ll turn up over your shoulder, maybe blow a loud hooter, or perhaps push their rotten faces towards yours.
They had me jumping at my own shadow, and the feeling of dread only builds as your time comes.
As we headed down the path to the start of the trail, I must have said ‘Why am I doing this?’ to myself a million times.
It doesn’t let up from the first scare, with jump scares a speciality, and your mind and eyes constantly trying to work out what could happen next.
We’ve got a new scare zone this year, so people can expect to see a lot of their favourite scares, but we have a made a new one in place of one of the old sections.Katy Tate
It’s an assault on the senses as it plays upon a classic tick list of fears - killer clowns, demented dentists, butchers (of humans), cannibals, more zombies, torture chambers, creepy crawlies, fog, body bags, the dead sparking back into life, it’s all here.
We were quick as we escaped a heap of film characters, from Freddie to Jason, too.
There’s also a new part to the cinema section, which you might guess from the clues on the approach to the site and Scream Factory’s social media messages, with the team hoping people aren’t too drained by the big surprise.
Katy Tate is marketing manager for Scream Factory and said: “We’ve got a new scare zone this year, so people can expect to see a lot of their favourite scares, but we have a made a new one in place of one of the old sections.
“It is very exciting.
“We get a lot of regular people that come back year after year, and we see some new faces as people bring along their friends and as interest in Halloween grows.
“The feedback we’ve had so far is fantastic, they’ve really enjoyed it and loved the scares.”
The tour takes about 50 minutes, but you lose all concept of time, and while it might be terrifying, it’s as much an obstacle course as it is a nightmare made real.
There are also a host of optical illusions using flashing lights, stripes, mirrors and revolving walkways, which I found a relief from being screamed at, taunted, chased and spooked by the gory characters - they really get into their task of trying to tip you over the edge.
Here are my tips for survival:
*Wear trainers - there’s a lot of uneven ground and it’s easier to run from the undead, who are quicker than you think
*Dress for the occasion - it might be getting colder, but it’s can be warm in some dungeons. I wore a hoodie and was too hot after, but then there are times when you’ll be outside
*Don’t take a big bag - a small over the shoulder will do and don’t bother trying to take photos, as you need to be on the move and there’s no bigger horror than losing your phone
*It doesn’t matter where you are in your group. They’re coming after you all, so stick together
*Watch your head - there are some low ceilings and if something feels like it’s touching your face, it will be
*Take someone along to hold their hand - it’s just too scary otherwise, but watch out if they’re in front of you. First-hand experience tells me they might throw their head back during a scare and smash you in the nose
*Check the A19 - boring, but there are nighttime roadworks planned on the way down to Redcar
*Most of all, relax, take it all in and go with it. The longer it goes on, the more you’ll get into the idea. There is a network behind the scenes and help is never far away if it gets too much.
For my scare-mad boyfriend - @billyloveshorror on Instagram - it’s better than Christmas and his second favourite night of the year next to Halloween.
While I can’t say I enjoy being petrified, I like the excitement, although I’ll leave the last word on the Extreme Tour to a woman in our group who told me she’d spent the whole time laughing at her friends’ reactions.
If it all sounds too horrible, there is a Twilight Tour for youngsters aged from three upwards.
They can meet woodland creatures, learn a lesson with the spook school and hone their broomstick skills on the Mad Hatter’s adventure.
For tickets and more, visit www.screamfactory.co.uk/