Saturday, May 18, 2024

Merlin Entertainments tasked Alterface to produce the scary Dämonen Gruft dark ride at Heide Park Resort

Now open, the Dämonen Gruft (Demon’s Crypt) compact (380 m2) dark ride produced by Alterface offers adventurous guests at Heide Park Resort, northern Germany’s largest theme park, an immersive plunge into a dangerous netherworld. The attraction is sited within “ancient catacombs discovered during excavations” last year amid whispers of dark secrets and rumors of people going missing. An anonymous video of a shadowy figure warned against attempting the “Katakomben Tour” and spoke of the Demon’s Crypt. Ominous warnings beg the question: is the Demon’s Crypt a new exciting experience not to be missed…or a terrible trap?

Merlin Entertainments called upon Alterface to oversee the production of the show and ensure every detail—from lighting and sound to media and special effects—was flawlessly synchronized,” said Stéphane Battaille, CEO of Alterface. “Collaborating closely with Merlin on art direction, we brought their vision to life by recruiting the perfect team to realize the frightening promise of Demon’s Crypt.” Alterface worked with a mix of newcomers and highly experienced partners from around the globe for the project.

Two Belgian firms were recruited, Oddities, who provided critical support in art direction and played a vital role in bringing the concept to life, and 400 Coups who were charged with media production. Andy Garfield at Pachinko Media in the USA managed audio production, and JP Showsystems from the UK provided show control and technical design. Preston & Barbieri from Italy were contracted by Merlin Entertainments to provide the ride system, and TAA Group in Spain to provide theming.

Loading station

“Demon’s Crypt wasn’t a solo endeavor—it was all thanks to our incredible team. Each member brought their unique expertise and dedication, making this project a smooth and enjoyable collaboration that was essential to the ride’s success,” Battaille said. “And of course, it all began with a great design by and the full support of Merlin Entertainments’ Creative Lead – New Products and Concepts, Liz Cummings, and her team.”

The story of the crypt, special effects, media, and—most important, terror—are packed into Demon’s Crypt’s footprint. Eight cars, each carrying four adventurers through the seven-scene, 3:30 minute ride, provide a maximum capacity of 480 passengers per hour. “Special effects include scent, temperature, theatrical and SFX lighting, smoke, water spritz and CO2 sprays,” said Alterface’s Etienne Sainton, producer for the attraction. “Given the tight time frame, we knew we had to find highly qualified partners to realize the many conceptual and technical aspects of the project.”

While this was their first dark ride, Oddities, with creative freedom from Merlin Entertainments and Alterface’s support, made full use of the opportunity. “Everyone worked together,” said Taddéus Fraylich, Artistic Director at Oddities. “The team produced something we believe will serve as a cornerstone for Alterface and Merlin in the field of dark rides/ghost trains. We hope this was the first of many projects with Alterface!”


Sainton favors the very first scene. “Unlike most loading stations, which are often utilitarian, with Demon’s Crypt boarding is the initial scene for Demon’s Crypt. It puts guests into the vehicles and the story right at the beginning,” he explained. “From the start it is scary—scarier than other dark rides you can find in theme parks.”

Perhaps most immersive is Scene 5, “Feast for the Souls,” which brings together most of the effects into a single frightening presentation. “A Pepper’s Ghost scrim, video, scents, water jets, immersive sound, and lighting perfectly envelop the video content and theming,” said Katleen Abraham, Production Designer at Oddities. “It’s an immersive scene that finally reveals the demonic creature that will chase the riders until the end.”

Alterface has extensive experience working in partnership with other qualified vendors to conceive, design and create guest experiences, but is also capable of realizing immersive turn-key projects. “Whether done in-house or in combination with other firms, our efforts are always driven by the client and the story,” said Battaille. “Demon’s Crypt shows how great teamwork can result in an amazing attraction. I can’t wait to see how people respond to this crazy, scary ride!”

For more information, visit Alterface.

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