Hex – The Legend of the Towers

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Hex – The Legend of the Towers
Alton Towers - Hex.jpg
Alton Towers
Coordinates 52°59′08″N 1°53′34″W / 52.985478°N 1.892736°W / 52.985478; -1.892736
Status Operating
Cost £4,000,000
Opening date 2000 (2000)
General statistics
Manufacturer Vekoma
Designer John Wardley
Model Mad House
Riders per vehicle 78
Rows 4
Duration 5:25
Height restriction 90 cm (2 ft 11 in)

Hex – The Legend of the Towers is a walkthrough dark ride experience at Alton Towers.[1] The ride is based on an interpretation of the local legend of the Chained Oak Tree. Set within the actual towers ruins themselves, Hex is one of the most highly regarded dark rides in Europe.

The "vault" scene, which is the third and final ride section, is a large room which contains the branch that supposedly fell from the chained oak. Riders sit down either side of the room in two rows and are secured by a lap bar. The seats and floor are moved back and forth, much like a typical 'pirate ship' ride, however moving a lot slower, and controlled by machinery. The ceiling is a separate spinning cylinder which is able to spin 360 degrees, and combined with the moving seats, gives the rider the illusion that they're moving upside down. This part of the ride isn't located inside the towers themselves, but rather a purposely built warehouse next to the towers. The queue line and the octagon are located in the towers, however.

Description[edit]

Hex tells the story of the Chained Oak Tree, a legend based on the towers themselves. The story has been a local legend for years, but was slightly altered in the ride to make the attraction more appealing.

The legend says that the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury was cursed by an old beggarwoman to suffer a death in the family every time a branch fell from the old oak tree. Hex's version embellishes the end of the 'original' tale with the Earl experimenting on one of the fallen branches in a vault deep within the Towers themselves, and it is this vault, with its entrance bricked up behind a bookcase, that has supposedly been sealed up for two centuries and only recently discovered during renovation work. This is explained in several scenes during the experience.

This attraction was closed for the 2016 season after undergoing refurbishment and reopened for the 2017 season. The refurbishment included new TVs, new smell boxes, repainted signs, new flooring and various other jobs.

Ride Experience[edit]

Armoury and cinema[edit]

The attraction starts in the real armoury of the Towers, decorated with scaffolding and artefacts, which starts to tell the story of the renovation and the discovery of the vault, through video screens found along the twisting atmospheric queue-line. Statues draped in dust sheets decorate plinths high up near the darkened ceiling and sound-effects of chiselling can be heard to give the suggestion that this renovation is currently ongoing and unfinished. At the end of the queue line is a large painting of the Earl hung on the wall, and visitors hear a short narrative which gives a brief introduction to the legend before they are shown onwards into the cinema area (still part of the real building) where visitors watch a short film which dramatises the legend and makes it clear that they will soon be visiting the recently discovered vault where the original branch is located.

Octagon[edit]

From the cinema area, guests are let through into the Octagon (still part of the real building) - a large dimly lit eight-sided hall containing more scaffolding and dust-sheets, draped curtains and a whirring generator high on a wall - and are led to believe that the story will be told further through more video screens. However, the generator suddenly 'blows', causing the lights and the video screens to fail and the room is plunged into semi-darkness. A wind picks up, causing the drapes to billow, and the ghostly cursing of the beggarwoman can be heard, along with the loud crash of a falling branch and the sound of horse's hooves. An apparition can be briefly seen in an alcove. To add to the suspense, the noise of the crashing branch is synchronised with a light water spray falling from the ceiling onto the guests below. The generator restarts and the lighting comes back up to allow guests to move up a small staircase, past the bookcase and into the next section of the attraction.

Vault[edit]

At this point, the guests are moving from the original building up into the specially constructed part of the ride, but due to the careful continuation of theming, it is difficult to tell where this occurs. They turn to the left past the bookcase and along a short, low-ceilinged 'stone' corridor - once again similarly decorated to the rest of the attraction - where they wait at two doors for entry into the vault. The scaffolding running along the corridor discourages the guests from getting close enough to touch the walls, as although the previous show areas in the building are real original stone, the walls of this 'stone' section are fibreglass cladding, which sounds hollow when tapped. The vault itself is a large hall-like structure, with the decorative ceiling supported by stone pillars, and shelves containing dusty artefacts lit with flickering candles. It contains the branch itself, chained to a long ledge that runs along the middle of the room, two rows of lap-bar benches that face the branch and a large machine, covered in lights and dials, which the Earl supposedly used in his experiments, which is located up against the far wall and wired to one end of the branch.

The lap-bars are lowered and checked by two staff members, who then leave the vault. The machine starts whirring, the lights flash, smoke starts to pour from the branch, atmospheric music begins and the ride starts. Riders gradually experience an odd sense of movement, even though nothing in the vault appears to be moving - with one bench feeling as if they're being pulled away from the branch and the other feeling as if they're being pushed towards the branch. This is achieved though two mechanisms - the separate floor can move in a controlled swing from side-to-side by up to 15 degrees in each direction, but the surroundings of the vault can rotate through a full 360 degrees. The pivot mechanism for the floor is hidden by the Earl's machine at one end of the room and a large cabinet-like structure at the other. At this point, both the floor and the vault are slowly moving in unison. As the ride continues, the floor starts a separate movement from the vault which gradually gives the impression that the room is rotating backwards and forwards further each time. The lighting subtly changes from moment to moment to add to the disorientation. Eventually, the vault mechanism turns through a full rotation and, by careful synchronisation with the sensation of the swinging floor mechanism, the riders are fooled into feeling as if they themselves are being repeatedly turned upside down. As the music and the sensation reaches a crescendo, a mass of roots become visible on the 'floor' over the riders' heads - lit in such as way as to suggest an evil face with illuminated red eyes - and the branch twinkles with fibre-optics before the vault returns to its starting state.[2]

Reception[edit]

Initially the response to Hex was mixed to negative, guests complained of expecting something more thrilling. However, after major adjustments following it opening, reviews for Hex changed drastically, and it is now perceived as one of the better dark rides in the UK, placing 3rd in the Theme Park Tourist list of top UK dark rides in 2011. [3] It is constantly praised for its atmospherics and use of the towers ruins. It has been named as one of John Wardley's best non-roller coaster creations, with a similar reception to that of Professor Burp's Bubbleworks and Dragon Falls at Chessington World of Adventures.

References[edit]

Coordinates: 52°59′08″N 1°53′34″W / 52.985478°N 1.892736°W / 52.985478; -1.892736