Thirteen (roller coaster)

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Thirteen-Alton towers.jpg
Entrance to Thirteen
Alton Towers
Park sectionDark Forest
Coordinates52°59′05″N 1°53′26″W / 52.984701°N 1.890421°W / 52.984701; -1.890421Coordinates: 52°59′05″N 1°53′26″W / 52.984701°N 1.890421°W / 52.984701; -1.890421
Opening date20 March 2010
General statistics
DesignerJohn Wardley
ModelFamily Drop Coaster
Lift/launch systemDrive tire lift hill
Height65.6 ft (20.0 m)
Drop60 ft (18 m)
Length2,480 ft (760 m)
Speed42 mph (68 km/h)
Capacity1,400 riders per hour
Height restriction47.3–77.2[3] in (120–196 cm)
Trains3 trains with 5 cars. Riders are arranged 2 across in 2 rows for a total of 20 riders per train.
Fastrack available
Thirteen at RCDB
Pictures of Thirteen at RCDB

Thirteen (officially stylised as TH13TEEN) is a steel roller coaster at Alton Towers in England. The ride was constructed by Intamin and opened on 20 March 2010. It is the world's first vertical freefall drop roller coaster, on which the track and train freefall approximately five metres in darkness.[4] The ride replaced and is built on the former site of the Corkscrew, which resided at Alton Towers for 28 years between 1980 and 2008.[5]

Development history[edit]

Thirteen under construction in October 2009

Alton Towers first revealed their plans for the ride in October 2008 when it was announced that Corkscrew would be removed. Planning permission was initially delayed due to concerns about an Iron Age hill fort in its vicinity.[6] However, in March 2009, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council accepted planning permission for the ride (with conditions) and groundwork construction commenced about three months later. During the planning stages and construction, the ride was codenamed Secret Weapon 6.[7]

In an interview shortly after the ride's opening, John Wardley, Ride Consultant for Merlin Entertainments, spoke about the development of Thirteen. The initial idea for the secret element originated from a previous rollercoaster plan that he designed for Alton Towers, in which a piece of track tilted back and forth during the ride. The ride, if it had been built, would have been similar to Winjas Fear and Force at Phantasialand, Germany, and therefore not a world's first ride. The plan never came to fruition, but the idea of moving track was kept and later developed into the world's first freefall dropping track element for Thirteen.[8]

After the aging Corkscrew roller coaster was removed, a large site lay empty in what was then the Ug Land section of the park. John Wardley and others worked to create the idea for a new roller coaster that would fill this area. It would travel around the perimeter of the site and enter a dark, indoor show building for the secret element to take place. The type of coaster trains and track used for the ride was decided to be a type of Intamin family coaster for their lightweight trains, as this would reduce strain on the hydraulics that work the freefall drop.

The 'bad luck' concept and Dark Forest theme was designed by Candy Holland, Art Director for Merlin Entertainments. The Alton Towers marketing team, led by Morwenna Angove (Edna Mode), made an effort to keep the project secret so that the surprise feature would not be revealed until the ride was opened. In 2008, concept art showing possible themes for the new ride were leaked online but only appeared briefly after they were deleted at Alton Towers' command.[9]

In a press statement that was released several months after construction started, the ride was named a 'psychoaster' and was said to create a level of psychological fear.[10][11][12]


Some of Thirteen's theming

Various phrases and slogans were used to promote the ride. In August, a banner was erected next to the construction site on 8 October reading: "Ride into the Unknown". Alton Towers released a new marketing campaign later inviting readers to "Ride the Demon of the Dark Forest" and "Surrender in March 2010".[13] However, neither of these campaigns expressly revealed the name of the new ride. The attraction's name was officially announced as Thirteen on 11 December 2009 through a press release. The ride's main slogan was used after: "If you go down to the woods today, you'd better not go alone."

During the park's 2009 Scarefest, hooded wraiths were seen roaming around the Ug Land area in the build-up to the new ride. Warning signs were put up explaining their appearance was linked to "next year's new ride".

The resort has also used viral marketing through social-networking websites to promote the ride. Alton Towers released many online and television teaser videos in the run up to the opening of the ride. These included a video of a truck supposedly delivering the "secret weapon", and three promotional blipverts which featured a possessed girl walking in a forest. The full adverts were released before opening day, with a pre-watershed and post-watershed version. The advertisement to be shown after 9 pm included the same girl seen in previous videos being entangled by moving branches as she whispered: "If you go down to the woods today, you'd better not go alone... 13". The advert also uses a short but 'darker' version of the Alton Towers theme music (Edvard Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King).

Publicity stunts[edit]

An early press release on the ride stated that the park was considering limiting passengers to one ride per day and requiring them to sign a waiver of liability. They also said there would be an age restriction of 16–55 years old allowed on. This however was only a marketing ploy and there were no age limits or other restrictions put in place, aside from the height restrictions: riders must be over 1.2 metres and under 1.96 metres to ride.[14]

On 22 July 2010, Alton Towers announced on their Facebook page that Thirteen would be closed on Friday 13 August 2010, because of superstitious reasons. Morwenna Angove(Edna Mode), Head of Marketing at the Resort, stated: "Our research has revealed that Britons are a seriously superstitious bunch, and as our latest ride is named after the unluckiest of numbers, we've taken the decision to close that ride on Friday 13 to reassure our visitors." [15] It was later revealed that the ride was to be renamed 'Fourteen' (stylized as FOU13TEEN) throughout Friday 13 August 2010 instead of closing. New limited merchandise was available during the day featuring the 'Fourteen' name. Most signage to the ride was temporarily changed to feature the new name.

In 2010's Scarefest event, in addition to the wraiths, the girl from the adverts promoting the ride would also appear.

In 2011's Scarefest event, a fictional warning was played at the station of Thirteen which told that they had caused disappearances and deaths and told that if "you don't touch them, they will not touch you".

Ride experience[edit]

One of the ride's trains exiting the station

The ride starts with a sharp, unbanked turn out of the station into a 60-foot (18 m) lift hill up to the main drop, which sends the train speeding into woodland at up to 41 mph.[16] Thirteen's track layout performs many airtime hills (limited by the many trim brakes on the layout) and banked turns, before entering a second lift hill which leads into a dark crypt where the surprise element takes place. Sections of the outdoor track have been fitted with speed-reducing devices due to early problems with the ride entering its second lift hill too quickly.

The entry door is closed behind the train as it comes to a sudden but smooth halt. The crypt room is illuminated with dim lighting and effects such as air blasters and creaking wood sounds. Then a loud crack of released air pressure accompanies a sudden blackout of the room, with the only illumination coming from small strobes under the section of track on which the train is held which has suddenly dropped around 30 cm. After a pause of around two seconds, the track and train freefall five metres.[17] A wraith figure (the statues with the hoods on) is illuminated in front of the train and an air blaster fires towards its front as the carriage is quickly propelled backwards out of the crypt.

The train falls down a moderately sharp drop and enters a disorienting backwards helix. It then emerges from the darkness and comes to a halt in front of a section of track which changes to allow the train to be propelled forward several dozen feet back into the station, at which point the ride ends.[18]

'World's First' element[edit]

Since the project was announced in late 2008, the ride was confirmed to join the growing line of world first rides at Alton Towers. It was confirmed that the well-kept 'secret weapon' element would take place in the showroom section, a building next to the station. It was revealed on 17 March 2010, that the ride is the "world's first free-fall drop roller coaster". This was shown on GMTV, on a special feature about Thirteen and also had an on-ride video of some of the first riders.[19] A view of the ride was also shown on Central Tonight, and shows the freefall section in brighter lighting than GMTV had shown earlier on in the day.[20] This surprise sequence consists of a horizontal section of track, on which the train stops, which freefalls downwards, making Thirteen the world's first vertical free-fall roller coaster.[21]


Source Rating
Backseat Blackout 5/10 stars[22]
Theme Park Tourist 3/5 stars[23]
Theme Park Insider 7/10 stars[24]
CoasterMadMatt 3/5 stars[25]
Theme Park Mania 4/5 stars

Thirteen has received mixed reviews since its launch. Many gave the coaster negative reviews as it replaced one of the park's most popular rides, Corkscrew. One website review stated "Thirteen is not a bad ride, its actually very good. Trouble is, if you ride thinking how is this going to be like Nemesis, Oblivion (or even Air, which too had its backlash) you're not going to like Thirteen. If you're with a young child (or like the more 'fun' rides), who loves the Runaway Mine Train and Sonic Spinball you will adore Thirteen"[26] and gave the ride a review of three out of five stars. However, another critic said "John Wardley who is responsible for the twisted beautiful mess that is Nemesis, was also involved with Th13teen, unfortunately in comparison we are left meandering with one of the weakest layouts I’ve rode to date"[27] and gave the ride a review of 5/10. The ride has not yet received any awards.

Despite the mixed reviews, Thirteen managed to increase attendance to its highest on record, 3,000,000 people, a number only matched by 1994, the opening year of Nemesis and Toyland Tours. Thirteen is among the most popular rides in the park, with wait time frequently in excess of an hour.


  1. ^ "Defying Superstition: Alton Tower's Th13teen". Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  2. ^ Malcolm Herdman (4 April 2010). "Alton Towers' £15m ride TH13TEEN will take your breath away | Mail Online". Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  3. ^ "Theme Park Height Restrictions".
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ "Alton Towers Press:News". Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  6. ^ Planning objections, 12 February 2009, retrieved 5 January 2010
  7. ^ Planning Permission, 13 March 2009, retrieved 14 December 2009
  8. ^ Interview in which John Wardley talks about the early development of Thirteen, on the Season Pass Podcast., 21 April 2010, retrieved 2 June 2010
  9. ^ Leaked concept art, 11 July 2008, archived from the original on 5 March 2009, retrieved 22 April 2010 Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  10. ^ Psychoaster, 11 December 2009, retrieved 14 December 2009
  11. ^ "Feel the fear | Enjoy England |". Guardian. 24 April 2010. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  12. ^ "England: Roller coaster the ultimate terror ride". The New Zealand Herald. The Observer. 10 April 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  13. ^ "Alton Towers 2010". Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  14. ^ Brody, Mike (12 December 2009), 'Psychoaster' - World's Scariest Ride, MyFox National, archived from the original on 23 December 2009
  15. ^ Alton Towers to close Thi3teen roller coaster on Friday 13,, 12 December 2009, archived from the original on 23 December 2009
  16. ^ Caulkin, Mark (22 March 2010). "Alton Towers launches new ride Thirteen". This is Staffordshire. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  17. ^ Priscilla Pollara (4 April 2010). "Alton Towers: New Thirteen ride takes on Air, Nemesis and Oblivion | Mail Online". Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  18. ^ Published on Saturday 20 March 2010 19:34 (20 March 2010). "Gail Porter takes the plunge on ride - Celebrity -". Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  19. ^ [2][dead link]
  20. ^ "Latest Central News - ITV News". ITV. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  21. ^ Family holidays. "Thi3teen: gothic horrors in Alton Towers". Telegraph. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  22. ^ Davenport, Chris. "Th13teen Review". Backseat Blackout.
  23. ^ "Thirteen Review". Theme Park Tourist.
  24. ^ "Thirteen Review". Theme Park Insider.
  25. ^ "Thirteen Review". CoasterMadMatt.
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Th13teen". 12 March 2015.

External links[edit]