Thursday, February 17, 2011

'Haunted' Thorpe Park hires ghost buster for new ride

So you're planning a new ride at perhaps the most popular theme park in the country (this particular country being England). It is going to be a doozy of a ride, a water one, in fact, with a 64-foot descent in a wild water raft that never stops spiralling all set in a themed New Hampshire town hit by a tidal wave.

Yup, the "Storm Surge" ride was going to be awesome - except for one problem: After all the planning that went into this ride, once work began, people started seeing ghosts hanging about, including one of a headless monk.

What do you do?

Well, according to The Press Association, if you're Thorpe Park in Surrey, England, you move the ride and hire a paranormal investigator to observe the ride's March 17 opening. After stories of paranormal sightings went public, the park hired ghost buster Jim Arnold to hang out at the opening and "monitor the situation for the next 12 months" over fears that the ride has disturbed ancient burial grounds.

"If the spirits are unhappy with anything, we should pick something up straight away," he says.


 Meanwhile, Mike Vallis, divisional director of Thorpe Park, tell The Press Association, "The interest as to whether we might have disturbed a paranormal element has been immense and advice from more than 30 paranormal mediums and religious members, who contacted the park, has been to bless the site, which we have done, for peace of mind of staff and customers."

Stealth coaster, also in 'Amity,'
photo by Neil Lewin

OK, so jokes about meddling kids and haunted amusement parks aside, this is an interesting news bit - and also potential publicity stunt.
While believers might find the activity conceivable at the construction site (built upon an old quarry), it also makes sense that a theme park may want to drum up attention in advance of their big season and much-hyped ride. Keep in mind this is the same Thorpe Park that comically banned roller coaster riders from raising their arms on hot days to stop the spread of body odor. The stinky ban was never enforced but resulted in a lot of press for the park, and was chalked up as a stunt.
So like the stinky ban, who is to say the haunted water ride isn't yet another P.R. move? After all, a quick visit to the Storm Surge Web site reveals the name for the drowned town is Amity, which makes us think of sharks and ghostly Amityvill-ians.  
Not to mention, the event was important enough to Thorpe Park to have their press relations team draft a press release on the matter (which follows) ... but we're still pulling for the headless monk.
The Thorpe Park press release:
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY PROMPTS THORPE PARK MANAGEMENT TO CALL IN FORENSIC EXPERTS AT NEW RIDE STORM SURGE 
Known for its heart racing, thrill chasing rides, THORPE PARK is well versed at dealing with the screams of terror and torment from its guests. But when employees at the nation’s Thrill Capital started to feel the fear around the development of new ride Storm Surge, management decided to take action with some dramatic conclusions. During its planning stages, the location of the new water ride due to open in March 2011, was set to be parallel to an area known as Monk’s Walk, an old footpath that has linked the ruins of Chertsey Abbey to Thorpe Church since AD666. Following an increase of employee reported ghostly sightings around the proposed site, including that of a headless monk, senior Park management decided to appease worries by consulting a registered paranormal detection agency with some worrying results. 
Mike Vallis, Divisional Director of THORPE PARK comments: “It became apparent that something strange was going on when teams started clearing Storm Surge’s initial site. Staff reports of eerie goings on in the Park shot up and the only physical change in the Park, at that time, was the beginning of ground preparation work for the new ride. As employees were getting freaked out, we decided to call on an expert to see whether there was anything to report but had no idea of the dramatic effects.” 
Following a management review of the report produced by South West London Paranormal, and consultation with them in November 2010, it was recommended a deeper investigation be carried out. 
Senior Paranormal expert of South West London Paranormal, Jim Arnold comments: “We carry out these kinds of investigations quite regularly, with medium to weak results being reported on a weekly basis. THORPE PARK however was more striking as results were picked up immediately, with orbs, ghostly images in photography and Ouija reaction results being strongest around the site where they were proposing to build Storm Surge. The results were so strong, we felt the only explanation could be that an ancient burial ground or settlement was being disturbed, prompting the extra paranormal activity.” 
Being one of the country’s tallest water rides, towering at 64 feet tall, Storm Surge’s foundations would have penetrated over fifteen metres deep disturbing anything in their path – something management were keen to avoid as stone coffins have previously been excavated from areas nearby. Fearing groundwork teams for the new ride may end up disturbing an ancient settlement or burial ground, and keen to hit the Storm Surge opening date of 17th March 2011, management took the unprecedented decision to immediately relocate the ride to another area of the Park and call in a forensic team to investigate. Forensic Geophysicist and research fellow Peter Masters of Cranfield University has since been called in to analyse the site, using deep ground radar, to decide whether the paranormal claims could be with merit. 
Peter Masters comments: “From the preliminary investigations we have picked up signatures similar to that of a burial ground – possibly ancient. Although this could simply be an old building, with THORPE PARK’s history, the investigation is definitely worth continuing.” 
The forensic investigation will continue until March 2011, by which point Storm Surge, in its new location, will be open to the public. As a matter of precaution, THORPE PARK management has also enlisted the help of Reverend Tim Hillier (Rural Dean of Runnymede) and Fr. Damian Miles (Vicar of Thorpe) to bless the areas involved. This includes Storm Surge to ensure customers aren’t scared away by haunting tales of terror or idle paranormal gossip. Mike Vallis, 
Divisional Director of THORPE PARK comments: “It has definitely been a rollercoaster few months. It was a huge decision for us to relocate Storm Surge, however the potential of us disturbing anything, be it paranormal or otherwise, is definitely not something we wanted to do. That and the fact that we want to ensure our employees carry 100% peace of mind whilst working.”

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