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Duel – The Haunted House Strikes Back

Duel – The Haunted House Strikes Back is a dark ride at the Alton Towers theme park near the village of Alton in Staffordshire. It opened in 1992 as The Haunted House and was the largest dark ride in Europe, featuring large theatrical animations and scenes.[2] The attraction was redesigned with interactive laser guns in 2003 and some scenes replaced, with several features removed over the years. There is a minimum height restriction of 1.1 metres for younger riders unless accompanied by an adult.

Duel – The Haunted House Strikes Back
Duel Facade.JPG
Alton Towers Resort
AreaGloomy Wood
Opening date1992 (as The Haunted House)
2003 (as Duel)
General statistics
Attraction typeDark ride
ManufacturerMack Rides
DesignerSparks Group & John Wardley (1992)
Tussauds Studios (2003)
Capacity1,920 riders per hour
Vehicle typeCar
Riders per row3 (front) & 2 (back)
Duration6 minutes 15 seconds
Fastrack available [1]
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible


The Haunted House was designed by the Sparks Group, co-produced by Keith Sparks and John Wardley, effectively as "a spin-off from Prof. Burp's BubbleWorks".[3] The transit system used to take riders through the ride was built by Mack Rides; it was a bespoke format penned by John Wardley to run continuously at high throughput, while also leaving the cars to travel on their own and at varying speeds.

After opening at the start of the 1992 season, The Haunted House gained much publicity and remained one of Alton Towers' major rides for many years.[4] The ride was originally designed to have a family appeal and a macabre humour. Some scenes were changed the following year, such as a lost effect in which a huge phantom flew over riders' heads down a long corridor.[5]

"Alton Towers decided that too many people had been through The Haunted House and it needed an upgrade, that coincided with when I retired from the company, and [it was converted into] an interactive dark ride... But the trouble with these interactive dark rides is you’re so busy pointing your gun at the little targets that […] nobody takes a blind bit of notice at the effects, there’s no emotion, there’s no real sense of drama or theatre in there."

 – John Wardley reflecting in 2009 on the ride's redesign as Duel.[6]

After 10 years of operation, the ride had declined after many of the original scenes were altered on an ad-hoc basis. Tussauds Studios decided to refurbish the ride with added laser guns and a zombie theme, a decision which disappointed the ride's original co-producer John Wardley, who had by that time left Tussauds.[6] Towards the end of the 2002 season, a poster was placed outside the Haunted House, advertising the new name and opening date, along with the slogan: "Whatever you do, don't miss! Duel – The Haunted House Strikes Back".[7]

A new theme tune was composed by David Buckley, played on a loop throughout the ride; replacing the original eight track score produced by Graham Smart. Changes to the scenes included the replacement of many characters with zombies. The ride reopened with the new laser quest element at the start of the 2003 season.

The Swamp finale is also the only scene to have been removed in its entirety in the 2003 refurbishment. It was replaced by a scene set in a basement, with moving zombie targets. The surviving original scenes are now significantly changed from their original design.

The ride received a new zoned soundtrack in 2018, along with altered lighting and repaired props.


For the 2008 and 2009 annual Halloween 'Scarefest' events held at Alton Towers, the ride became host to "Duel: Live!" This attraction featured live actors situated in different scenes around the ride, to scare riders while in their cars. The laser guns and all the LEDs were switched off, so that riders were not distracted by the shooting and focused on the ride. The music was replaced throughout the ride, with a different, more atmospheric piece used instead of the usual Duel theme.

Duel Live made use of the original outdoor queue line, often with other actors roaming the wooded area. For the 2008 version, the queue featured gravediggers and werewolves creeping up on the guests, though in 2009 this was reduced to one actor in a hooded robe. Guests waited at the door instead of walking straight in, before being greeted by either a maid or a butler (the performers alternated during the 2009 version, but in 2008 only the butler featured) and given a brief talk about what was inside and why the guns were switched off. The TV screens in the Drawing Room were covered with cloth and muted, and the original spooky music turned up; the room being similar to what it was in the original Haunted House. During the 2008 event, the maid jumped out at guests as they entered the Drawing Room. The normal Duel music was restricted to the zombie finale.

In 2008 Scarefest, Duel ran as normal during the morning and afternoon, before switching over to Duel Live after 3:00PM. It featured approximately four live actors on ride. The format changed for 2009 in which Duel Live ran all day, with about eight different actors on ride. When Alton Towers released details for the 2010 Scarefest event, it was notable that Duel Live was absent from the attractions line-up. Instead, the attraction was renamed "Skelvin's Haunted Adventure" for the 2010 event, and it was based around the park's Halloween mascots, particularly the character 'Skelvin'.


  1. ^ "FastTrack Passes". Alton Towers.
  2. ^ "Original Haunted House recording, 1992". British Theme Park Archive. 1992. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  3. ^ "John Wardley Season Pass podcast interview". The Season Pass. 11 November 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  4. ^ "Alton Towers Haunted House Website". 31 March 1992. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  5. ^ "Haunted House Dark Rides documentary". British Theme Park Archive. 6 August 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  6. ^ a b "John Wardley Bubbleworks discussion at 36:30". The Season Pass Podcast. 11 November 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External linksEdit