Warwick Castle has introduced a new ‘Scare Score’ for Halloween due to the sheer fear factor of its two new live-actor attractions, Outbreak and Condemned. The faint-hearted are warned to stay away from The Haunted Castle between Saturday, 24 October and Sunday, 1 November when Halloween hijinks engulf the attraction. 

This measure has been introduced to help parents navigate which attractions will be suitable for their children, (and themselves!). A pumpkin rating is used to denote the scare factor; the higher the pumpkin rating, the bigger the fright! 

The system is based on years of experience, however, put simply, the formula is based on: 

The number of actors x guests per hour ÷ intended screams per hour + title = pumpkin rating

An attraction such as Outbreak with a high number of actors but with a smaller group of people going through scores highly on the scare scale.

As part of their research, Warwick Castle worked with top psychotherapist, Robert Stewart to find out which factors can take an experience from being scary to being an ordeal. Robert explains that while the general concept of what is scary is universal, each individual will experience it differently.   

“Fear can be a good thing, it can make us feel alive, protect us from danger and more importantly can help us achieve and grow. Overcoming difficult and fearful situations is what allows our comfort zone to grow and can increase our sense of autonomy and resilience. However, too much fear can result in trauma  – and trauma does not necessarily have the same outcomes as a sense of fear. Trauma can have a damaging effect on our psyche and recovery is required!”

So how do people distinguish between fear and trauma? Robert explained: “Some may consider trauma resulting from a situation where one considers there is a threat to their lives. If this is the case, no matter how scary a theme park ride, film or attraction is, we must have an unconscious belief it is all staged and an implicit sense of safety. And yet at the time, many may deem themselves to be in mortal danger and still experience excitement.”

“Fear is also difficult to measure due to its relative nature. In the same way pain is difficult to measure, fear is unique to the individual. Humans share a number of similarities thus can agree en-masse about scary films or theme park rides. However, each individual will experience it slightly differently.”

Robert went on to summarise three important factors when considering how scary a situation may be. “There are a number of aspects to consider when thinking about how scary an attraction may be, but three aspects are vital. The duration; ability to flee; and company can be grouped together to consider the intensity of the fear and the impact it may have.”

If all three aspects are present in a situation, it is likely to become traumatic for the individual. The stimuli will be presented for a long time whilst the individual has no company to rely upon and cannot exit the situation and thus feel further traumatised. 

Stewart added: “If the fear stimuli is presented for a long time and the person is by themselves, but can exit, it is likely they will become scared, but not traumatised. Likewise if the person cannot flee and is by themselves, but the duration of the fear stimuli is short.”