Deep in the heart of historic Lisbon, an ancient evil has awoken; a permanent home for the hellish horrors of the capital’s haunted past…
BRINGING FEAR TO A NEW AUDIENCE
In the summer of 2012, AtmosFEAR! Scare Entertainment won a successful tender to develop, design and produce Portugal’s only permanent scare attraction. The vision of our client, LBTE Entertainment, the attraction would be the first of its type in Portugal, capitalising on the huge tourism and native audiences who, following a feasibility study, were screaming out for an attraction which would both scare and entertain.
The creative team behind the project are no strangers to creating permanent scare attractions, having produced ‘The House of Fear’ in Greece, ‘The Sunken Village of the Damned’ in Cornwall, and ‘Manormortis’ in Lancashire, UK.
Following a site meeting in Lisbon, the initial idea for the attraction was to place it over two floors in a former car showroom, with an elaborate facade that would hint at the atmosphere of the environment inside the building. Following closely the brief from the client, the development phase dictated that the attraction should be based on legends and lore of the capital city and its surrounding areas, but combined with plenty of artistic license to ensure the experience was dramatic and ultimately, frightening.
With a clear directive to design an experience which was scareactor driven, and not reliant on static animations or animatronics, a period of research and development was undertaken to select the very best stories, legends, and factual historical occurrences which would lend themselves to a horrific interpretation inside the attraction. With more than enough source material to bring the attraction to life, a total of 10 separate narratives drawn from both fact and fiction were selected for story development, imagineering and further consideration.
With a series of unconnected scenarios, which crossed various time periods and geographic locations, the challenge to present the attraction with thematic continuity posed various problems with the design. The answer was to present each environment with interconnecting ‘transition’ areas, to allow guests to seamlessly navigate from one environment to another without any obvious jolt in the architectural and thematic narrative.
Mixing historical fact with legendary tales presented its own questions; how do you ensure guests engage with scenarios based on fact and fiction within the same experience? The answer was to present the experience ‘out of time’, in other words to place them in an environment where a simple narrative would explain that they were connected together and collectively cast into the abyss (Hell) for their dark deeds. Whether these characters were in fact ‘historic’ or ‘legendary’ made no difference, as each would be presented in the same fashion, engineering guests to accept what they were presented with, and not question the ultimate validity of each ‘story’ implemented. Ultimately the collective experience of ‘horror’ would become the focus, and primary memory of their journey, and not the individual story elements presented.
Early on in the project, it was suggested by the creative team that the experience should perhaps incorporate some unique element which would ensure the attraction would stand apart from any other attractions guests might have seen. To this end, the concept of separating one guest from the others was developed, and eventually became ‘The Oubliette’ – a singular experience in which the room itself ‘hugs’ the guest within. With only one member of each group experiencing this element, it would encourage repeat visits, maintain an element of mystery, and ensure an interesting talking point. This is a unique feature which, to our knowledge, has not been presented in any other scare attraction in the world.
Following 12 months of development, it was decided that the planned car showroom venue was not large enough to fully present the experience at its best, and subsequently a different, larger, venue housed the attraction, now named ‘Labirinto Lisboa’ (Lisbon’s Labyrinth).
This new space was presented over one floor, and thus required a complete re-work of the planned layout, so it was back to the drawing board to re-interpret the environments and stories which had been developed by the creative team for the new space.
It was decided that in order to engage guests with the narrative, but present an ultimately ‘jumpy’ experience, dialogue would be heavy at the beginning and end of the experience, with less emphasis on this throughout the rest of the experience. In order to take guests on an ‘emotional rollercoaster’ we added a heavily theatrical scene midway, and a comedic skit towards the end, therefore taking guests through elements which were intended to shock, revolt, scare and even make them laugh at certain points. The goal being to make them permanently ‘on edge’; never able to predict what might be coming next.
With the emphasis on live performance, the addition of multiple ‘scareactor ratruns’ and impact hatches, means that each performer is able to impact on the guests multiple times, giving the perception of many more live performers than are actually present.
AN EXPERIENCE TO DIE FOR
Beginning with a historical scenario, guests enter a wood-pannelled Courtroom where ‘Cardinal Henry’, the Grand Inquisitor, condemns them to Hell, proclaiming that they must make their way through the terrors of Portugal’s dark past, until they ultimately meet the Undead King Sebastian, where they will be judged and one soul retained for eternity (and placed in The Oubliette). The scene is based on the historical inquisition and the Cardinal is a real character from the history books.
After passing through a corridor, guests emerge in a mossy courtyard, and move around a blood-soaked wellway, where ‘Occulta’, a thief from an old Portuguese folk-tale, emerges and rips his face from his skull, providing the first revulsion scare.
Passing through a series of hanging body bags, guests find themselves in ‘The Ossuary’, an elaborate set comprised completely of skulls and bones, recreating the Chapel of Bones in the city of Évora. Overhead a cobweb covered bone chandelier, held by two skeletons, provide flickering candlelight to illuminate the scene, while guests must navigate around two tombs on which open coffins can been seen. One of these contains a live performer, while the other presents a dummy of the same appearance. These elements are not fixed, and it is therefore possible to alter which coffin contains the live actor based ‘scare’ and the dummy.
Next up is the Claustrophobia effect, which presses against guests as they move from The Ossuary into a ‘Trunnel’ (a triangular corridor) and emerge into The Sanatorium. This theatrical break from impact scares presents an historic location in Portugal – ‘The Serra da Estrela Sanatorium’, where the macabre ‘Dr Malum’ (only one L as in latin Malum – Evil is mid-autopsy on his latest corpse. After learning something of the horrors of Tuberculosis and its devastating effect on the human body, guests move into ‘The Haunted Hallway’ where digital effects bring portraits eerily to life as they scream and snarl as guests move past them.
The historical take of ‘Diogo Alves’ is the theme of ‘The Fiery Lair’ where guests find themselves in a dead end, and are required to reverse their direction of travel, meaning the leader is now at the back of the group, and the vice versa. Here, Gertrudes Maria, the screeching accomplice of Alves, taunts guests as they navigate through a burnt-out mini-maze of crumbling lumber and flickering firelight.
Leaving the dark lair, guests move into ‘The Bloody Nursery’, an attic filled with broken dolls and the spoils of the infamous historical child-killer ‘Luisa de Jesus’ who, after attacking them with a chainsaw, chases them into her closet where guests must squeeze through shelves of living dolls which represent the souls of those who met their end at Luisa’s hands.
Passing through a series of passageways, guests smell the salty stench of the sea as they find themselves in the Cavern of ‘Adamastor’ – a mythical sea wraith well know in Portuguese folklore. To bring this spirit to life, we commissioned an oversized ‘actormatronic’ puppet which sweeps the cavern with his huge claws as guests try to evade his grasp. Lit only by ultraviolet pulses, the presentation of this section is quite different from any other inside the attraction, providing a ghostly glow as the giant beast lunges around the cave.
Providing some light relief, guests find themselves in a cosy ‘Bakehouse’ next, where the quirky and zany ‘Brites de Almeida – the baker from Aljubarrota’ provides a comic routine mixed with some historical horror. At the present time portrayed by a male performer, this female ‘heroine’ has been somewhat twisted for Labirinto Lisboa, as she flits between friend and foe in a schizophrenic fashion.
To escape the Bakehouse, guests are thrown into the ‘Oven’, where a long tunnel leads them into ‘The Freakshow’. Inspired by a European travelling carnival which visited Portugal many centuries ago, this ‘big top’ style scene incorporates an oversized clown hand which emerges from a curtain to clutch at guests as they pass, followed by ‘Svengali’, a living doll, which follows them into the final environment.
The lavishly decorated ‘Throne Room’ places guests at the mercy of ‘King Sebastian’, an undead King who selects one mortal to remain with him in the underworld, while the others are allowed to leave, their souls intact.
The guest chosen by the King is placed into The Oubliette for a full-contact encounter with the room itself, before being set free to rejoin their friends.
A TWO-YEAR JOURNEY
After two years of development and planning, following the owner’s vision – Ricardo Rodrigues – Labirinto Lisboa opened to the public in 2014, but shortly afterwards was the victim of a local fire, in a nearby building, which consumed the roof and caused considerable damage to the interior of the building. The attraction was temporarily closed for refurbishment and opened once again in early 2015.
Labirinto Lisboa is now open throughout the year between Tuesday and Sunday each week. Full details, including special events, offers and more can be found at www.labirintolisboa.com
Labirinto Lisboa was developed, designed and produced by AtmosFEAR! Scare Entertainment, for details please visit www.atmosfearuk.com