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Psychologists called in to test Sensory Deprivation ride

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Psychologists called in to advise on a new live action horror maze at Thorpe Park have found that makers had "inadvertently" created sensory deprivation of thrillseekers.

Those willing to try out The Passing experience the suffocating effects of having their head confined by a claustrophobic hood, a state that has been known to cause disturbing side-effects such as hallucinations, extreme anxiety, bizarre thoughts and suggestibility. It was, of course, used in its most extreme form at Guantanamo Bay.

The claustrophobic hood restricts sight and sound, a specially devised ‘smell of fear’ is pumped into the attraction and with limited vision, every surface visitors place their hands on will result in a heightened sense of touch.

In his research, Psychologist Dr Lewis found that through this compromising of the senses, stimulation is cut off from sensory receptors in the brain and in the absence of information, the brain begins to create thoughts of its own resulting in hallucinations and extreme anxiety in vulnerable individuals.

Lewis has suggested a course of changes that will limit the amount of negative effects the maze will have on its visitors, from introducing a safe word to making tweaks to when and where different senses are manipulated.

Dr Lewis said: “The Passing could be one of the most extreme experiences that many people will go through as the manipulation of the senses causes the brain to misidentify the source of its own thoughts. I’ve suggested introducing a safe word to protect the more vulnerable, however, for many, while the emotions could well be intense, the short time period of the attraction and the fact that the individual knows that nothing bad will actually occur, will result in an exciting and thrilling experience.”

Mike Vallis, Divisional Director of the park, said: “We know our guests want us to push them to the limits of terror when they come to Fright Nights, however with the uniqueness of the techniques we are using in The Passing, we were worried that we had gone one step too far which is why we consulted with Dr Lewis. We have taken on-board his feedback and will be tweaking the attraction to ensure extreme horror doesn’t compromise safety.”

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