The Hellfire Caves – Full Review

The Hellfire Caves is a Haunted Attraction located in West Wycombe, High Wycombe.

40 Church Lane, West Wycombe, High Wycombe HP14 3AH
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Haunt Type(s):

Haunted Cave

Links:

The Hellfire Caves Facebook PageThe Hellfire Caves Website

Contact:

Message The Hellfire Caves on Facebook Messenger

Features:

Free Parking, Paid Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Food/Concessions, “Old-School” (Low Tech), You will NOT be touched, Covered Outdoor Waiting Line, All-Indoor Attraction

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This attraction was reviewed on October 31, 2023 by Team Crypt Seekers.


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Final Score: 7.31

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Summary:

The Hellfire Caves, located in West Wycombe, UK, were excavated between 1748 and 1752. They were commissioned by the co-founder of the notorious Hellfire Club, an exclusive members’ club infamous for its alleged involvement in black magic, orgiastic gatherings, and pagan rituals. These caves extend for hundreds of metres underground, featuring a complex network of long, narrow tunnels interconnecting smaller chambers along the way. Within these caves is also a subterranean river named the Styx, which leads to a final cave named the Inner Temple, where most of the rituals are said to have been held.

Annually, The Hellfire Caves transforms its subterranean expanse into an immersive scare attraction. This spine-chilling experience leads visitors on a terrifying journey through the labyrinthine tunnels, with the understanding that the only escape route is the same path they entered. To survive, participants must navigate a series of disorienting passageways, venturing both downward and back, in a heart-pounding quest for survival. This year the title of The Hellfire Caves Halloween experience was “The Curse of the Dark Depths.”


Cast Score: 6.83

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Cast Review:

Scattered throughout the labyrinthine maze of caves are the mysterious denizens of this realm. It appeared that the number of actors present in the space was somewhat limited, which might not have been the most prudent choice. Yet, when they did make their presence known, they had the ability to deliver quite a few startling moments. Occasionally, they would discreetly emerge from hidden corners, providing unexpected bursts of adrenaline. Nevertheless, it was often challenging to discern precisely which characters they were portraying. Some were larger and demonic in nature – almost like animals – whilst others had an 18th century feel, which was in keeping with the setting.

The actors could be categorised into two distinct types: the first group roamed the corridors, relying on the unsettling power of their ominous stares, while the second group preferred lurking in the shadows, ready to leap out at any moment. The larger actors tended to be those in the shadows, who mainly growled rather than said anything. From a storytelling perspective, it would have been more engaging if some of the actors had conveyed the narrative through their dialogue, rather than resorting to crying or remaining silent.

The level of interactivity was somewhat limited, due to the large influx of visitors passing through the caves. But, when the actors did jump out at us they put their all into the interactions and we applaud them for it.


Costuming Score: 7.08

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Costuming Review:

As we arrived at the venue, we were greeted by two parking attendants/queue actors who remained entirely silent throughout. They were dressed in eerie, ghostly attire, with white-painted faces, long black costumes, and capes. Their appearance not only added a chilling and otherworldly aspect but also evoked a distinct, almost Victorian ambiance, setting the tone for the scare attraction right from the moment we stepped in.

While in the caves themselves, due to the pulsating lighting in this scare attraction it was sometimes difficult to make out the characters before us, as they were mostly clothed in darkness until they were directly upon us. There was a mix of different levels of costuming, with some actors in older and tattered clothes with partial facial masks, to another completely decked out in a huge animal costume reminiscent of some type of ape meets wolf creature – we couldn’t quite tell what it was but it had four legs and was huge, thus the most terrifying and fully formed creature of the night. Most of the other costumes and makeup were a bit simpler, but some of the characters were more fully fledged, especially a bohemian-type sorceress who we meet at both the start and the end of our journey. Many of the costumes paid homage to the historical era during which these caves gained notoriety. Both men and women were dressed in attire reminiscent of the 18th century, establishing a strong connection between the characters and the rich history of the location.


Customer Service Score: 7.99

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The caves themselves are located near High Wycombe, about an hour and a half away from London. Upon arriving in the vicinity, clear signage directed visitors to the entrance. Yet, it’s important to note that there is approximately a 7-minute walk from the carpark, which is located separately from the caves. Parking fees apply if your stay exceeds one hour. We do think there should be more visible signage within the car park itself to direct visitors to the caves.

The attraction, being within a set of caves, does have uneven and gravelly surfaces and low ceilings at times, so we recommend a sturdy set of shoes with a good tread and to watch your head when navigating the space.

All staff members we encountered were incredibly friendly, helpful, and understanding.

Ticket prices and hours are clearly marked on their website, but detailed information about what the attraction is is not.


Immersion Score: 8

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Immersion Review:

The atmosphere at the entrance to the caves (which also serves as the exit) was very lively, decked out in a few fun props from a coffin you could stick your head into and take a photo to lovely lighting and pumpkins galore. The queue for entering the caves was situated within the same area, next to a narrow tunnel that served as the entrance to the caves. This tunnel was illuminated, establishing the foreboding atmosphere that prepared us for the impending experience.

Unfortunately we weren’t sure what the story line was at this scare attraction other than a journey into the cursed caves, where many terrifying creatures dwelled, some there as lost souls and some there waiting to feast on our own souls. While there was a bit of an introduction by a mysterious tour guide who led us into the entrance of the tunnel, whatever storyline there was was completely lost to us, and while the actors who jumped at us and followed us were sometimes scary, we weren’t sure about their motive for being there in terms of a story. We did, however, come across a lost soul who begged us for help in escaping the cave, so this definitely did aid in the story being told. In general, a more meticulous incorporation of the storyline, particularly how the other cast members integrated into the narrative, would have enhanced the experience.

Despite this, due to the nature of the caves themselves we were completely immersed in the attraction, having to navigate the disorienting passageways while also looking in awe at the majesty of the architecture of the space. The eerie lighting and sounds allowed us to appreciate the space around us, with the periods of silence allowing us to hear the natural sound of the caves. The only thing taking us out of the moment were some boards at certain passageways blocking our paths saying “Keep Out” – these were more modern and took away from the more natural scenery around us. But, it’s worth noting that this space was beautiful, and the attraction’s skilful use of enchanting lighting accentuated the architectural features, elevating our experience. It was quite a unique thrill to encounter some terrifying scenes set within the backdrop of an actual subterranean river, which only added to the surreal and immersive atmosphere.


Special FX Score: 6.78

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Special FX Review:

The caves are already an eerie and commanding presence to shamble through in low light, making the use of extra effects minimal. The sound effects within the attraction exhibited a diverse range, from eerie music that enveloped us at the beginning and climax of the maze, to profound, deathly silences within the passages themselves. These moments of silence complemented the setting, enhancing the atmosphere and immersion.

The set designs were divided between dioramas positioned behind bars in small alcoves throughout the caves. These dioramas featured scenes like a skeleton boneyard and statues reimagined in a more eerie and haunting fashion. Besides these dioramas, there were actual rooms that left a lasting impression. The main “dining” area was adorned with a table burdened with rather unsettling fare, including skulls, hands, and other gruesome signs of dismemberment. Another standout was the final inner temple, where a statue of a goddess and various totems were adorned with cryptic sigils and markings, adding a sense of mystique and intrigue to the experience.

Lighting was low throughout, other than the pulsating red ambient light that flowed through the chambers.


Scare Factor Score: 7.21

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Scare Factor Review:

Due to the nature of the architecture of the space, there were plenty of dark corners for the actors to hide, and there was one such time where another actor distracted us from seeing one of these spaces, allowing another hidden actor to jump out and scream at us, providing the most shocking scare of the night. The strobing and pulsating red lights created quite a disorienting experience, and allowed for the actors around us to get the better of us and surprise us in quite menacing ways. There were a few tunnels where terrifying creatures stood at the end, but since we were being followed by another creature we had no choice but to go towards it, and sometimes they even ran towards us!

Despite there being quite a lot of people in the tunnels, with streams going up and down the same passageways, the actors were still able to provide scares to everyone in the group at times, since the nature of passageways splitting up every few feet allowed different groups to veer off in different ways. Nonetheless, there were moments when our own exit from the attraction disrupted the experience for those entering, particularly during bottleneck situations where not everyone could proceed as intended, detracting from the scares for the incoming audience.

Since the exit is the same as the entrance, there’s no real “finale” to this attraction, but we suppose the Inner Temple in the deepest depths of the labyrinth-like corridors could serve as such. This room with such history was quite creepy, and since there is only one way in and one way out with creatures blocking the doors, there was potential for big scares here. We suspect that we might have missed out on whatever surprises were prepared for the audience in this room, as we encountered no scares. Still, it remained an intriguing room to explore, steeped in ritualistic history, which added to the experience.


Entertainment & Value Score: 7.88

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E&V Review:

The Hellfire Caves are priced very fairly, with a cheap ticket to cover not only the scare experience but also the very ability to investigate and explore these underground passageways which are so infamous. There’s not too much to do outside of the caves themselves, but you can spend a few minutes taking photos in the pre-haunt space or grab yourself a coffee from their themed mini-cafe. Depending on the time you book your slot, this experience takes minimum thirty minutes to go through, and if you haven’t been to the caves before you might want to spend even more time looking at everything around you, as long as you don’t get chased away by the creatures! They don’t kick you out of the caves, so if you feel like you want to keep exploring the passageways before taking the final tunnel up to the entrance/exit you’re free to do so. It’s really about how much you want to put into this experience in terms of what you’ll get out of it – if you’re able to suspend your disbelief and channel your adventurous side, this is a night full of shocks, scares and discovery.


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