Nestled amongst fields and farm sheds out in rural St. Mary, there’s a team of people capable of creating an totally immersive alternative reality, entirely from scratch.
Before you start thinking that we’re describing some sort of illicit laboratory, we have to point out that stepping through the massive hangar doors of what Chris Colin, managing director of Secrets Beneath, describes as “a one-stop shop for dynamic event creation’, the first thing you’ll see at the moment is what looks like a massive timber-framed fantasy house. “That’s just the entrance”, Chris tells us, “to Narnia; our Winter Wonderland… it’s going to be incredible”. We’ve been sworn to secrecy on the details (see end of this feature for their gradual Facebook reveal), but we can only say that he’s putting it mildly.
If finding a fairytale building inside the mysterious (and noisy) farm shed wasn’t impressive enough, chatting to Chris would reveal that this was not only the base for a revolving team of builders, but the studio for entirely bespoke sound and music production – and scriptwriting – a rehearsal space for entire casts of actors and the office from which global negotiations are happening, as hotels as far-afield as the middle-east are looking to import their unique, ‘made in Jersey’ pop-up events. “If they want it, we’ll ship it – our only rule is that the Jersey audience always get our best stuff first!”.
Speaking of this new-found worldwide acclaim, Chris says “it’s all happened so fast”, and goes on to describe how the whole thing started with “a dare from the management team at Alton Towers”, who told Chris to try out his idea for an immersive ‘scare (horror-themed) event’ in Jersey and see what happened.
To Chris, who had been down several seemingly disparate career paths, including (but not limited to) fisherman, sound engineer, professional musician and body-shop owner, it seemed “worth a shot”, and in 2012 the first event “The Awakening” scared the bejesus out of around 1,000 visitors to the National Trust’s Le Cotil Farm. “It was tiny, with a tiny budget, but we had an incredible team of actors and a great script – and it made me think, alright then, there is a market for this kind of event here; if we build it, people will come!”.
“The next year we came back with Psychosis – a much bigger event, held at Classic Herd Farm in St. Peter, and we had about 3,500 people through the door”.
Psychosis, it transpired, began to attract attention from scare-event enthusiasts in the UK, and brought both UK tourists and reviews from specialist groups like The Scar Awards and Scare Tour. This spurred Chris and the team to “go big or go home” on their next event, and 2014’s Torment, held on the Waterfront, would scoop two awards and even landed Chris the job of managing truly massive Halloween events at Shocktoberfest in the UK.
For Chris, this ‘alternative’ career is worth more than any amount of financial compensation. “I love it. I’m also extremely fortunate to have built a team around me who live for this as much as I do. Many of them have other jobs, and start here on a ‘late shift’, and it’s not uncommon for any of us to put in a seven-day week of up to 15 hour days, but it’s totally worth it to see the finished product in motion, and people’s reactions”.
The Secrets Beneath team have even been looking after dinosaurs! Earlier in the year, they created the much talked-about Tamba Park animatronic T-rex float, and escorted it down Victoria Avenue in full-uniform during the Battle of Flowers parades!
Although the move from horror themes and dinosaurs to Christmas may seem a stretch, Chris tells us “the scare stuff is my heart and soul, but I looked at some of the grottos last Christmas with my sons, and thought I could bring more care and transfer the immersive experience to something for entire families”. But that’s not to say that they haven’t got the upcoming Halloween period covered too… check out Facebook /secretsbeneath for details of Helloween – and prepare to be transported to an alternative world – right here in Jersey – care of Secrets Beneath – Jersey’s ultimate fantasy workshop.