Nick’s New Horizons youth service team had filled the gloom of the fort’s stone rooms with ghouls and grisly scare mongers, for an ambitious fund-raiser.
Shuttle buses brought victims to the old fort like maidens to a vampire’s crypt. “The queues for the haunted house was amazing,” said Nick on Facebook. “The people wouldn’t even leave the queue when we break for 30 minutes.”
The event followed the success of the previous year’s venture, when the team turned Kingshurst Community Centre into a haunted house.
Demand for entry was so great that some people were turned away and a bigger venue was chosen, despite the challenges of safety and logistics.
Praise came from the highest echelons of St Helena Government, with financial secretary Colin Owen declaring: “Brilliant night, some great moments with so many people screaming. Count us in for next year!”
St Helena police were in attendance to make sure nothing went wrong – some working as volunteers – and a few brave officers even ventured into the haunted rooms.
Without a search warrant…
When dawn finally came, Nick’s team were left with a massive clean-up job – while the rest of the island celebrated St Helena’s carnival day.
High Knoll Fort has seen some gruesome things in its time. Two centuries ago, to the very year, six men were hanged there on a makeshift gallows, for leading a mutiny.
It is about to become a place of horror once again – but this time, for paying customers. “People want to be scared,” said Nick Stevens.
He and his team at St Helena’s New Horizons youth centre are transforming the 200-year-old citadel into a fortress of fear.
It follows their success at turning Kingshurst Community Centre into a haunted house for Hallowe’en in 2011.
“It was too successful,” he said. “We couldn’t get everyone in and loads of people was left disappointed, even though we ran it from seven to midnight. We wanted a bigger venue and High Knoll is the ideal place.
“Last year there was a few people who was really petrified. It’s going to be a bit more scary and gruesome.
“We had lots of good comments last time and there’s one lady just got off the ship and she said she went to London Dungeon and it wasn’t as good as this.
“We’ve got loads more props. The actors are really good and the sound effects and lighting have to be good on the night.
“It’s different scenes than we had last time. There’s going to be a couple of rooms with medieval things. I don’t want to give too much away.
“Hopefully at the end we can get all the actors out and people can see it wasn’t real.”
Police, the fire service and public health officials have all been involved in planning the event and making sure it is safe.
“Of course, there’s dangerous places up there,” said Nick, in an interview with Tony Leo of Saint FM. “We are barricading places off and marshalling them as well.”
The tourism department is paying for the security marshalls, and police will also be present – some of them working as volunteers, including behind the bar.
Basil Read, the airport construction firm, is supplying back-up floodlighting and lending two buses for a park-and-ride service up through Half Tree Hollow, starting at 6.15pm. The narrow approach to the fort means no one will be allowed to walk up to it.
There will be some respite from the ghoulishness. “The main attraction is the haunted house,” said Nick, “but there will be loads of other stuff: kiddies’ corner, movie, disco, a barbecue.
“Serena’s light and horror stall will be there and the Fowlers are doing candy floss, popcorn and toffee apples. It’s not very often we get toffee apples on St Helena so that’s something extra.”
There will also be cash prizes for the best fancy dress.
“Any event we do we try and aim it at the whole family,” said Nick, whose team also runs the island’s St Helena Day celebrations. “I think that’s really important.”
And if Nick has a haunted look in the days running up to the event, it’s because there’s one big fear hanging over him that doesn’t come from the special effects department. “We just don’t want the rain to come,” he said.
Admission to the Hallowe’en Scream at High Knoll Fort is £1 for adults, and 50p for children.
Money raised will go to the work of New Horizons and to the island’s family trust.
Students at Prince Andrew School have been maintaining a blog as part of their studies and as well as giving us an excellent flavour of life on the island, they also make a couple of rather witty remarks.
Which is how word leaked out about the real reason why the St Helena National Trust has been shoring up the defences at High Knoll Fort.
Ascension Island gets a write-up, too.
It also reveals that one of the students has eyes of four different colours. Must be a previously-undiscovered endemic species.