When we took one of our first walking tours, we got chatting with two of the masterminds behind the horrorfest that is Castle Horror – Carrol and Scott.  We eagerly took up their offer to come and see them in action training volunteers up for their latest instalment of zombie madness – their ‘Zombie MAYhem’ event in Dundee. It was a fairly pleasant Sunday afternoon when we turned up to Mains Castle, with the sun shining and a slight breeze ruining the warmth (but at least it wasn’t raining).  With not a clue what to expect, we rocked up for the first round of training; partly excited, and a little apprehensive that we were going to get mauled by a bunch of zombies!

We went inside the castle and up a set of stairs, where we could hear people chatting.  Already there was an air of excitement amongst the people who had gathered beyond the bar area in an original room of the castle.  Exposed stone, wooden beams and ornate mirrors gave the room the perfect vibe to have a zombie training session in.  Dark, flocked curtains held most of the sunlight at bay as a group of about 25 volunteers gathered round the crew responsible for Zombie MAYhem.  Chandeliers shone overhead, but even they could not fully banish the eerie haze of darkness that seemed to fill the room.

You could tell the team had done this before, as the entire thing was efficient, professional and thorough.  All participants were given disclosure and secrecy forms due to the nature of the event and the element of surprise that it is famous for.  Guests were offered bottles of water prior to the start of the training, and we were even given a wee shout out by Carrol, who explained who we were and why we were there during her introduction speeches.  There were plenty of people on the team Carrol needed to introduce, as it takes a LOT of people to get something like this off the ground, so we were really happy that she took the time to thank us for coming and promote us to her volunteers!

As well as Castle Horror themselves, they had Jim (technical), Stuart (entertainment director), Chris and Stevie from Scare Scotland, Dave and Paddy from Viper Strike.  If we’ve missed anyone out, we apologise – Stewart was typing as fast as he could, and Louise just sat enthralled the whole time!  On top of the people we’ve named, there are many more people required to make the event a reality, such as zombie actors, regular actors, scare actors, soldiers, airsofters, as well as a media team to handle engagement.

We were promptly handed over to Scott to begin the briefing (who loves a bit of dressing up, and isn’t afraid to tell you), during which a video is played, which he put together himself for the training, and was pretty cool, even if he didn’t think so!  What Scott told us was top secret, so we can’t tell you what he said, or we’d end up in the old graveyard at the back of Mains Castle!  Suffice it to say that it whet our appetite to come back and get a bit more Zombie MAYhem for ourselves.  It’s going to be a real screamfest, we can assure you.

The next zombie academy training is on 7th May 2016, so if you’re up for it, you’re in for a real treat.  We’re going back on 7th May to watch the actors going through their paces, which we are really looking forward to.  Dress rehearsal is on 22nd May, with the event in Dundee going live on Saturday 28th May 2016, .  Get in touch with Castle Horror directly either to be a part of the action, or to buy tickets to what promises to be a true night of horror!

Mains Castle, in Caird Park, Dundee, was built on land which at one time belonged to the Stewarts, then passed to the Douglas Earls of Angus in the 14th century. Later, in the 16th century, it became the property of the Grahams and a castle was built by a David Graham; there is a date of 1562 over a doorway. At one time the castle was known as Mains of Fintry after the Grahams castle of that name in Stirlingshire. It originally had a courtyard, surrounded by buildings but most of these have been demolished. The unusually high stair turret is a 17th century addition – and may have been built to give views over hills to the south. The castle is located in Dundee’s Caird Park to the north of the city overlooking the Dichty valley. On the opposite side of the burn is located the mausoleum of the Graham family and the Mains’ cemetery, which was formerly the site of the district’s kirk.

The fate of Sir David Graham, the builder of Mains Castle, was a strange one. Throughout the alternations of the religious professions of the Scottish nobility during the reign of Mary, the Grahams of Fintry remained steadfastly attached to the Romish Church. They thus retained the friendship of many of the northern nobles who still adhered to the old religion, and were frequently engaged in the conspiracies which foreign ecclesiastics encouraged for its establishment in Scotland. But after the Reformation faith had gained a footing in Scotland—largely because of bribes of the confiscated Church lands—this tampering with superior forces brought retribution upon them. The story of the conspiracy known to history as “The Spanish Blanks” also lends a little interest to Mains Castle. If you are interested in whether or not there are any ghosts at Mains Castle, check out this link to read a paranormal investigation into the castle by Ghost Finders Scotland.

Photo by Mark Andrew Turner, courtesy of Lost Dundee