An upcoming Welsh horror game has drawn fire for featuring a private home in its advertising – and its owner is now considering legal action.
Publisher Wales Interactive announced survival horror The Maid of Sker last week using images of the real-life Sker House situated near Porthcawl in South Wales. It was the first time the owner of the house had heard of the project – and they were, perhaps understandably, displeased.
The real-life Sker House (pronounced “Scare House”) isn’t even featured in the game – the action instead takes place within a fictitious hotel of the same name, presumably to avoid the house itself being shown.
Yet in a press release announcing The Maid of Sker, Wales Interactive mentioned the real-life house prominently:
“Based on the haunting true story of Elizabeth Williams, you play as Thomas Evans, a musician who is thrust into a terrifying battle to save the woman he loves. Set in 1898 in and around Sker House, a real dwelling which still stands to this day and is said to be one the most haunted in Britain.
“Expect a story of forbidden love within a family empire driven by torture, slavery, piracy and a supernatural mystery that suffocates the grounds of Sker House.”
The “true story” mentioned is the legend popularised by the 1872 novel named The Maid of Sker written by R.D. Blackmore, which has inspired generations of ghost hunters to seek out the real-life Sker House for themselves.
In a phone conversation, Sker House’s estate keeper, whose name we’ve withheld for their own privacy, told me they had discovered the game’s existence via an Instagram post which featured a photo of their house, tagged with its name and advertising its status as a haunted building.
What complicates the matter, however, is the real Sker House is a well-known property and easy to find online. It has been featured by BBC News and Wales Online for its haunted status, aside from its historical significance as a part of a 12th century abbey.
Sker House was also once open to the public at certain times. Up until 2013 it was open 28 days a year as part of the condition of its sale to its current private owner, who now lives abroad.
The house is now closed all year round, and inaccessible without venturing onto private land. There are electric gates, and signs which state the land is private. A nearby footpath has been moved away from the house.
While the estate manager told me they were considering legal action over the issue, Wales Publishing contends it is within its rights to publish details on the existence of Sker House and The Maid of Sker story.
“We believe [estate manager] is irate because of trespassers – possibly ghost hunters – on the grounds taking pictures of the house because of the Maid of Sker game announcement.
“Perhaps it’s to do with the fact it’s Halloween and Sker House is renowned for its haunting history that’s inspired many stories over the years. Whatever the reason, we are well within our rights to mention the history of the house.
“Since the game announcement – and as a courtesy to the contact – we have edited our content to tone down the use of Sker House and have not used any pictures of the real house. However, this is not a legal requirement.”
The Maid of Sker is currently set to launch on PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch towards the end of next year.