Howl-O-Scream is worth the trip and the scare
South Bureau Chief
As the sun begins to set and the darkness creeps in, Busch Gardens transforms from a happy, lively colorful thrill ride theme park to the dark, demented and terrifying world of Howl-O-Scream.
Actors in camouflage wait eerily still and patiently for distracted guests to walk by as killer clowns, chainsaw killers and gigantic death monsters walk among the living guests.
Howl-O-Scream brings fear and fun together for a fully immersive Halloween experience.
Insomnia is Howl-O-Scream’s newest haunted house where your worst nightmares come to life. Everything that can keep you up at night is presented and as you walk through the maze of things that go bump in the night the actors do their best to hear you scream.
Simon’s Slaughterhouse is another new haunted house in the lineup of terror. This one is not for the kids and Howl-O-Scream warns guests that it may not be appropriate for anyone under 17. The set and scenery in this house are especially graphic and gory. Guts line the walls, chainsaw’s jump out of dark corners and by the time you come out of the other side your knees are shaking and your palms are sweaty. Reminiscent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this haunted house is no joke.
The Black Spot haunted house is where SawTooth Silas, an evil pirate, waits for you after marking you with his black spot. Scary, but not entirely cohesive and one of the less memorable haunted houses, this story seems to be filler. Even so, I still recommend it as part of the experience and there are a few good scares waiting.
Unearthed is another haunted house where the theme is not overwhelmingly cohesive but the imagery is great. Set in an old haunted house where demons roam free this one gets you towards the end.
The scares are there and a long walk through make it worth your while.
The 2 best haunted houses are Death Water Bayou and Motel Hell.
Death Water Bayou is set in the swamps where the voodoo queen and her evil demons are waiting to get you and put you under their spell. The set, scenery and characters here are very detailed. Everything makes sense and you feel like you have just walked into the deep south the second you step in line. This was the most terrifying walk through. The special effects were great and at one point actors in a harness swing and jump out at you 2 inches from your face.
Motel Hell has a very recognizable theme of a haunted motel but that’s what makes it so great. You have this idea of what the scenery is like and that’s exactly what you get. Familiarity does not ruin the experience at all. Actors are loud and the places they chose to hide are very well hidden. Distraction is the best tool in this house. Your attention will be to the action on one side but the scare will come from an area you least expect it.
Howl-O-Scream doesn’t just place actors on the haunted houses they sit them next to single riders on roller coasters and have them waiting for you as you come off the ride.
The whole park transforms at night and you don’t even notice the transformation. All you notice is that little by little headstones pop up out of the ground, black lights come on and next thing you know you’re being chased by a 10-foot dead thing around the park.
On the lighter side of things, picture spots are available for guests to take pictures with their own cameras or pay to have the park photographer take the picture instead. There are alcohol stands and souvenir shops all long the park so you can shop, drink and eat before leaving the park.
The experience was fun, scary and for less than other major Halloween attractions it was worth every penny.
I do suggest buying the passes to skip the line and if possible the option to have early access to the haunted houses before the park opens at night.A ticket to Fright Feast an all you can eat buffet dinner and show will give you early access to the park so you never have to leave and will give you about an hour and a half of front of the line access to the haunted houses. That’s enough time do them all once before having to use your own fast passes. For a few extra bucks give yourself the gift of no waiting, it changes your whole experience. For more information visit https://buschgardens.com/tampa/