On Sept. 21, Busch Gardens opened its gates to another season of spooking with Howl-O-Scream. The event, which turns 13 this year, is filled with new and updated houses and attractions to entertain thrill seekers this fall.This year, Busch Gardens invites visitors to discover what else li
es in the Dark Side of the Garden, a theme which Howl-O-Scream creators are continuing after its success last year. A new character, Trickster, is introduced at this year’s event. The Lady in White, last year’s featured character, is buried at last, but Trickster is there to pick up the pieces. According to Show Manager Alex Crow, Trickster is “kind of like the guy who starts a food fight and then walks away.” Guests should not worry that this year’s event will echo last year’s, though; although the theme is a sequel to last year’s, the new attractions and updates promise to be unexpected frights.
“It’s a completely different experience,” said Crow, addressing concerns that this year’s event will mirror last year’s. “(Trickster) is unlocking the gate…because we’re going deeper and deeper and deeper into the Garden.”
The event features two new haunted houses, Blood Asylum and Circus of Superstition 3-D. According to Howl-O-Scream’s Creative Director Scott Swenson, Blood Asylum was created after many guests suggested that an asylum house would be a creepy addition to the Howl-O-Scream event. The house features a serial killer who has escaped from his cell and is transforming the hospital into a torture chamber. The other new house, Circus of Superstition 3-D, is filled with sinister clowns determined to terrify guests. Swenson warns that this house is particularly haunting for guests who are scared of clowns.
Five haunted houses returned to Howl-O-Scream this year as well, although with some changes. Last year’s Ultimate Gamble house is now Ultimate Gamble: Condemned, which provides an gruesome twist to last year’s house. The revised house has been shut down by authorities and the zombie casino owner is now chained next to the front entrance. Inside, cobwebs cover the once-lively casino and the lights which once filled the house are off, creating a spooky darkness. Guests travel in packs of five with only one source of a light: a flashlight, provided at the house entrance. The change forges a new sense of terror within the house that otherwise may have seemed trite to returning guests.
One of the most interesting returning houses is Alone, a house that only five percent of guests ventured into last year. The house opened in 2012 as one of the most unique houses to ever haunt Howl-O-Scream. What makes it unique is that guests can only go into this house completely alone or with three other people. The house is designed to be an extremely personal experience; scare actors try to get into the guest’s head. For guests who cannot handle the intense experience, a safe word is provided at the entrance. If a guest says the safe word, the scare actors will discard their scary guise and escort the guest to the exit. Guests wishing to experience Alone must make a reservation in advance. It costs $50 to go through alone and $10 for each additionally person, up to three extra people.
New scare zones and shows will also be featured this year. The Faded Memories scare zone brings back thirteen years of horrors and scares from Howl-O-Scream. Fiends will be performing at the Desert Grill this year as well.
“Most of all, we want you to be scared,” said Crow. True to Crow’s word, this event promises to be another creepy chapter in the Howl-O-Scream epic.
General admission is $79.99 plus tax. For a complete Howl-O-Scream schedule, click here.
Natalie Barman / Opinion Editor