Before random costume shops take over empty store fronts and candy corn magically appears (despite everyone wishing it disappears) the Halloween season has hit the theme parks. Over the weekend, my posse and I emerged from our caves to experience the opening night of Busch Garden Tampa’s Howl-O-Scream.

Images for a mad puppeteer danced for the Evil Encore- this year’s theme. But upon entry… hey… there was no crazy, mad puppet show display in the front. Just a mere background for photos. Furthermore, the theme is never mentioned again and doesn’t even make a small appearance in any house.

Photo board at entrance [Freaky Preview of Howl-O-Scream |]
This photo board was it; no elaborate Evil Encore set up at the entrance
Ah well- there was still plenty to explore. Although our preview weekend delivered great discounts as well as free admission to certain passholders, every line was under 20 minutes. Most times even less.

The Houses

Motel Hell (a new house) began with retro, lobbies and rooms while the Chordette’s bouncy ‘Mr. Sandman’ played overhead (although I never saw anything related to dreams or nightmares.) Several good scares surprised me as they struck from below or from above. As a motel, the theming was excellent although halfway through it suddenly became a chainsaw party followed by a cemetery- how did we get here?

Hotel Hell entrance [Freaky Preview of Howl-O-Scream |]
Hotel Hell – leading the way in and the sign as you are about to enter
The Black Spot is the only other new house. This pirate-themed venue didn’t deliver many scares. Maybe it was just bad timing, but it also didn’t provide anything memorable or unique. ARGH (not the pirate sound) this was a missed theming opportunity.

At Unearthed, we had to swat away the scraggly vines hanging from the ceiling. The creatures of the dirt kept yelping at our trespassing. I also found the Little Shop of Horrors look-alikes to be entertaining.

Circus of Superstition: The Last Laugh requires you to don the provided 3D glasses before entry. The use of the glasses plus the vomits of neon color everywhere is both trippy and disorienting. And if your timing is right, Circus also houses one of the coolest scares- it never gets old.

Circus entrance [Freaky Preview of Howl-O-Scream |]
Circus of Superstition – about to enter the 3D house
Zombie Containment Unit 15 divides guests into small teams before everyone is given guns. You get released into the warehouse with crazed zombies. Our weapon temporarily stuns the zombies allowing our escape. I’m pretty sure the guns are bogus, but finally being the central character in a real shoot-em-up zombie game is crazy fun. And you still get some adrenaline-pumping scares along the way.

Zombie Mortuary used many life-size dolls and dummies to hide the real scare-actors. There were a few obvious areas where an actor should’ve been stationed but were completely empty during our visit; I’m sure those will get fixed.

Unfortunately, we didn’t visit Death Water Bayou. Although we arrived early and there were hardly any crowds, my group was… uh… on a ‘sugar rush’ from drinking too much ‘soda.’ More time was spent chasing those who had wandered away than being chased by scares.

The Shows

Howl-O-Scream’s only show Fiends fell to the same fate by my posse. Noooo– Despite being stupid and cheesy each year, I welcomed the eye-rolls Fiends produces with its pop-culture references. Plus their music choices always get my dance-ready group turnt. And of course… the nurses. Need I say more?

Clown on a scooter [Freaky Preview of Howl-O-Scream |]
I found this brilliant and amusing– a scare clown on a scooter!


Oh no, I suck! There’s a handful of scare zones however I can’t say for sure what each zone was themed (unnamed on the event maps.) However none of the zones stood out to me. Most of the time there was a lack of smoke and the ability to easily see the approaching scare-actors. In the past, Howl-O-Scream had created scare zones that almost felt like houses except outdoors. Those zones had actors to fit the area and weren’t just trying to sneak up on you. None of these current zones fell into that description.

Or maybe the scare actors were spread thinner because there were also the ‘roaming scare hordes’- groups of scare-actors who’d wander the park essentially making every area a scare zone.

Empty scare zone set [Freaky Preview of Howl-O-Scream |]
This is a rather elaborate piece that seemed to be more of a decoration than use at any scare zone


Wow- I’m reading the above. Obviously I wasn’t prepared to report on Howl O Scream’s Freaky Preview. But come on… I was surrounded by heavily imbibed individuals and… well… it wasn’t me! It was the drink!

Hehe. Despite the shortcomings, Howl-O-Scream was still fun as usual.This wasn’t just because of the people I was with but because of the event itself, even if I wasn’t able to experience everything.  

If you plan on going to Howl-O-Scream and have any questions, let me know!

Running on select nights through October 30, Howl-O-Scream is a separate ticketed event. Busch Gardens descends into some evil, maniacal… and insanely fun ode to Halloween. Haunted houses appear. Walkways turn into ‘scare zones.’ All of the thrill rides continue to RUN but now imagine that feeling of flying on a roller coaster doubled by riding it in the darkness. You can find more information here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s