On this thirteenth day of October, when our thoughts turn to the evils about to emerge from the depths of our collective imaginations on the 31st, we are lucky to be able to channel those evil thoughts into fun escapes from the everyday world at various haunted attractions scattered across our great state. In the Palm Beaches, we are lucky that we have three of the largest and most successful haunts in the country; Enigma Haunt, Fright Nights, and X-Scream Halloween.
Travel just a few hours north, and there are even more events to choose from, varying from scary (Halloween Horror Nights) to not so scary (LEGOLAND Brick-Or-Treat, SeaWorld Spooktacular, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.) Only an hour west of these Orlando area events, you’ll find yet another haven for miscreants and misfits, many of whom are deperate to try and steal your soul, your money, and your time; all in good fun, of course!
At Busch Gardens Tampa, one of the most frightening, spine-chilling, and fun Halloween themed events in Florida; Howl-O-Scream, welcomes visitors to their 335 acres to explore the evil that has been “Unearthed” this year.
With so many haunted attractions to choose from, you might be wondering why should you Howl-O-Scream? There are lots of very good reasons, but here are the top 13, as well as a brief review of the houses, beverages, and more
13) Elephants – You may think that the animal exhibits at the park are all secured for the night. You’d be mistaken, as the parks herd of Indian elephants stand vigil as the terrified guests look on. There are also other animals who remain secluded in the shadows, just out of sight. How many can you identify?
12) Fright Feast Buffet – People can’t be properly scared on an empty stomach! Fright Feast is the most deranged dinner show in town, featuring a buffet of monstrous main courses and devilish desserts, plus an exclusive performance of Fiends. Fright Feast guests are also the first to brave the dark with a half-hour of early access to the all-new haunted houses and front-of-line privileges until 8:30 p.m. That extra bit of time may not seem like much, but it will definitely give you a head start on the horror, and who doesn’t want that!
11) Naughty Nurses – Some people have a fear of doctors, but these nurses will do their best to ease your fears! Most of them are simply eye candy for the ladies and gentlemen in attendance, but a few of them have the privelage of serving various alchoholic potions to the assembled masses, in the form of jello shooters, in actual syringes!
10) Roaming hordes – Howl-O-Scream is famous for their roving hordes of scareactors, who turn virtually all of Busch Gardens 335 acres into a giant scarezone filled with with dark, sinister, adult-targeted fun. This year, you’ll notice some of Scarlett’s minions, complete with glowing eyes, desperate to take yours! You’ll also notice the usual complement of zombies, as well as many camoflaged characters in the bushes. (Or maybe you won’t notice!)
9) Howl-O-Scream Shop of Horrors – Sometimes, simply browsing the many macabre trinkets available for purchase is almost as good as the haunted attractions themselves. Of course, every good theme park experience is not compete without at least a t-shirt, hat, pin or zombie teddy bear!
8) “Terror” tories – These themed areas are basically outdoor, walk-through haunted attractions. They aren’t marked out, but you will notice some areas where the hordes have taken over that turn into defacto scare zones. Remember, the only truly safe place is in the bathrooms!
7) Club Unearthed – This dance club of the undead gives patrons a chance to try out some of the adult beverages on hand, and dance the night away with some of the scariest creatures this side of the grave! This year, the adult beverage selection is among the best ever. Unearthed, excavation, and Scarlett are the posions of choice, and each one packs a different punch than the next. Why not try all three!
6) Icons – Howl-O-Scream has always had an icon; a deviant of some sort whose evil mind dominates the theming of the event. Miss Scarlett is highly visible in the advertising and merchandise for this year’s event, but the Raven Twins and Trickster are also about.
5) Zombie Containment Unit – Armed with only a Z.E.D. (Zombie Eradication Device), guests must hold off an undead mob in this interactive zombie hunting experience. This experience is unlike any other you’ll get in the typical “corporate” haunt, where you and your “closest” 150 friends march one after another through the house. Here, you are sent through in groups of four, and the scares abound!
4) Coasters at night – If you’re a certified coaster chicken, and find the rollercoasters at Busch Gardens overwhelming in the daylight, imagine how insane they are at night! The brave (or foolish) have the chance to ride adrenaline-fuelled coasters at night, including Florida’sfirst triple-launch coaster, Cheetah Hunt.
3) Front Line Fear Pass – This wonderful pass grants no-wait access to six houses, excluding Zombie Containment Unit. For those who prefer self-guided scares but still want front-of-the-line perks, the Front Line Fear pass grants no-wait access to six haunted houses for $49. The Front Line Fear Extreme pass increases the terror and also gives guests front-of-the-line access to thrill rides for $59. Both passes include merchandise discounts.
Of course, you can increase the VIP feel even more by taking one of the guided tours. Conquer every terrifying corner of Howl-O-Scream 2015 with all-inclusive VIP Packages which include event admission, a tour guide and a choice of three levels of special treatment. All tours include commemorative photos, merchandise discounts and complimentary beverages. Packages start at $89, and Busch Gardens Pass Member discounts are available.
The Super experience is a three-hour group tour of haunted houses that includes front-of-the-line access.
The Mega experience is a five-hour experience that adds preferred parking and front-of-the-line access to Busch Gardens’ world-class thrill rides.
The Ultimate experience includes preferred parking and front-of-the-line access to thrill rides and haunted houses, including the Zombie Containment Unit 15: Moving Targets. The tour also includes a personal guide for a private group adventure through Howl-O-Scream.
2) Fiends – This signature naughty nurses show features Dr. Freakenstein, Frankenstein’s monster, Igor, the Wolfman, and plenty of nurses who boogie down just feet away. It’s fist performance of the night is included with the Frght Feast Buffet, and who can say no to dinner and a show!
1) Haunted attractions – Of course, there wouldn’t be much of a point to attend a halloween themed event without the haunted houses! Howl-O-Scream is interesting in the fact that they reuse some of the haunted attractions from year to year, giving them a chance to improve and tweak the experience. All of the attractions do not return, however, which allows the new blood to replace the old. After all, what kind of vampire or zombie likes old blood!
In Howl-O-Scream’s newest haunted house, Unearthed: Scarlett’s Revenge, the creative team at Busch Gardens crafted a dark new tale of Scarlett, a village healer who turned to dark magic to avenge her husband’s killers. As her powers grew, she was hunted, trapped and buried alive deep beneath the park…but has now been Unearthed to summon terror on unsuspecting guests.
Guest venture into mysterious centuries-old house filled with secrets, and terror awaits all who dare to enter as Scarlett summons demons and collects body parts to reincarnate her dead husband. This is by far one of the most detailed houses that Howl-O-Scream has ever had, and the hand of Academy Award winning producer Rob Cowie can be felt within the attraction. It is the only house that elicited true fear on our recent visit to Tampa, and one that raises the bar for future editions of the event.
Some of the most demented houses are back this year by popular demand, but with horrifying new twists:
Dead Fall: Thirst for Blood – Humans and plants entwine with an insatiable thirst for human blood, as guests attempt to escape the nightmare that has taken over this Victorian garden and greenhouse. This house also provided it’s fair share of fright, but most of that was because we were the only ones in the house. As with all of these attractions, if you can manage to go in by yourself, or in a small group, the effects are much better.
Death Water Bayou – Deep in the bayou the Voodoo Queen transforms wanderers into her evil servants. Those who enter must escape her dark magic before falling victim to her spell. This one has been around for a couple years, and although it has had some new scenes added, just didn’t seem to have the same effect it did when it was new. Still, a cool concept. New Orleans must be big this year!
The BASEMENT – Momma’s Meats’ award-winning recipe has always been a family affair that’s only created in The BASEMENT. ..guests must escape before becoming the secret ingredient. If you’re a fan of this sort of oddball humor, you’ll enjoy thjis house. Beware of the spitting actors, though!
Circus of Superstition: The Last Laugh – A lifetime of avoiding black cats and sidewalk cracks won’t save guests from this house, as the bad luck of childhood superstitions catches up with them in new demented ways. This one still has a lot of great effects, and having the Trickster hanging around makes it even better!
Zombie Mortuary – Led by their queen, zombies infest this small town funeral home and satisfy their hunger with fresh flesh and brains. For whatever reason, this one suffered from a lack of cohesion that it had when it first opened a few years ago. Some of the more interesting effects have been removed, and the scares were few and far between.
The event then runs Thursday through Saturday nights from now until Halloween, and select Sunday nights, Oct. 18 and 25. Operating event hours are 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
This year, 4-Pack Ticket Deals start at $35 per person, plus tax. Reduced advance-purchase rates are available online, and special offers are available for Busch Gardens Pass Members.
And, for an overnight or weekend gruesome getaway, there are themed vacation packages such as the Overnight Fright or Wild & Wicked Weekends. Packages can include special perks such as early access into Howl-O-Scream, unlimited admission to Busch Gardens and free parking. Check out all of this and more at HowlOScream.com.
Howl-O-Scream 2015 is a separate-ticketed night event. No costumes are allowed. For guest information, visit HowlOScream.com or call 1-888-800-5447.
Remember that Halloween is a time for fun and frivolity. It is a time to come out of your shell, and to acknowledge the mischievous spirit that resides within all of us. Be sure to keep following Palm Beach Happening for news on other spooky events in the Palm Beaches. If you know of another local event that would appreciate the undead light shone upon it, please let us know!