The ghosts and goblins have come out to haunt Busch Gardens at this year’s Howl-O-Scream, and despite my aversion to Halloween horrors, I was there to revel in the mayhem and attempt to escape alive! (Obviously, since I’m writing this post, I succeeded!)
I love Howl-O-Scream. I don’t like scary things or haunted houses but somehow I still love Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens. You can ride rollercoasters by day and dodge scary creatures lurking in the fog by night! So how does someone who doesn’t like being scared enjoy a theme park transformed into Horror Central? You could hide in the bathroom or ride the same rollercoaster over and over, but I’d suggest going with one or more of these ideas:
1.) Make it a game to avoid the scarers as much as possible.
When I first started going to Howl-O-Scream, this was my tactic. Busch Gardens has changed the way they distribute scarers throughout the park over the years. Sometimes they’ve placed them in areas that are tight but avoidable. In more recent years they’ve instituted the “Terror-tories” where themed scarers wreck havoc on whole areas of the park (usually centralized in a certain country). This means if you want to get through the park, you CAN’T get around them. But you CAN make it a game among your friends to see how many scarers you can get past without them noticing you or trying to scare you! There are many options for this tactic: laughing in their face, remaining stoic-faced, dodging around them, and even being creeptastic yourself. Pretty much anyway you go, you’ll be left with belly laughs instead of nauseous fear!
2.) Look for the irony and hidden humor.
Haunted houses are scary, but the creators almost always have a sense of humor. For example, two of the new houses in 2015 are called “Cornered” (where you travel through a corn maze on the property of the McCobb family farm) and “Lumberhack” (where you must try to escape the axes of a band of zombie lumberjacks). It’s funny! When you think about it, you have to laugh. So instead of being scared stiff, just try to find the hidden jokes!)
3.) Bring a large group.
Peer pressure is bad. Unless you’re in a scary park and the pressure is to scream and laugh at the same time. One of the first times I went to Howl-O-Scream I was just with my boyfriend, and it was awful. Neither of us liked scary things and we accidentally stumbled into an elaborate haunted house experience that we thought was going to be a show. (BIG NO!) But the last few years I’ve been slowly adding more and more people to my Howl-O-Scream group, and it’s become more fun. First of all, it’s so much easier to wait in line when you have a large group of friends to talk with. Second, there’s always an arm to hold onto or a shoulder to stumble into when you get caught off guard by a spooky ghoul. And finally, the more people there are, the easier it is to laugh off those scary moments. You can laugh at your friend getting scared by a creepy guy on Demon Street with a chainsaw and laugh at yourself when a pack of vampires freak you out in Germany. Friends don’t let friends get scared by alone.
4.) Enjoy the not-so-scary parts of the park.
If all else fails, you can always retreat to the not-so-terrifying parts of the park. While not horror-tastic, they are still just as awesomely Halloween-themed and fun. The shows are always amazing with my personal favorite being “Monster Stomp” in England because you can’t argue with dancing skeletons and music made from beating and scraping knives on a coffin! There’s also the Rocky Horror Picture show reminiscent “Fiends” in Ireland where you can get your fill of sexy, pink-haired nurses, the more audience interactive “Night Beats” in Das Festhaus, and new for this year and the live-action dining-experience of the Blood Banquet™ at Vampire Point™ Hotel in Germany. Once you’re done checking out all the shows, you can’t go wrong grabbing a “bite” to eat at any of the delicious dining options which are always appropriately renamed for the Halloween season. And if you’re old enough (and inclined), there are many alcoholic options to get yourself a little looser and maybe ready for the scarier parts of the park. My favorite this year was Scarlett’s potion, a spooky-looking mixed drink with color-changing lights in the glass available just outside the entrance to the park’s headlining haunted house: “Unearthed: Scarlett’s Revenge.” You can down that sucker and then stride right into the scariest house in the park like the boss that you are!
All in all, Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream is a wild ride for both the horror-junky and the faint-at-heart because the key to the park is to have fun! As long as you’re not taking yourself too seriously, you’re guaranteed to have a delightful time!