Behind the Scenes at Howl-O-Scream 2016: Dolls, Clowns, and My Worst Nightmares

It’s that time of year again! I’m so excited to bring you what’s new and scary at Howl-O-Scream in Busch Gardens Williamsburg this fall!  If you have a fear of creepy dolls (thanks Chucky and Pretty Little Liars), clowns, and carnivals, you’re in for some scream-inducing mayhem!

Busch Gardens added several new features to the park this Howl-O-Scream including a haunted house “Circo Sinistro” which has a carnival/circus theme, a Terror-tory in Italy called Sideshow Square which continues the circus theme, two Escape Room experiences, and the Starfright Orchestra on Saturday evenings playing your favorite Halloween tunes.  I really loved the “Evil Encore”/Circus theme because it’s surprisingly bright and fun sounding while being thoroughly creeptastic. In fact, I wish that more of the park could have incorporated it, and perhaps even expanded upon the Mr. Karver/Georgie the Doll mythology that I glimpsed in the Escape Room.  It’s scary without being so overwhelmingly terrifying that you feel you like you can’t have any fun, which for me, made for a super great experience. So let’s break the new and interesting things down for you:

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No Escape → Escape Room Experiences

Have you been to an Escape Room yet? It’s a difficult adventure where you’re locked in a room with some friends and you have to find and solve clues to escape before the clock runs out!  I did one in New York City when I was at YouTube NextUp in the spring, and it was so fun once I got the hang of it.  Busch Gardens is catching onto the trend and put together an amazing experience.  Not only are they Halloween themed (Mr. Karver’s creepy doll workshop, and the mystery of Jack the Ripper), but they also have performers in the room with you! I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard of a Escape Room with that added element yet. It certainly ups the difficulty factor as you’re a little worried Mr. Karver is going to cut off one of your limbs at any moment!  I didn’t get to play the rooms, but I did get to tour them, and they look amazing! The Escape room experience isn’t included in the price of admission, but I think it’s well worth the price because it’s a puzzle experience and show all in one!



Sideshow Square

Terror-tories have always been something I tried to avoid in Howl-O-Scream. I’m not a big fan of  people jumping out at me when I’m just trying to eat some funnel cake.  But sometimes you have to walk through them in order to get through the park quickly which is why I actually really like Sideshow Square. While you do have some extra creepy guys in weird clown masks walking around with chainsaws that sound like clown horns, you’ll also find fun (but still scary) “sideshow” style areas.  For example, I got tricked into pressing a button to have my fortune told and ended up with a fortuneteller jumping out of the booth at me. Ah! It makes you want to linger a little more to see everything that’s there rather than power walk through it like your grandma on steroids.

Circo Sinistro

I’m not a big haunted house fan. I’ve learned to somewhat enjoy them when I have a big group of friends, and I can hide in the middle and use them as shields. However, walking through a haunted house essentially alone because you’re wearing a GoPro harness with a light pointed at your face that is basically blinding you, makes for an entirely different experience. Parker was hanging out behind me filming from a different angle so I didn’t have any manly biceps to cling to. I was really nervous to go in! But I would say that of all my Howl-O-Scream maze experiences, this one is actually my favorite! It’s long and has several different stages. It also didn’t feel so closed in and claustrophobic which is usually my one complaint with haunted houses. I remember the Catacombs maze in France in 2014 where I kept bumping into walls and it nearly made me hyperventilate.  But man, are the dolls and clowns in this maze horrifying! It’s pretty much full of every part of carnivals, circuses, and dollhouses that you HATED as a kid (and an adult). So good luck and Godspeed!




Starfright Orchestra

I haven’t actually gotten to hear the Starfright Orchestra at the time of writing this blog because they only play on Saturdays, but I really hope that I get to take another trip on a Saturday just so I can sit and listen! If you’re a scaredy-cat like me, and really just like going to Howl-O-Scream for the Halloween-esque atmosphere, I feel like this is the perfect place to chill out!  I love the idea of just hanging out and listening to some fun Halloween-inspired tunes from some super talented musicians!


If you’re looking for even more Howl-O-Scream goodness (and fright!), check out my latest video from the park! I go behind-the-scenes in all the new areas that I summarize for you here, so if you’re still skeptical, you can see for yourself!

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