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Photo TR: Howl-o-Scream Media Night at Busch Gardens Europe


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Busch Gardens Europe celebrates “10 Years of Fears” with this year’s edition of Howl-o-Scream. So, the park decided to hold its first (to the best of my knowledge) “Media Night” on Friday, October 10. I’ve been enjoying HOS since the beginning, so I jumped at the chance to participate in the event’s 10th anniversary.


Howl-o-Scream certainly has evolved over its first decade. I remember when the first HOS featured a haunted train ride (the amusing “Transylvania Express”), a few shows, and merely one maze, which threw just about every “haunt” element you could think of at guests (such as dinosaurs, a torture chamber, a mad scientist, and, of course, evil clowns). It was located where Corkscrew Hill is today.


I chatted a bit with Phil Raybourn, BGE’s senior production manager for entertainment, about how the event has grown. According to Phil, BGE employs a “275-person scare squad” this year just for the mazes and scare zones. And while the emphasis is on providing guests with the scariest experience possible, the park does perform a “balancing act” for the largest part of its audience—families.


For example, starting last year, the train ride, which in the past had featured scary scenes involving vampires, ghouls, and other creatures of the night, became the family-friendly “Jack’s Pumpkin Express,” with lighting displays and Halloween music. The park’s oldest maze, “Curse of Pompeii” (located in the “Escape from Pompeii” ride building), is “nonscary” from noon to 3:00; that is, the effects are turned off and there are no scare actors, which allows families to get a taste of HOS in a way that doesn’t disturb little kids.


HOS has also evolved quite a bit from its original “everything but the kitchen sink” maze its first year. In the past, there have been haunted mazes themed around “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” pirates, and the obligatory (at least at most parks) evil clowns. But this year, the mazes revolve around the park’s actual theme—the countries of Europe.


For example, the park’s newest maze, “Masquerage,” located where evil clowns once ruled, takes guests through the ruins of a 16th-century Italian castle, where they’re “guests” at a ghostly, demonic party. This maze seemed to take its cue from Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” which also involved a fatal party at the home of an Italian nobleman. I’ve never seen a theme-park haunt quite like it. The nearby “Wicked Woods: Ripper Row” takes you on a jaunt through a not-so-merrie Olde England, home of Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd (this is my favorite maze at HOS).


“The Never After” is an entire area devoted to twisted versions of European fairy tales, particularly those of Germany’s Brothers Grimm, with two mazes and a scare zone. Guests first brave “Grimm Hollows: Deadtime Stories,” which is loaded with twisted takes on many famous tales, such as “Rapunzel,” “The Frog Prince,” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” Tormented Tales” takes visitors thorough nightmare versions of the “Hansel and Gretel” and “The Three Little Pigs” (beware the attack of “bungee wolf”). The only way back to the “real world” is through the “Beaten Path” scare zone, where the Collector of body parts holds sway—along with his army of evil fairy-tale icons, such as his “Pig Boys.” It’s very cleverly done.


At “Media Night,” representatives from local news organizations and theme-park-related Web sites were allowed to take pictures inside “Wicked Woods” (something guests aren’t allowed to do) and to strap on the “Scream Cam” for a tour of “Masquerage.” Trying to maneuver through past scare actors and around tight corners with a video camera sticking out at arm’s length was fun, but a bit of a challenge (“grace” is not my middle name).


Thanks for a fun evening, Busch! Here are some pictures and my “Scream Cam” video.




My time to strap on the cam wasn't for a few hours, so I wandered off to check out some other stuff. More to come.


The only way out of "Masquerage."


This is the "Scream Cam." Yeah, it's a bit awkward--and it makes you look like a Borg or maybe one of Clive Barker's Cenobites.


And this here's Wrath.


Yeah, hot, undead chicks dig me--what can I say? This is Eve, one of the stars of the "Rockin Eve's Wrath" show in France.


I'd like to say thank-you to my "handler," Yolanda, who made sure that I stayed safe and out of trouble. Of course, I wasn't able to save her from Jack. Oh, well . . .


This guy was passing our invitations to the "Masquerage."


Er, can I interest you in a chicken leg, Mr. Scary Collector Person?


OK, where's the buffet?


Aw-w-w-w, isn't Pig Boy the cutest thing? That is, when is isn't rending your flesh or ripping out your soul by the roots.


Hmm--usually, I see possums smashed flat on the highway.


I think I could live without the Madagascar hissing cockroach, though. Keep that sucker away from the food!


BGE welcomed us with a few extra "creatures of the night," such as this boa constrictor. I don't mind snakes, as long as they don't bite, shoot venom into my arm, and force an amputation before I die of blood poisoning.


. . . as does Jack.


Bruce Wilson, communications supervisor for BGE, Water Country USA, and Kingsmill, welcomes us to Media Night . . .


This way to Busch's extra-horrifying parking! Now with extra terror!

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More of Howl-o-Scream Media Night, including a walk through the "Wicked Woods."


Oh my god! They got Soren! Thanks for reading.


Well, time for my session with the "Scream Cam."


This is either Pig Boy's hangout or a set from a roadshow production of "Lord of the Flies."


Here's a little something off "The Beaten Path."


Er, well, some undead chicks apparently don't dig me.


"Look at what a loverly cut 'o' meat I got from the butcher!"


Yes, existence is looking pretty useless at this point--especially after eating a plague sandwich.


What? Plague? Aw, man, I just ate a sandwich I found on that cart!


Hmm--you know, this kid is really taking this "Goth" stuff way too seriously.


"To satisfy the hungry god/of Sweeney Todd!/The Demon Barber of Fleet Street!"


The butcher is always ready to rend, er, lend a hand in the "Wicked Woods."


"Hi there! I'm the Grim Reaper! I hope you enjoy confronting the uselessness of existence and your own mortality!"


The park was pretty busy for a Friday night. This is the line for "Curse of Pompeii"; fortunately, it moves pretty quickly. (BGE does a good job managing HOS.)


"Walk into the light . . . and we'll swallow your soul!"


When at Howl-o-Scream, be sure to hang out on this bridge near "Escape from Pompeii." It puts on a little show of its own.

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Hmm--usually, I see possums smashed flat on the highway.

That has got to be one of the best photo captions on this site. Though I've learned to exepct a lot from your reports, and this didn't disappoint. I must admit it took me a while to understand and appreciate the video, but the more I watched, the more I realized how difficult it is for me to wander through a maze like that with almost no change of emotion.


Great job on the pics and the video!

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Great trip report. I also have been going to Hallow Scream for 10 years now, and have to say it just keeps getting better.


I have been twice this year - once with family, once without. I did the Escape from Pompeii maze early in the day, and it can still be scary even with the lights on, just ask my 4 year old son. "Family friendly" meant the actors were not there and the lights were on BUT all effects were on, so it was a little scary for him.


I have never been to another theme park's haunt (except for Disney) so I don't know what kind of effects they have. The new haunt by Roman Rapids had the best effect I have ever seen - the trick wall. Our group was going through a dark hallway, and I guess the wall rotates as you pass - the next thing I knew I was alone. It was really neat how they pull it off, you don't rejoin your group for about 20 yards down the hall. Just great.

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^Well, I'd already been through Masquerage twice this season (Howl-o-Scream started in mid-September), so it didn't have too many surprises for me. It is a good maze, though. I was also a bit concerned that I might smash the camera into a wall or something.

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