The theme has been revealed for this year’s Busch Gardens Tampa Howl O scream in Florida. I’ve already talked about what I felt about their new upcharge haunted attraction. “The Experiment”. Let’s talk about the regular event today.
Overall I think they’ve got a solid offering of returning houses and some interesting new houses. I personally think that the reveal of the short videos was not effective at all. I haven’t even watched them all because there really is no payoff. It would have worked better if each video contributed to an overall story that they spliced together and revealed at the end. Who has time to click through 13 short videos that don’t give you that much info?
So what is new?
The BASEMENT—From Momma’s secret ingredient to Granny’s bone-ground flour, Momma’s Meats’ award-winning recipe has always been a family affair that’s only created in the BASEMENT. Escape the depths of the BASEMENT before she and #4 The Butcher turn you in to the secret sauce! She always said it took blood, sweat and tears!
Death Water Bayou—Deep in the bayou the #6 Voodoo Queen mystically transforms lost wanderers into her minions of evil with black magic. Here, her night servants roam with a zombie-like hunger and seek to grow her collection. The darkest evils lurk in shadows. Get out before you fall victim to her spell.
Upcharge haunted attraction that replaces “Alone”:
The Experiment—Researchers challenge your fear tolerance and mental endurance in this never-been-done-before Experiment. In this exclusive study, “test subjects” endure psychological tests and must face top fear-inducing elements, from roaches and snakes to needles and darkness. How far is too far in the study of fear? Will you survive The Experiment? Note: The Experiment is a unique, interactive experience that challenges your threshold for fear for an additional fee. Reservations are required, and each reservation can accommodate you and up to three additional “test subjects.” Pass member discount does not apply. Not included with any other VIP tour or upgrade product. Howl-O-Scream admission is required, but not included. The Experiment admission is $50 for the first test subject and $10 for each additional test subject in the same reservation.
Returning houses with new ideas incorporated are:
Circus of Superstition 3-D—You’ve tried to avoid black cats and sidewalk cracks, but all those years of bad luck caught up with you! The #13 Clown challenges you to survive 13 superstitions in their 3-D Tent of Terror, but it will take more than luck to escape this whole new dimension of fear.
Blood Asylum—As lightning rages and thunder crashes outside, “The Creature” escapes from his holding cell in a high-security asylum for the criminally insane. Now this sadistic deviant is running rampant, skinning his former cellmates and turning the mental hospital into his own torture chamber. This serial killer’s bloody playground will drive you out of your mind with fear.
Zombie Mortuary—No one remembers how the epidemic started, but now, the #9 Zombie and his undead friends live here. They infest this small town funeral home and feed on the fresh flesh and brains of mortuary mourners to satisfy their insatiable hunger. Avoid the walking dead or you may find yourself deeper than six feet under.
Ultimate Gamble: Reversal of Fortune—Under sleek Vampire reign, the once-vibrant Ultimate Gamble casino glowed. Now werewolves have overthrown their mortal enemies and are running rampant in the casino. The carnivorous beasts have caught on to the scent of fresh blood inside the closed casino. Will you make it out alive before your luck runs out?
Nevermore—Beating hearts, swinging pendulums and a raven’s cries haunt the manor of Lenore, creating a demented and twisted nightmare. Step inside to experience the gothic terror that maddens the lord of the house and feel delusion overcome reality. Find your way out of this horror story before paranoia authors your final chapter.
The 13—Once every century, on precisely the thirteenth year, evil comes out to play. Thirteen evils, to be exact. The #7 Surgeon, #4 Butcher, #11 Psychopath, #13 Clown, #6 Voodoo Queen and their demented friends will torment and terrorize you the moment you enter the gates. This your chance to find out: Who are the 13?
Harvester’s Haunt—An unnerving soundtrack of banjos, fiddles and harmonicas fill the fields with haunting bluegrass music. Something just doesn’t feel right. You realize you’re not alone when you discover a hoard of sadistic scarecrows. They’re looking to harvest a few lost souls. Will you escape their reach or be theirs forever?
Pain Lane—Torture, torment and pain line this sinister street as the #2 Torturer and #12 Hangman stalk their prey in the shadows of this dark and disturbing alley. Here, pain-inducing devices are the toys of the twisted and screams are surrounded by haunting silence. Will you escape this playground of pain before the #2 Torturer and #12 Hangman find you?
Show, Club, Shop, and Miscellany:
Fiends—The classic monster mash-up Fiends will be performing nightly at the Desert Grill in Timbuktu. Captivating creatures of the night will infect you with dance fever and keep your pulse pounding with their deranged dance party. But when Dr. Freakenstein’s naughty nurses start operating, the diagnosis is always “code pink.”
Club 13—Escape the hordes and head to the transformed Marrakesh Theater to drive yourself mad partying at Howl-O-Scream’s dance club. This nighttime dance playground keeps the energy pumping all night long with non-stop music, premium signature cocktails, drink specials and Taco Bus food.
Howl-O-Scream Shop of Horrors— This year, the Howl-O-Scream shop of Horrors has been transformed into The Butcher Shop. Find GOREgeous apparel and trendy tees featuring Howl-O-Scream favorites, including the 13 and the infamous Naughty Nurses. You can also purchase or pick up your Front-Line Fear Passes here. Visit this year’s new Voodoo Village Market, located next to The Experiment in the Egypt area of the park by Montu for even more Howl-O-Scream gifts.
Howl-O-Scream Photo Ops— Snap the perfect party pics at exclusive photo opportunities with our Pin-Up Scream Girls in Moroccan Village and the Naughty Nurses in the Desert Grill.
Darkhearts’ Games of Skill—Test your luck in this unlucky thirteenth year in Darkheart’s Games of Skill.
So what do I think?
If you are curious about my opinion on the returning houses and shows, check out my haunted attraction reviews. I’ve done Busch Gardens Tampa Howl O Scream nearly every year and it looks like it will continue to be one of my favorite events this year regardless of my disappointment with “The Experiment”. BGT HoS has some of the strongest houses and scare actors around. They also do creative things to make the returning houses different each year.
I have received feedback from readers indicating the the representation of Voodoo in the “Death Water Bayou” house is problematic. While I love the idea of using southern legend, Voodoo is an actual religion in which it’s practitioners are greatly marginalized and attacked with violence – even today. Death Water Bayou seems to have just represented Voodoo as “Satanism with Voodoo dolls”. I am not an expert, but I know enough to know that this is completely not what this religion is about. Voodoo will be featured on American Horror Story this year. I had read that they took actual Voodoo practitioners as advisers to represent it more accurately. I wish BGT had done that.
I also think that from a Marketing perspective, this is the weakest campaign I have seen for this event. It failed to hold my attention. The 13 Evils are too much. there are too many characters to keep straight and all have generic archetype names. To paraphrase Beavis and Butthead, “If I wanted to read, I’d go to school.” All joking aside, it is very overwhelming from an attendee perspective.
Why are the 13 Evils here? What is their goal? Is there a story here? I’m not clear on that.
What makes me excited for this event this year? The fact that I know what the crew on the ground floor of Busch Gardens puts out and how amazing they all are. I’ve been loving this event for years because it is one of the best. Do I disagree a bit on how it was Marketed and what some of the new attractions are?
Am I excited to review this and return to one of my favorite events on earth?
Oni Hartstein is a Los Angeles-based CMO and entrepreneur that is obsessed with progressive rock / metal, marketing, and nightlife. Please direct all business inquiries or review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.
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