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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa returns with fewer houses but with plenty of original scare zones

Posted By on Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 11:08 AM

Now in its 18th year, Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa returns this year with a few surprising twists. Howl-O-Scream (at SeaWorld San Antonio, Busch Gardens Tampa and Busch Gardens Williamsburg) is SeaWorld Parks’ premier special ticketed event.

In Tampa, this year’s event will include six houses, five scare zones and the signature Fiends stage show.

Two new haunted houses will join four returning houses at 2018’s event. Unlike Howl-O-Scream’s main competitor, Universal's Halloween Horror Nights, here some houses return for multiple years. Typically, only two or three new houses are added per year.

  • Image via Howl-O-Scream | Facebook
The longest running house at Tampa’s Howl-O-Scream is Death Water Bayou, now in its sixth year. With an iconic opening scene and dueling spinning tunnels used to spread out the guest lines, Death Water Bayou has become one of the event’s most recognizable houses. A storyline that includes swamps, New Orleans and voodoo gives this house scenes that both feel familiar and rival nearly any in the industry with their level of detail.

Unearthed, located in the underbelly of the former Gwazi coaster, has been a staple at Busch Gardens Tampa since 2015. Rob Cowie, producer of The Blair Witch Project, worked directly with SeaWorld Parks on the house. It was one of the first collaborations for Howl-O-Scream, making it such a big deal that, in a rare move, the company debuted the house at all three Howl-O-Scream events at the same time. Intense smells, tight corridors and an in-house photo make this house a standout.

The retro Motel Hell has been one of the most popular houses since its debut in 2016. Last year’s event saw a few tweaks to the house from with most updates focused on adding new places for scare actors to lurk and updating one scene.

Also returning for its third year is The Black Spot, the pirate-themed house located in the Stanleyville area of the park. There was some speculation that this house wouldn’t return due to nearby construction on the yet-to-be-announced 2019 park addition. In previous years the queue for The Black Spot used the former Tanganyika Tidal Wave queue area, which was closed a few months prior to the 2016 event.

Surprisingly, neither of last year’s new houses are returning, nor is the zombie laser tag – since debuting in 2015, it struggled despite being moved and almost entirely reimagined. It looks like after a less-than-stellar run SeaWorld Parks has finally given up on the laser tag idea.

New this year is Insomnia, themed to an asylum staffed by an evil doctor who is keeping patients awake while subjecting them to “a new terrifying form of treatment.” Also new this year is Simon’s Slaughterhouse. Little is known about this house, but Busch Gardens has added an extra warning above and beyond the multiple warnings for the event itself, stating that this house is suggested only for those 17 and over. All marketing for Simon’s Slaughterhouse has featured the warning label, building mystery and hype around what exactly the house will entail.

Even more surprising is the same warning is also found on one of this year’s Meat Market scare zone. Previously, the area near and in this scare zone also had specialty food items including last year’s signature food item: grilled cricket tacos.

All four of the other scare zones at this year’s event will be brand-new. Similar to last year’s Wasteland scare zone, the apocalypse-themed Hell on Wheels scare zone has a biker gang protecting their food and supplies. Hell on Wheels isn’t the only scare zone that is similar to a previous one. Described by Busch Gardens as “life-size toys are heading out on a murderous rampage and no one is safe from their deadly wrath,” the Deadly Toys scare zone will likely draw many comparisons to this year’s Halloween Horror Nights Chucky-themed scare zone.

Camp DOA brings guests face-to-face with mutant swamp creatures lurking in a haunted marsh. With all the success of the similarly themed Death Water Bayou house, expectations are high for Camp DOA.

The Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos will take on a new scary feel in this scare zone by the same name. It will include what is being described as “a parade to honor those who have gone before us.” 

The fourth new scare zone at this year’s event is Maniac Midway. Unlike last year’s similarly themed Carnie Camp scare zone, this Maniac Midway will be located in the Pantopia section of the park, home to many carnival games and rides.
  • Image via Howl-O-Scream | Facebook
While Halloween Horror Nights will not be bringing back their comedy show, hosted by Bill and Ted, the pop culture-filled Fiends show will return to this year Howl-O-Scream. Similar to last year, the show will be in the Stanleyville Theater, not far from the entrance to The Black Spot house.

This year’s event, which kicks off in less than a month, seems to offer both one less house than recent years and one less live stage show. Some are speculating that Busch Gardens may still have a few surprises in store, but with SeaWorld Parks still in an upward struggle and with much of their leadership, especially in the creative department, leaving the company over the past year, the smaller lineup seems inevitable.

Tickets begin at $39.99 and are on sale now; the special event is not included in regular park admission. Multiple upgrades, including the nightly pre-opening Fright Feast buffet, are available. Unlike other Halloween events, Howl-O-Scream only runs on select nights through Sunday, October 28. The event will not be open on Halloween itself.

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