Review: Busch Garden’s 13th Annual Howl-O-Scream

Creeping in the Gardens…

Dearest Thirsty,

One thing I noticed about stark terror- adrenaline really does act as an analgesic.

In general, I am not a fan of gory horror, and tend to enjoy suspenseful dread in my entertainment rather than visceral screaming terror. So I definitely should have known better than to agree to an evening of wandering Busch Garden‘s haunted hallows during their 13th annual scare-fest Howl-O-Scream.

Nevertheless, I am one to face my fears, so keep calm and carry on…

The most imaginative of the Houses was the Circus of Superstition, and also the least scary, even if you don’t care for clowns. It was sufficiently creepy and fun with 3D effects, stark florescent colors against inky blackness and swirly mists, and the requisite mad clowns grinning and lurching.

Nevermore House was appropriately spooky, literary and oh-so-goth-romantic, although the yawning policeman hanging out at the exit left a bit of blandness on the psyche’s tongue. Blood Asylum, Zombie Mortuary and the Ultimate Gamble Houses all leaned heavily into the splattergasm realm, so if that’s your thing, those are your go-to houses, darling. There are signs aplenty pleading the faint of heart to reconsider participating in the scariness. I did not count myself among those lilies. Alas.

Plucking at the elbows of my sweetheart of a man with my sweaty fingers gave him the willies more than the questionable objects hanging from dimly lit or strobe-lit ceilings – which were precursors to my eventual undoing. Oh and the noises, which were nerve wracking at the least and truly heart-poundingly scary at the worst. It left me wondering if the exclusive and expensive upsell to their premier House, Alone, was the even scarier opposite- utter silent darkness. I’m just as glad I didn’t find out.

We were a little late arriving to one of the outdoor dance shows, so the crowd gathered around the dancers made visibility difficult, but what I could see was energetic, imaginative and good spooky fun, and their costumes were a delightful cross between snazzy and ragged, just what you’d expect from the fashionably arisen undead.

Fool Moon


A bit of a SPOILER alert here. I learned something new about myself in the world that evening outside of the Ultimate Gamble House. I do not like chain saws. Even chain saws with no teeth. Whoever you were outside the exit, you earned your paycheck that night, because I came completely, utterly, unraveled at your rapid and ravenous approach. I was scared out of my considerable wits. Witness my actually running away from you, heaving forward and managing not to vomit before walking quickly away from my concerned husband and friends as the adrenaline raced through my blood and tears welled up in my eyes. As I came back to myself, the second thought I had was “Wow, my feet don’t hurt anymore.” The first thought was gratitude that I had not actually puked in front of my husband and our friends.


Prior to this, we had wandered the haunted grounds without any proper navigation – to say the map was not to scale is a gross mischaracterization. So my feet hurt and my back was sore by the time we arrived at the Ultimate Gamble House. The vile yet frightfully expensive stuff they called sangria tasted more like a mix of Minute Maid Tropical Punch and Dr. Pepper than anything resembling sangria was undrinkable. And, Therefore – Of no use as a painkiller.

Stark raving terror, on the other hand, turns out to be great at making you forget your discomfort. Well done, you Howl-O-Scream denizens.

Dreadfully yours,


Comments are closed.