what I hope was a hamburger for dinner, I decided it was time to
venture out into the darkness that was Busch Gardens' "Howl-O-Scream" in
full effect. The first stop on my list was the Sea Dog Cemetery. It had a
5-pumpkin rating, which according to the chart, is as scary as things can
get. The sign at the entrance of the cemetery once again warned me of the
horrors that were waiting just around the corner.
as: STROBE LIGHTS! EEEEEEEEEEK! FOG! AAAAAAAACK! AREAS THAT ARE DIMLY
course the sign stated that we should not touch the creatures. It never
really explained why, but when it comes to the undead, I guess it's best
to not poke them.
you now, since some areas were really well lit and others were pitch
black, the quality of these photos will vary quite a bit. Some of them
will look great, and others will look like they were taken on a
near-broken camera from the 1920's because I had the brighten them up so
much in Photoshop and most of the attractions didn't allow flash
photography. But hey, at least I went out of my way to take all of these
damned pics, and that's all that matters right? RIGHT!
the start, the Sea Dog Cemetery looked like a place where only true evil
would dwell. Everything was dimly lit with red lights. No longer were
there gay pirate skeletons running rampant, now we had some REAL
pirates! It was almost as if Busch Gardens was like "Pirates of the
Caribbean" — only trapped in a Bizarro world in which the pirates were gay
skeletons during the day, and then bloodthirsty scalawags when the moon
came out. Gay by day. Fright by night. Indeed!
very strict about not shooting any photos as I walked through this
particular attraction, but I slyly held the camera at my side and managed
to get some that came out. What you're looking at there is a guy hanging
from a noose. What was cool about it, is they had him moaning and flailing
about wildly while he hung from the rope. Combined with the cool lighting,
it was definitely a good effect.
other pic that came out from inside the attraction was when my camera
accidentally flashed. I'm sure I pissed off some undead seadogs with that
little mishap. Still, the dummies that were tied to the post didn't seem
to matter. It's funny how completely non-horrific they look when you see
them in bright light. The cheese cloth still manages to look cool though.
Ok, I only said that so I could actually say the phrase "cheese cloth"
just once in this piece. Now I can sleep well tonight.
All in all,
it was a good start, but I definitely wouldn't give the Sea Dog Cemetery
the coveted 5-pumpkin rating. It definitely wasn't anywhere near that
scary, but it did look pretty awesome. As I left the cemetery, I noticed a
sign that said the entrance was behind the Muffin Man. THE MUFFIN MAN!?
Tell me, do you know the Muffin Man? The Muffin Man? THE MUFFIN MAN? Do
YOU know the Muffin Man?
Well, I never
did find the goddamned Muffin Man, but I did find something more insane...
APPLE HARVEST! I asked her if she knew the Muffin Man, but she just
gave me a strange look and waved her apple wand at me. I think she put a
curse on me too, cuz everything I eat now tastes like applesauce. You
people have no fucking clue what it's like to bite down on a juicy Philly
cheesesteak sandwich, only to taste applesauce. Damn you
Miss Apple Harvest, DAMN YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
move on, I just had to show you these pics simply to demonstrate the
awesome work they did on lighting all areas of the park. Crossing this
bridge late at night provided a great view of an eerie green waterfall and
huge trees. Sure, it wasn't part of any of the main attractions, but it's
the attention to little details like this that I can really appreciate.
As I made my
way further along the path, I ran into an assortment of odd characters...
So there he
was, just sitting on the ground shaking a tin can. He wasn't making any
sounds with his voice whatsoever, so I can only assume that he had a sore
throat and was sadly reduced to shaking a tin can in a pathetic attempt to
scare the onlookers. Shortly after, I saw him lifting a trashcan lid and
slamming it down in hopes of scaring people. I think it just made us all
pity poor ol' wolfie that much more.
THE PLANT THINGS!
bastards actually did manage to catch me off guard. Hidden under some
excellent camouflage in a poorly lit area, these tree-mutants popped up
out of nowhere. Granted, they probably could've scared the crap out of
people if they would've yelled or something, but still seeing something
just pop-up out of nowhere when you're least expecting it is still a
pretty good way to scare someone. Especially when the creature jumping out
at you looks a lot like Swamp Thing.
COFFIN SALESMAN AND
Next up, I
ran into this lonely guy, armed to the teeth with bad one-liners, who was
trying to sell some of his used coffins. He was like an incredibly unfunny
version of Stan the salesman from Monkey Island. Shortly after that, I
came upon Birdman. I think he was supposed to be a blind grim reaper or an
undead monk or something, but that doofy lookin' bird just wasn't helping
him create much of a chilling atmosphere.
HAY CREATURE AND MR.
were these two freaks of nature. First off was the "Hay Creature"
who really wasn't all that scary, but really enjoyed dancing to all of the
spooky music they had playing. I guess when you're made up of hay, you'll
do just about anything to keep yourself entertained. After I got tired of
watching Hay Creature dance (approximately 15 seconds after meeting
him/her/it), I found "Mr. Zombie Host" in my path. Apparently he
had developed a symbiotic relationship with this badass looking zombie in
which he would tote the legless zombie around in exchange for the zombie
drinking most of his blood. Hey, as long as they're happy, who am I to
question their loving relationship? What was odd, is that Mr. Zombie Host
was still able to reminisce with some elderly folk about some
historical facts of Williamsburg. Let's see YOU do that after
you've lost 80% of the blood in your body!
Ah ha! There he
was... Doctor Rot himself, standing in front of the crowd and asking a kid
innocently spooky questions such as, "So Timmy, tell me, do you
drink..... SODA?" Whoah! I thought he was gonna say
alcohol for sure! Doctor Rot may not be able to spell the word "painful"
properly on his sign, but he's surely a master of verbal trickery! Well,
that was really all there was to Doc Rot — more bad one-liners. So I
decided to leave all the weird creatures behind and check out the next big
3-pumpkin rating and rainbow sign, I was worried that the "Nightmare
Express" wouldn't be a very fun ride, but then someone walked right up
to me and changed that in a heartbeat...
IT'S JACK, THE STAR OF
Yep, Jack of
the Lantern was walked right up to me and I got this great photo of him
and his pumpkin. You'd think a ghoul like Jack wouldn't be to receptive to
cameras, but just look at the smile on his face. He's obviously
thrilled to see me! In all seriousness though, they really did a
damned fine job on his mask and even the twisted pumpkin he was carrying
So with a
newfound sense of hope for horrific high jinks, I boarded the Nightmare
Express and set off on my journey into the unknown. It was hard enough
taking pictures in the dark, but it's even harder when you're taking them
for a train that moves at various speeds. One of the coolest things from
the start was how they lined a bridge with pumpkins from one end 'til the
other. Just one of the many sights that reaffirms my strong belief that
Halloween is the greatest holiday.
came out looking quite spectral and ghoulish, but believe me that's not
camera trickery, the places we passed on the train really did look like
this. Graveyards, skeletons of the non-gay variety, people carrying
coffins, moaning zombies wandering aimlessly in the woods.
had Leatherface! Well, it wasn't the Leatherface, but it was a
pretty good spinoff of the guy, and his chainsaw was carving through some
bloody corpse on a table. This was already gorier and creepier than the
Sea Dog Cemetery, so why they were giving it only 3 pumpkins is beyond me.
Well, maybe they just wanted to scare the crap out of a bunch of unknowing
some weird stuff, I couldn't make out what it was exactly, but there was
some glowing pink thing out in the woods. So either a disgruntled Busch
Gardens employee slipped some acid into my burger, or they had some
strange phenomenon taking place out there. And speaking of strange, we
passed an old VW Beetle that was decked out with all sorts of 70's hippie
decorations. Ok now that was a truly scary thought: UNDEAD ZOMBIE
HIPPIES FROM HELL!
One of the
more brightly lit areas on the ride was the circus. It wasn't just any
circus though, it was a circus of nightmarish freaks... and a guy in a
monkey suit. The signs promoted them as "2-FACED MAN: A HIDEOUS FREAK
OF NATURE!", "THE HUMAN FLY: AN ATOMIC ACCIDENT - POSITIVELY ALIVE!",
and "PIG WOMAN: THE BLIND DATE NIGHTMARE!" The 2-Faced Man and the
Human Fly were just kinda stumbling about and the Pig Woman was nowhere to
be found. Perhaps she ate herself to death? I guess we'll never know. But
wouldn't you know it, the guy in the monkey suit stole the show. This guy
was totally into his act, flailing about in the dark like a madman with no
regard for anything or anyone in his path. Oh and just
for the record, dancing around like a maniac in a monkey suit all night
long? BEST. JOB. EVER.
And here was
THE FERRIS WHEEL OF THE UNDEAD! It wasn't moving or anything, but
it was finally real proof that even zombies need a little bit of
recreation. "All brains and no play makes Zombie Bob a sour grape" ...or
something like that.
mention graves and tombstones galore? Well, there sure were plenty of
them. While not the most exciting thing to see, it all looked very
realistic and again the lighting work was spectacular.
some other peculiar displays, many of which were too far off in the
distance to really make out in the darkness. For all I know it could've
just been people making S'mores and reading porn, but when you see them
from a distance with the addition of colored lights and a fog machine they
look like PURE EVIL! But nothing, and I mean nothing could compare
to the awesomeness that snuck up behind us next....
just can't do this thing enough justice, it was easily my favorite spooky
sight of the night. While our train slowly moved forward, I happened to
turn around and notice that there was a glowing skeleton on a glowing
spectral horse riding along beside us on a hidden track. It was seriously
one of the best things I had ever seen at a Halloween attraction, and
that's saying a lot because I've been to a ton of Halloween events over
All in all,
the Nightmare Express was a really long train ride and the amount of work
they put into it was obvious. So I have to give it a 5-pumpkin rating
because while it didn't scare me, it was such a spectacle that I wish I
had time to ride it again. But who has time to ride on a train all night
when you have this?
THE FAILED DRAMA STUDENT
SQUAD OF BROKEN DREAMS!
Oh yes, they
would sing and dance their hearts out in the hopes that some Hollywood
producer just happened to be in the crowd and would notice their thrusting
pelvic regions. Well, to be honest, with horror-themed leather outfits
like those, I think they were more likely to be offered a job from GWAR.
Ok, so in
"Germany" there were these two identical skeletons hanging across the
street from one another in metal racks. The German accents of these two
skeletons were more exaggerated than Hanz & Franz. Still, it was a hell of
a lot funnier to hear those two go at it than listen to the Coffin
Salesman go through his spiel, that's for damned sure.
mention I love the lighting and the fog? Well guess what, I'm mentioning
it again because it was that good. And as I crossed another bridge, look
who I bumped into again! WOLFMAN! He didn't even have his tin can
to shake at people anymore, and you know what? He was in a much happier
mood as a result of it. Wolfie was dancing around and very excited to pose
for my camera. You go Wolfman, that Zoloft is really working!
And my final
destination was when I came up to a huge crowd that was gathered around a
giant jack-o-lantern for the "Monster Street Party". My brochure
stated "Get down with the groovy ghoulies lurking in Oktoberfest!"
How do you pass up an offer like that? YOU DON'T.
There were a
bunch of scarecrows on stilts dancing around the jack-o-lantern in a
ritualistic frenzy. They all had wireless mics on and were singing fairly
well for a bunch of lunatics on stilts, even though the music itself was
pretty bad. Come to think of it, who was the DJ spinning those scary
Holy shit it
was Jack! That's right, the star of the show was whoopin' it up on top of
a building. He was hoppin' and boppin' about behind his wall of pumpkins.
And no matter how much you may hate the music, trust me, you just can't
help but stand and watch in awe. I mean, how many times in your life do
you see a pumpkin-headed guy singing a bunch of bad showtunes? Well unless
you count that freaky uncle of yours who's now behind bars, this is
So that was
the the end of my big day at Busch Gardens. I also made it to a few other
attractions that night which I was unable to photograph. "Sleepy Hollow
Manor" was your basic haunted house attraction, and while it looked
cool on the inside, it didn't make me (or anybody else that I saw) jump
once. Definitely nowhere near worth of the 5-pumpkin rating... maybe a
2-pumpkin at best. I also saw some of the 3D, er excuse me... the "4D"
movies (you know, the kinds that have moving chairs and/or tubes that
squirt water at you to make the experience more realistic)
including "The Haunted Lighthouse" It was cool, but it was also
kinda sad to see some of the washed-up actors that were performing in it.
Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Michael McKean and even Weird Al Yankovic
all had parts in the flick. When the only jobs you can get are in cheezy
theme park movies, it's time to pack your bags and start enjoying your
retirement for a change.
those of you who are unable to attend Howl-O-Scream, I hope this in-depth
look at all of the morbid events helped make you feel like you were right
there in the midst of the madness. It's definitely an event that any fan
of Halloween would enjoy and easily buries any typical "haunted hayride"
attraction six feet under. Maybe seven feet under, I just it all depends
on how far down Wolfman can dig with that tin can of his before he passes