First I must mentioned that I was terrified of haunted houses. I’d ride any roller coaster, though. When people tremble in fear at some roller coasters, I say, “Cool!” I went through a few haunted houses at Halloween Horror Nights and I was too terrified to enter another one. I was even spooked at the Haunted House at Knoebel’s. I wanted to jump out of the car and run to the nearest exit.
2002 would be different. I wanted to conquer my fears of haunted houses. A while ago, I was terrified of roller coasters until I rode one. Now I can’t get enough of coasters. I hoped I could do the same with haunted houses.
I decided to do a few things while meandering through the haunted houses:
1.) Crack jokes about the houses in my head
2.) Think of the haunted houses as “fun” rather than terrifying
3.) Stay near the middle or the end of the group
I also decided to do the VIP Tour. For one, I remember during Howl-O-Scream 2000 that the haunted house lines were 60 to 90 minutes. I wasn’t about to stand in that long of a line. More importantly, I thought it would be good to go into the houses with a large group. I usually attend these events solo. Even though these people were strangers, I would be with them for a few hours. We could share common experiences, help each other out, laugh, and have a good time together. The VIP Tour was $24.95 per person with an advance reservation and $29.95 per person on the day of the event. Park admission was separate. Even with the VIP tour, I was so afraid that I would end up crying and so shaken up after the first haunted house that I would be waiting at the exit for the rest of the group.
Let’s break down my Howl-O-Scream visits for each of the days, September 27 and September 28.
This night would be my VIP Tour. At the last Howl-O-Scream visit, the line to get into parking was at least an hour. Traffic was backed up for miles. I didn’t want to sit in traffic like that again. I stayed at the Red Roof Inn about 2 miles down the road. I stopped by there for a quick shower and some food before heading to the park at 6 pm.
My Gold Passport gave me free parking, but I wondered how Busch Gardens would scoot the day guests out of parking while getting the night guest in. Well, the park directed the early arrivals into preferred parking. I didn’t even have to pay for it!
Also with my Gold Passport, my admission cost was $9.95. My VIP Tour was scheduled for 8 pm. After perusing the park, I headed to the VIP Tour meet area and checked in. The group had two VIP tour guides – one lead the group and the other brought up the rear. Then we were off.
It was great being on the VIP Tour. The group walked past the lengthy lines and went right into each haunted house. The tour took me to all the haunted houses, through all the scare zones, and preferred seating at the two shows. It took around 3 ½ hours to do the entire tour.
Here are my impressions of the haunted houses in the order that the tour took us…
DEMENTED DIMENSIONS IN 3-D
This house wound through areas of the Akbar ride. I wore some 3-D glasses and it was like Cedar Point’s Disaster Transport queue. Images were painted on the walls that seemed to come out at you. Scary people were dressed in black and had 3-D paint dots on them. They would jump out at you or stomp their feet to scare people. Unfortunately, it often wasn’t scary. The last part of the queue had pink furry walls. It had more fur than a pink tribble! I thought the 3-D effects were neat, but I wasn’t very scared. The park map gave it an intensity level of 3 out of 5 skulls. I’d give it 1 skull.
ESCAPE FROM INSANITY ‘02
This house was in the Skyride building. It was also the longest and hottest house in the park. This house was a nightmarish mental institution. It had some neat scary mental patients who yelled, “You did this to me!” and other horrific things. Lots of bloody people and bloody walls abounded in this house. The last quarter of the house had an endless stream of curtains. I walked down the corridor and went through curtain after curtain, and then I did the same thing in several other corridors! The park did add some variety by having us walk through hanging plastic pipes, but it was the same deal with different things. Still, I liked this one. Escape from Insanity ’02 earned its 5-skull intensity level.
This haunted house took over the bumper cars in the Congo area. The house was basically a walk-through a torture party. No, Michael Bolton did not play over the speakers! Many people hung from chains throughout the house. Tortured had the best scares of all. A lot of strobe effects blinded me to the scary creature ahead. A lot of panels slid down as a scary person “booed!” me. This was my favorite haunted house at Howl-O-Scream. The map gave it 5 skulls on the intensity level. I’d give it 6 skulls.
This haunted house was in an area around the Python. I thought that Ripper Row looked nice and had some good scares, but it was way too short. It was over too soon. I think it needed more appearances of Jack the Ripper doing his deed. I think I only saw him once doing his killing deed. The grossest thing in any haunted house appears in Ripper Row. A scary-looking woman was eating a raw cow! Yum….I got to get some ribs tonight! The people in the VIP Tour gave the cow eater a big “What the h---!!!!!” The map gives Ripper Row a 4-skull intensity level. That sounded about right.
BLOODY BAYOU ‘02
This haunted house was in the Bird Gardens area. I liked this haunted house. It didn’t have very many big scares, but I liked how it had some victims saying, “Go back, he’s going to get you!” although I never saw the scary axe murderer. After the victims appeared, I went through many curtains of hanging laundry expecting the axe murderer, but he never showed up. Maybe he was on a break. Bloody Bayou had the only haunted house appearance of a chainsaw man. He wasn’t very scary. He just waved around the chainsaw like he just opened his Christmas presents and found out that he got a Craftsman. The park map gave it a 4-skull intensity level. I’d give it a 3.
This haunted house was across from Gwazi. The house went through a creepy mortuary. The house was well done with a lot of caskets and other mortuary details. It had some gross rooms of embalming. In fact, the Mortuary was the goriest house of them all. The last half of the house was pretty neat, as it descended you into Hell. This house also had a lot of cops hanging around the last part. The size of their guts looked pretty scary! I agree with the 5-skull intensity level indicated on the park map.
The VIP tour also gave priority seating to the two Howl-O-Scream shows. Here are my impressions of the shows…
RIP TV 2
This was a Halloween show hosted by Gor E. Decay. Celebrities like Shakria, Gwen Stefani, Will Smith, Austin Powers, and the Osbornes came out and performed. I think RIP TV 2 was supposed to be Howl-O-Scream’s answer to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure at Halloween Horror Nights, but it wasn’t even close to the excellent dudes. You could have seen the performances by watching MTV or the movies. I was so bored watching this one!
This show was about Dr. Frankenstein assembling his greatest monster while other classic monsters sang and danced. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it. It had some good tunes and very nice dancing. Oh, and it had some sexy nurses too.
The tour guides took us through the scare zones…
This scare zone was by the Nairobi train station. This was the coolest scare zone. A lot of scary-looking train conductors and passengers were dispersed along the route. Some of them were armed with big shovels. They would scrape them along the group to scare people. Others jumped out of boxes.
This scare zone was by Timbuktu. I liked this zone. Actors tried to give talisman to us so we can be protected from the creatures. There were no takers, unfortunately. Many scary people jumped out and went “boo!”
This scare zone was by Stanleyville Falls. It was a walk through a haunted garden. The path was very narrow and employees were holding guests back to let a few people in at a time. There were one or two good scares, but it looked better than it scared.
This was in the Stanleyville area. I didn’t get this scare zone at all. Basically, loud music blared from the speakers and colorful lights flashed in the trees. Scary skaters and hockey players stood around, but didn’t seem to try to scare people. I suppose it was hard to scare people since the area was so crowded. Near the end of the scare zone, a skateboarder skated back and forth and a U-shaped ramp. All the X-Ecutioners scare zone gave me was an earache.
The VIP tour didn’t give us access to the rides, but since our VIP tour guide was the VIP tour supervisor, the group got to ride Montu with no wait. We took up the first and second row. Montu seemed to load pretty quickly on a three-train rotation. I think the Montu wait was 45 minutes!
I was so glad that I did the VIP tour. I saw huge lines at every haunted house. Even at 8 pm, the Demented Dimensions house had a 45-minute wait. I don’t see how anyone can do the haunted houses unless they do the VIP tour or arrive very early. Even so, you would have to wait in line for at least one or two haunted houses. They were all over the park and would be hard to do one after the other quickly. The VIP tour was worth every penny!
Now onto September 28…
Tonight, I would head to Busch Gardens with the Florida Coaster Club. We first met at Tia’s Tex Mex on Fowler Avenue for some dinner. Then we headed to the park around 7:15 pm. Big mistake! We headed down McKinley Avenue and traffic was backed up all the way to Fowler Avenue. There was no other road to take – all roads that lead to Busch Gardens were backed up! We arrived at around 8:45 pm and was able to ride 3 coasters.
Kumba had a 15-minute wait. It was loading quickly because they were running three trains. Kumba was flying that night! It was faster than I had remembered. We only got one ride on Kumba.
Python always seems to have the shortest wait. Tonight it was 5 minutes. Some of us were waiting for a painful ride, but surprisingly, Python was pretty smooth!
We rode the Tiger side of Gwazi and had about a 30-minute wait. Gwazi wasn’t dueling that night. As soon as a train was ready, it was sent out. I miss the dueling. Gwazi didn’t seem any faster at night.
We wanted to ride Montu, but the wait was over 90 minutes at midnight! We all decided to call it a night.
I think Howl-O-Scream has improved greatly since 2000. It looked great and had some great scares. It’s still not as good as the granddaddy of Halloween Horror Nights, but it gives Universal’s Halloween some competition.
I’ll be going to Halloween Horror Nights soon. I’m pretty excited about it because I no longer fear haunted houses! OK, so I am a little afraid, but I’m willing to take the challenge of experiencing them.
Does this thing go faaaaaast!
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