Howl-o-Scream 2016 Opening Night Busch Gardens kicked off this year’s version of Howl-o-Scream last Friday night (September 23). Once again, pumpkins hang from the trees of Scotland, Jack the Ripper stalks the unwary in England, demons dance and set fires in France, wendigos rip soldiers to shreds in Fort New France, and vampires flash their fangs in Germany.
So what else is new, right? There have been a number of changes. I think Deadline, the subway-zombie maze under Escape from Pompeii, benefited the most from these enhancements. Lumberhack, an outdoor maze behind Verbolten, not so much.
Although there are plenty of opportunities for drinking adult beverages this year, Ireland’s Fright Feast and Germany’s Blood Banquet are gone. Instead, the park is offering two upcharge “No Escape” rooms--one themed to Jack the Ripper, and the other to Mr. Karver, a fiendish puppet maker serving as this year’s icon. I didn’t do the rooms on Friday, but they cost $30/person before 6:00 pm and $40/person after 6:00 pm. Guests tackle the rooms in groups of six. The rooms are located in Germany in the soft-serve ice-cream parlor and gift shop near Land of the Dragons.
But the biggest changes this year are a new Terror-Tory and maze--Sideshow Square and Circo Sinistro--both in Festa Italia. As you’ve probably guessed, these are circus-themed haunts. Most of the action in Sideshow Square is near the entrance to Tempesto, where you’ll encounter creepy clowns (with loud horns), living puppets and dolls, and fiendish ringmasters.
Circo Sinistro’s entrance is by the Roman Rapids, and the maze is in a spot that’s hosted Cut-Throat Cove, Wicked Woods, and other mazes in past years. I had mixed feelings about BGW’s latest attempt to scare people with an evil circus. Sinistro starts out pretty well, but seems to sag a bit halfway through. For example, there are two nearly identical rooms that provide transitions for other rooms. Plus, the “Room Roulette” gimmick, which was chosen by an online poll, was a bit disappointing, at least to me. Sinistro does pick up again at the finish. Overall, I’d say the best maze is still Unearthed: Scarlett’s Revenge in Ireland, but I’m willing to give Sinistro another chance--maybe I hit it during an “off” time.
Speaking of Unearthed, I was behind an elderly couple who were having a lot of trouble seeing in the dark recesses of Scarlett's house. The woman walked ahead, her arms outstretched like the Frankenstein monster, feeling her way through. I had to guide her and her husband a few times when they made wrong turns, and she was bumping into the walls. There's a right turn at the end to exit the maze, but the lady kept going forward to a set of strobe lights. Out popped Scarlett, screaming at the top of her lungs, about a inch from the poor lady's nose! I think that was the witch's way of telling her, "Please exit to your right."
As for the shows, Monster Stomp on Ripper Row (England), Fiends (Ireland), and Night Beats (Festhaus) are all back. On Saturdays, you can catch the Starfright Orchestra (Italy). This was one of Howl-o-Scream’s original, more family friendly shows back when the event started in the late 1990s.
Let’s have a look at Howl-o-Scream 2016.
Welcome to Busch Gardens Williamsburg! Evil puppets are currently planning your untimely death, and will be with you shortly.
They already got to Mach Tower.
Who is “BG Whos” and why should I hashtag him?
“I don’t know any ‘BG Whos,’ but I run this joint--and what’re you lookin’ at, punk?”
One thing I can’t abide is an ill-tempered puppet. I guess I’ll move on.
I like how the Ripper carefully uses countersunk washers and Phillips head screws; keeps the body parts from coming loose.
I guess the Ripper qualifies as an “Unsavory Character.”
The Jack-o-Lantern trees are in bloom again.
Someone has already lost their sole!
It’s almost 6:00 pm, so I guess I’ll hit Unearthed.
Beware of Money Bunnies! They’re more dangerous than leprechauns!
Money Bunnies can be tamed by Naughty Nurses with Jello shots.
And what has been unearthed this year? How about a lot of dirt over in Fort New France?
The AURA people were really harassing guests as they entered Scarlett’s house. The demoon witch woman was downright hospitable compared to these two.
I wonder if Scarlett has trademarked this symbol? It would be a shame if some other demonic entity appropriated it.
Meanwhile, over in France . . . chainsaw demon, check.
Demons taking dragons for walkies, check.
Giant flaming skull, check. Yep, looks like Demon Street is covered for this year.
You can still explore the depths of the Catacombs.
“Excuse me, sir, but it’s kind of damp in here. Could you please hand me a towel?”
The wendigo once again menaces New France.
Good thing the doctor has it all under control.
Then again, the doc has drugs.
Naughty, naughty wendigo! You’d better not damage InvadR.
Every year, BGW has a vampire infestation. It’s a local embarrassment.
Maybe they should put out more garlic, or something. More to come from Howl-o-Scream.
Thanks for the report and pictures! Looking forward to my first trip to Williamsburg HOS on Friday. One thing I noticed on the website is it says unearthed starts at 530 instead of 600. You mentioned you went there first did you find that to be true? Also, how were the lines when you went? Just seems like a lot to get done in 4 hours (4.5 if unearthed opens early) without QQ. I think it's going to be a must with only 1 day to do all the mazes (then again it's a Friday and early in the season?), but do you have any tips or recommendations or a specific path to take for the haunts? We are going to be there all day to do all the rides and shows during the day. Thanks!
Circo Sinistro had the longest line of the bunch, being as it's the new maze--everybody went there as soon as it got dark. Lumberhack had a long wait, and Cornered gets long lines too--largely because these mazes are mostly outdoors and more fun after dark.
I didn't notice it Unearthed opened early on Friday, but there was already a short line for it when I got there; so, it probably did open at 5:30. I'd do Unearthed first, since it opens early, and I'd hit Circo Sinistro as soon as possible after it gets dark. (Sinistro was the last maze we hit, and it had generated a long line by the time we got there.)
The shows run all day, so you can see those before the mazes open.
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