Howl-O-Scream is Tampa Bay’s premier Halloween event; with tormenting surprises around every corner and a total of seven haunted houses. The event officially starts on Sept. 29 and runs through Oct. 30. Saint Leo students made the annual journey to Busch Gardens on Oct. 21. The streets were swarmed with hundreds of roaming creatures, making escape nearly impossible. A chilling live show and a chance to challenge Florida’s top thrill rides in the dark kept the screams coming all night.
Upon entering the park, students were in for a surprise. The costumes and makeup on the different creatures were out of this world. They hunted, scared, and even chased students down and took them captive as they began to walk around the park. There were also multiple chances to take pictures with some of the ghouls, whether it was scary, funny or candid.
The rides were the first things students decided to tackle. Cheetah Hunt was first on the list and had a minimal wait time. The ride went so fast it was scary; the coaster eased to the beginning of the track and came to a complete stop before taking off at lightning speed. Cheetah Hunt is Florida’s first and only triple-launch roller coaster. The 4,400-foot sprint got student’s hearts racing and their anxiety levels up before they’d even set foot in a haunted house.
After conquering other heart pounding rides, such as Montu, students headed for the haunted houses, starting with the popular “Death Water Bayou.” As its name suggests, the house resembled a decrepit, Voodoo themed abode like those found in Louisiana. Drawing closer, the sounds of swamp water lapping against the side of the house could be heard, along with the various insects and creatures making their presence known.
As soon as students entered the house, they were spooked by one of the Voodoo Queens’s minions. The deeper guests ventured into the house the spookier it became as all manner of evil leapt out of the shadows. A swirling tube placed in the center of the house created the illusion of swaying and the exit growing smaller. It almost seemed as if students would be trapped forever in the Voodoo Queen’s lair.
Tajay Watson, a sophomore and economics major, could certainly atest to the scare factor of the “Death Water Bayou.”
“It was an extremely fun experience and I would absolutely do it again even though it was scary,” laughed Watson.
Next up was “Unearthed,” in which guests learned that an excavation team had accidentally awoken a vengeful spirit. Many of the students decided to sit this one out because they were still a tad jittery after leaving “Black Water Bayou.”
Those who dared to brave the house were greeted by darkness, cobwebs, and jars of human eyes that followed their every move. Roaming, eyeless victims warned the students that they’d be next on the chopping block if they stayed too long. Heading the warnings and looking to make a quick exit, students were stopped by the cursed excavation team, who attempted to steal their eyes.
When the going got tough, students looked to each other for support. Kellie Bertarm, a sophomore and criminal justice major, stated that the best part of Howl-O-Scream was being with her friends. Even though it was scary and she hated the haunted houses it was fun.
Howl-O-Scream starts at 7:30 p.m. each event night. Patrons should arrive early to challenge thrill rides, including the all-new Cobra’s Curse, and brave haunted houses before lines get too long. The Howl-O-Scream experience is one that every horror fan should definitely attempt.