Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Howl O Scream 2011 (p1)

Ah yes, it is again that time.  Busch Gardens has undergone the terrifying transmogrification from a simple theme park into a den of TERROR! (You have to imagine the reverb to really make that last sentence work)
Before you scroll down to the first set of pics, take a moment to read my very brief overview, if you will.

Howl O Scream 2011 is themed as The Dark Side of the Gardens and there is a general theme of roses with eyeballs and some creepy zombie woman.  Last year the theme was "The Scare Is Everywhere" and it certainly was.  Once the sun went down (or after 6 PM generally) the cast comes out in costumes rattling noise makers, jumping out from behind bushes and even dressing up as bushes in camo netting.  Nowhere was safe.  Definitely not a place for kid or easily frightened adults.  I loved it.  This year Busch Gardens has installed so-called scare zones which can be avoided as there is a safe path for each one.  The scare zones are short paths, usually bridges and choke points, throughout which the cast monsters stand and scare the passersby.  That's not bad and it certainly allows parents to bring the kids without too much worry.  The park is still decorated throughout and the lands are again themed for the season with classic and modern monsters.  Even with the scare zones, the park is safe throughout until 6 PM, after which the scare zones become active.  You can compare these photos to the pre-season post here.

Our Journey Begins...

Williamsburg...RAHR!!!  We set out from Chesapeake with a car of 4, Frau Punkinstein at the wheel, Theo and Rob in the backseat and myself in the position so commonly called "shotgun" by people who have never actually had the pleasure of riding on a stagecoach.  The traffic was easy but as it was after 4 PM the parking traffic was thick and there was no preferred parking available.  We parked somewhere in North Carolina and rode a tram over to Guest Services where we queued to pick up our lanyards and the guys picked up their annual passes.  We then set out for the front gate.

This is the mass of humanity that pressed forward to bag check
Closer to the gate now.  This year's mascot...very nasty.
Here we see the crowds of the early evening.  Shortly after this the gate was closed to re-entry as the park reached capacity. 
Clock in Banbury Cross (England)

Display at the entrance, normally a fountain.  The creepy lady.
More England
Immediately inside the gate you are in England and it is full of crows.  Last year, after dark, a giant raven-man on stilts stalked about.  But then last year the "scare was everywhere."
Look at the size of that pumpkin!

One of several helpful placards sprinkled throughout the park, this one underneath the big pumpkin.
 Coming down through Scotland you see this giant pumpkin and attendant scarecrow.
Kinda goofy
Much less goofy

Downright scary

The Scavengers scare zone in the daylight
Scotland is done up as Scavengers, which means SCARECROWS.  Not just scarecrows, but scarecrows that steal human faces, if the wagon in the scare zone is any indication.  This flows logically as England boarders Scotland and as you walk out of crow infested England you enter Scarecrow infested Scotland.  From Scotland we head to Ireland.  I should point out that upon entering the park we were very hungry.  We had been at the PetSmart doing our volunteer work with the Norfolk SPCA and then jetted away to meet the guys and head off to the park.  We HAD TO GET TO GERMANY, for that is where the Festhaus resides and that is where beer and brats are to be had.  So on to Ireland we ran...
Grrrr (like a werewolf on speed)
Of all the trees to hide behind, this genius picks a twig?

This werewolf needs a helmet

Maybe, if you enlarge it, you could read this plaque.
Werewolves have infested Ireland as a whole, but stay out of Killarney, as that is where Jack lives.  So as you walk through the animal sections (which joins Scotland to Ireland) you are surrounded by these goofy werewolves.  After dark, in the scare zone the werewolves are alive and far more convincing.  Still...
I don't know any of these people
I do know some of these people
Not my best shot
Jack's stage
Ahhh, Killarney; this is the part of Ireland where Jack does his nightly dance show.  Last year a huge jack o lantern was on the stage, but this year worked a little differently (more on that later).  Killarney is decorated in jack o lanterns because traditionally the Irish carved turnips.  No, really, this all makes sense.  This is the Celtic Pumpkin, is it not?  Once you get into Killarney you are safe from werewolves but you are still not at the Festhaus, so you must press onward.  There is a haunted house here (13 Your Number Is Up) and Jack's show after dark.  Ireland, and specifically Killarney, is where the "good stuff" starts, as the first haunted house is to be found here.  The first proper ride is in Scotland with the Loch Ness Monster (or I believe there are sky buckets in England, if that's your taste and times being what they are...) and as we move on it will become darker and SPOOOOOOOOKIER. (Again, that would be much better if you'd just be so kind as to imagine the reverb)

In our next installment we will press on into France, ever closer to our Festhaus meal.

Until next time, keep your pumpkins lit.


  1. Hey!! Thank you for sharing these pictures. I never can go to any where like this during Halloween and love to see what others get to enjoy. (I went to Williamsburg Bush Gardens back in my 20's and got "bushed" alright from all the free beer.)

  2. Clever punning...I was saving that for next time and you beat me to it. Kelly, stay tuned for part 2 with more pics of BG Howl O Scream. I took so many pics this year but they didn't all turn out and some were not near as impressive as I had hoped they would be.

  3. Wow. They've gotten even more elaborate then ever. Great photo journal. I especially like the 'Evil by Night' poster on the pillar. What type photographic device are you using? Some pics are vibrant and others are washed. Are you messing with exposure settings?

  4. It is Kat's digital camera. It has all these settings that I have no idea how to use, so I set it for auto. Also, I lack patience, so rather than stand still and get a good shot I am just as likely to try to shoot while moving.
    All of which leads to very uneven product. Oh, and Kat took some. Usually those are the good ones.

  5. Aw man...I am SO jonesing to go to YOUR Busch Gardens! I love all the decor and all the countries and especially where all the jacks are! Disney is festive in a childlike way...but THIS...this is my kind of fun! I'm now so sure that it quite as scary as Universal's Halloween Horror Nights...but then I wouldn't really know, as I've never been to either. Can you believe that I am just a little too scared to go to HHN...ha! But your park looks do-able for me. Okay...off to read part 2! (Being a 'thorough' kind of gal myself, I do appreciate the time and effort you take to include it all.)

  6. I appreciate your appreciation, Wendy. I think you should check out that Universal's Horror Nights...and get pics.

  7. At least one of those scarecrows looks a lot like the scarecrow from the first season of "Supernatural." Spooky Spooky Fun!!

  8. Hadn't thought of that. Well spotted.
    And one of them looks a bit goofy, but you never know what will scare a person...