We were able to get away for the opening weekend of Howl-O-Scream this year. Wife bought Busch Gardens 2-year season tickets this year expecting that we will be able to go a few timas over the next couple years. Each season ticket allowed us one guest so we took Wife's sister's family consisting of SisInLaw, BroInLaw, Nephew1(16), and Nephew2(14).
We had no clue what to expect so the plan was for everybody to go during the day and ride the rides then, depending on how scary we thought it was going to get, send Kid1(8) and Kid2(4) to the hotel with SisInLaw and BroInLaw. Nephew1, Nephew2, Wife and I would stay for the haunted attractions. That was the plan.
As big a fan as I am of all things Halloween, I had never been to a haunted amusement park. I was conceptually aware of what goes on, but that is different from experiencing it. So given the kids' ages, I was concerned about the content. Turns out concerned in the wrong way. More on that later.
Back to the plan. As we are walking thru the park during the day, we see that a halloween show called "Fiends" is about to start. Timing is right, we're close, sounds good. As we approach the building, we run into the line. Not too long, OK, we'll wait. Kid2 is crashed in her stroller so Wife sits in the handicap section in the back with her while the rest of us sit up close and off to the side.
The stage is set up like Frankenstein's lab and a mad scientist sets the scene. Cloaked figures approach the stage thru dark and fog. Lights burst and the cloaks come off to reveal the mad scientist's female assistants dressed, as one would expect for the lab, as slutty nurses. The show is filled with legs, thighs, cleavage, and sexual innuendo. As an adult male, I think this show has some potential. As a Dad, I'm hoping I don't have to explain too much to Kid1. Sis-In-Law's family leaves and I stay with Kid1. I may be in trouble. As far as I know, Wife is still watching from the back. If she left too, change "may be" to "am".
The show ends with a monster being animated. a well built male monster in a sock stuffed speedo. Adult male thinks "no problem, part of the nature of the show". Ex-lifeguard thinks "no problem, that's what I wore for 4 summers (sans sock)". Dad thinks "definitely have to discuss with Kid1".
We find out from Google Mobile that "Fiends" is not kid friendly. Thanks BG for the heads up in the show description. Oh wait, retract that. No heads up.
We also found out from Wife's Facebook friend that the park is not kid friendly immediately at 6:00pm with the actors running around scaring people. Hmm. OK, we've been warned.
We continue with rides and food and other shows till past 6:00 and finally send the kids back with Sis&BroInLaw ... and 16 year old Nephew1 (AKA: Wus).
We find out later that a Chainsaw Guy jumped out at Kid1 on the way out of the park and BroInLaw crewed him a new one. Kid1 didn't seem traumatized and was probably OK with it, but thanks BroInLaw for looking out.
The park in organised into Haunted Houses and scare areas. The houses are attractions (lines included) with narrow passages and things to scare you. The scare areas are open spaces that you walk through to get to someplace else.
I would like to hang in the scare areas just to watch the actors work, but Wife is not that kind of person so we charge to the back of the park to hit the the farthest away Haunted House and work our way to the front. Reasonable approach but come on, you miss alot by blowing though the scare areas. You get to see the costumes and the crowd reactions. Oh well, maybe another time.
The houses are all the basic dark, tight, foggy passages with actors that slam open windows to startle you. There are some nice effects sometimes but it is mostly "Boo!".
Wife and Nephew2 are in the lead and they are right on the heels of the people in front of us. The actors don't have time to reset and we can see everything happening right in front of us. Kinda dull.
On the next house, I lead. I hold back until I can't see people in front of us. Wife and Nephew2 can't see past me. The actors have time to set and we don't have anyone to cower into. I hear a girly scream behind me and turn to laugh at Wife. She says that was Nephew2. Much better. Also, as we are exiting the house, there is one more BOO right at the end when you think your done and then there are actors waiting outside. Nice.
It's getting late and we pass by 2 houses that are closed while EMT's clear someone who couldn't deal and go to "Your Number's Up: 13". It is rumoured that the line is over an hour because EMT's are here too. In fact we see the patient wheelchaired out. Ah, delay removed. It should move now, Right? Well, it does. Very slowly. An hour and a half line. We wait it out because the park will close by the time we do anything else.
The line is actually part of the intro for the house. There are signs that list 13 phobias but I only remembered a few and did not catch their numbers. We played "Trivial Phobia". Not a fair game. With knowedge of Greek and Latin roots plus a large vocabulary, I was correcting the pronunciation of the phobias as they butchered them.
I didn't realize it at the time but the numbers correspond to rooms in the house. There are numbers near the entrance of each room and they correspond to the numbers outside. Like I rembembered, hee.
This house was more of the jump out and yell boo variety with a couple notable exceptions.
The claustraphobia (fear of tight spaces) room was an effect I had heard about but never experienced. It started a little ... different. All through the houses there are emergency exits marked. They are also actors behind corners to frighten you. In this room there is an exit to the left rear with a non-actor standing in front of it and not trying to scare you. They looked more like an usher. Thought provoking. In front of you there are dark curtains with no clear path. As you try to part the curtains, the curtains press back. You have to walk through about 10 feet of corridor in dlackout as the drape like walls seal around you and gently press into you. Very cool! I think the non-actor was actually and usher to direct you through the corridor becasue I can easily imagine some people balking.
The other room I really enjoyed was acrophobia (fear of heights). You enter through heavy black curtains into about a 15 ft square room with plain walls and nothing in it. Nothing except an 18 inch wide plank across a bottomless pit. Very disorienting to look at. Excellent! The effect is from the floor being as infinity mirror. The plank is flush to the infinity mirror floor so you can't "fall off" but the way it plays with your mind is great.
The park had long closed by the time we got out but we ended on a high note.