Busch Gardens Tampa decided to try something very different this year for their annual Howl O Scream event. They created a new haunted house called “Alone” that was not included with Howl O Scream admission.
Here is my blurry pic of the front of the house. Sorry, I was really excited to go inside and I screwed up the photo.
The idea is that for a $24.95 (advance purchase) or $34.95 (at the door) fee, you could go through this special haunted house either alone or with up to 3 friends. If you go through alone you get a free t shirt.
But is it worth it?
I was very skeptical about it at first. When it was announced I even said that there was no way I’d pay extra to do this. The cost to attend Howl O Scream plus the upcharge brought the price on par with Universal Studios’ larger Halloween event.
Boy, am I glad I changed my mind and paid up. (Thank you, strange combination of curiosity plus my sense of blogger duty.)
Harknell and I went through on Friday, October 8th at midnight. Here is a pic of us before going in! I’m holding a severed finger because that’s what they gave you when you checked in to signal that you had paid. :D
The Alone house was not only worth the money, but it is the absolute best haunted house I have ever been through in my entire life. I do not say that lightly. I am the girl who went through 31 haunted houses in 2009 and am up to 21 houses this year so far. You all know that I will gladly shred a haunt that sucks.
The Alone house is the opposite of suck. It didn’t just raise the bar – it punted the bar so far up the rear-end of Awesome that Awesome now has 20/20 vision. I have NEVER EVER seen a haunt like this before! I don’t care if you have to get on a plane, train, horse, cat, or hitchhike. GO TO THIS HOUSE.
We all know that going through a haunted house alone is more scary than a regular house, but that simple fact isn’t what made Alone so good. Alone was a different kind of haunt altogether that is far from ordinary.
Spoilers are below. Skip to Why I thought it was worth it if you don’t want to read them.
I’m just recounting very basic things and purposely obfuscating some scares. I don’t want to spoil everything and the truth is that nothing I could say could sum up how amazing this house is. You must go to experience it all.
After being menaced by an imposing security guard at the front gate, we were let into the first chain link fence hallway that led up to the house. We were greeted by a very odd man who messed with us for about 10 minutes before making us listen to a tape recorded message that explained a bit of the story. Alexander Daedalus owns the house. It is where his collection of oddities are kept. We are to go in but not touch anything.
We were led into an elevator. Suddenly the light changed and revealed that the elevator guy had..OMFG!!! The timing in this house of the light changes and the actors’ movements put horror films to shame. The elevator went down in fits and starts. The lights went out. All of a sudden the guy moved when the lights cut out and he was RIGHT BESIDE US. We were fully immersed in the story. There was a 12 foot tall ghost of some sort. A TON of scare actors were in this house and they were all there for us. There was a LENGTHENING AND SHRINKING HALLWAY AND A GUY WITH LOTS OF KNIVES OR SOMETHING I DON’T KNOW WHAT WE RAN OMG. Harknell freaked here. REALLY FREAKED.
Then we met some cut up people and another character who spoke with us for 10 minutes showing us the collection…but something terrible happens here! We are in trouble! All hell breaks loose. We got split up and harassed separately. They are using our names and specifically going after us. Eventually we ended up facing Alexander Daedalus. Some funny shit happens in this room, but I won’t tell you what. This room is where photos of you are taken that you can buy afterward. We were inside for about 20 minutes.
Why I thought it was worth it
The actors spend a lot of time with you. They are not just scare actors but storytellers. I have never had this much personal attention before in a haunted house. There are no conga lines of people in front of or behind your group. You know how sometimes the person in front of you will get the scare and you will miss everything? You know how sometimes a drunk frat boy will punch you in the spine by mistake from behind? That doesn’t happen here.
I actually feel that the marketing copy for the Alone house under stated what it offers. I feel that this personalized attention and the REALLY ADVANCED horror effects that are perfectly timed with the actors’ movements could have been explained a bit more. Storyline makes a good haunt, and the actors really did a great job shepherding us through.
It was absolutely mind-blowing! I can predict that Universal Studios will try to copy this for next year. Busch Gardens Tampa has been a great innovator for these past few years. If you want to see where all of the great ideas start and some amazing marketing work, look no farther than BGT’s Howl O Scream.
What I hope to see in the future:
Talking about what BGT could do better in the future with the Alone house is a bit like telling an honors student that they could have built a flying bus instead of a flying car, but I do think that there are some things that could be done better for next year.
Two more rooms: I felt that the house was just short of being the perfect length. I’d love it if they added two more rooms for next year. I didn’t feel that the length (approximately 20 minutes) made this not worth the money because it was so genre obliterating. However, I do think that it needs to be a bit longer for next year.
A tighter storyline: The storyline was implemented well, but some things didn’t quite make sense. There was a man baby in the house that kind of didn’t make much sense. We just chalked it up to it being part of the collection of oddities, but some back story to illuminate who Alexander Daedalus is and what all these things were would be a huge value add. Perhaps a scavenger hunt or a viral site that we can play with in advance would be great.
A definite ending to the house: We thought that the ending was hilarious, but when they messed with us in the last room we were a little confused as to what we were supposed to do. After we exited I was not sure that we were done or not. Something definitive to signal the end of the experience would be awesome.
Better in-house photos: I just noticed that the print of the photos that I received was a bit fuzzy – like if they upsampled low-res jpgs. I’m also not convinced that these are the funniest photos of us. I’d love to see this system improved to include shots from the other rooms or just clearer shots of the final room – especially for the $20 extra that they cost us. The Alone graphic is very clear, but the photos just don’t look super nice. This is more obvious when you see the physical print out that we received, but here is a small scan:
LOL Harknell was sitting there confused while I got up to book on out of there. ;D
That’s really all of the suggestions that I can think of. BGT really hit this one out of the park. I will go every year. I have never been this impressed in my entire life.
When can I buy tickets for 2011? Can I buy them now?