2015, Attractions, Halloween, Haunted Attractions, Reviews, Theme Parks

Williamsburg, VA Haunted Attractions: Busch Gardens Howl O Scream 2015 Unearthed review – the haunted houses and your best game plan for doing this event

Previously we’ve posted coverage of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Blood Banquet and Monster Stomp show that they are offering for this Halloween season. We also Interviewed Scarlett:

We also did a lot of shenanigans:

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This post is about the haunted houses. We went on Media Night:

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Normally the haunted houses at Busch Gardens Williamsburg do not change much and are more on the family-friendly side than it’s Tampa counterpart. Every year they deliver a fun experience, but in my opinion it’s always been less about the haunted houses and more about the overall experience and range of cool things to do. Every year they deliver a fun evening of food, drink, shows, rides, Halloween festivities, and haunted houses, but the overall package has been the focus – not the haunted houses.

This year they made some game-changing additions and alterations. Normally the event has 6 haunted houses. Now they have 7. Out of the previous 6 houses they completely scrapped and re-did 2 of those. 13 and Root of All Evil have been replaced by Unearthed: Scarlett’s Revenge and Cornered. Lumberhack is brand new for this year.

This means that you get 3 new haunted houses. This is huge news without any further detail. Normally BGW doesn’t change it’s haunted houses often so the last time it made sense for me to write a new review and not simply link you to my prior post was 2 years ago.

However there are more details to this story. All 3 new haunted houses are in a class that is highly superior to the other houses. BGW has finally taken the direction we had hoped for all these years and decidedly targeted our demographic while still remaining accessible to most of their general attendee fan base. They cranked it up a level or two.

Lumberhack

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Lumberhack is outdoors so definitely make sure you see this one after dark, We went during the day and I felt that this made it lose some of it’s punch. That said, it was still very enjoyable. Those who went after dark told me that it was absolutely amazing. The design was great and there were some great props that the actors could utilize for scares inside. The actors showed a good level of skill and even collaborated with each other in certain scenes. The only other caveat to this house (aside from being affected by daylight) was that it is a long walk from the main park area to the house – like 5 or 10 minutes. I did see that they were altering where the queue was in the following days so they will probably work to make this easier. I’d suggest looking at how wide the pathways felt for those who go through during the day. I think if it felt more claustrophobic that would mitigate the affects of the daylight.

Cornered

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This house is also outdoors and affected by the sunlight. We still felt this held up. If you must see one of the outdoor houses in daylight due to time this should be the one that you should choose. The pathing and layout of each room was so well done that even when I missed a scare inside it was still disorienting and fun enough to be a great time. I was really impressed with the fact that this still held up in daylight. I’m sure it would be much better in the dark, but we did have a blast here.

Unearthed: Scarlett’s Revenge

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This house is the “Can’t Miss” attraction of the entire event. This one approached Tampa level. If you don’t know what I mean by that, I’ll explain. This house felt like it was targeted at straight haunted house fans. It had more scares, set pieces, and gore than all of the other houses. It took great usage of the space and even used the giant IMAX-like screens from the now defunct Europe in the Air attraction that housed it. It’s still accessible to younger people, but younger people who would like the next level up from the other houses at the event. Basically, if the Catacombs house (a returning house that you can read my full review of here) is no big deal for you then you can proceed to this one. If Catacombs really upsets you then you may want to skip this one or at least brace yourself for a slightly higher level. This house is in a higher class than the other haunted houses at this event.

If you are a haunt junkie like us this house won’t be a stretch. This is a theme park, so most theme parks can’t ever approach the fear levels that an independent haunted attraction can. That said, you’ll definitely feel like BGW’s Howl O Scream is taking a game-changing step in the right direction.

We had so much fun in here.

These are the moments that people like me hope to see but rarely do. It’s when an event that you like a lot decides to create something that hits your demographic dead on and succeeds. I have not yet been to a theme park outside of Busch Gardens Tampa who has a haunted house that is this well done. This makes a lot of sense since I know that one of the designers from Tampa now works at BGW and worked on this.

Unearthed: Scarlett’s Revenge is a huge triumph for the park and for haunted house fans. They got it so incredibly right that I am not sure that I have words to describe it. If they keep moving in this direction they will have a world class family event with world class haunted houses that stoke the imagination and creativity of the next generation of haunters.

The TL; DR is that this year’s Busch Gardens Williamsburg Howl O Scream went from being a great event that had something for everyone to a great event that REALLY had something for everyone – including me. I’m extremely excited to see what they do for next year. The returning houses are a lower intensity level, but the new houses are definitely a step in the right direction. Scarlett’s Revenge is the biggest triumph I’ve seen this year on my tour.

You can also meet Scarlett at the photo op area, which is another Can’t Miss. The people they have playing her are fabulously saucy. Just the photo op is an event all by itself because of how you get to interact with her. You can even talk to her about her life and she will answer in character.

Your best game plan:

– Enter the park at 10AM, see any shows you want to see and ride any rides that you want.

– Eat before 5:30PM (My favorites are Trapper’s Smokehouse and Blood Banquet) so that when the houses open at that time you’ll be able to fit more in.

– The houses are only open from 5:30-11PM (10PM on Sundays) with sunset happening around 7PM. With only 3 hours to get through all of the houses in darkness you will probably have to go through some in daylight.

– The following houses are affected by sunlight: Cornered, Lumberhacked, Cut Throat Cove. Try and delay those for later if you can.

– Catacombs, Unearthed: Scarlett’s Revenge, Deadline, and Bitten are not affected by sunlight and can be done at any time.

– The weakest houses are Cut Throat Cove and Bitten. If you have to skip a house, skip these. I actually hope that these are replaced for next year.

– Unearthed: Scarlett’s Revenge is the best house they have followed by Cornered (affected by daylight) and Lumberhacked (affected by daylight). After that I’d recommend Catacombs and Deadline.

– Make sure you try the pumpkin cheesecake. It’s my fav! :)

You really should not miss this event this year. BGW’s Howl O Scream is not an evening hard-ticketed event like their Tampa location. This event is included with regular admission to the park and you may enter at 10AM. More info can be found here.



Oni Hartstein is a Los Angeles-based CMO and entrepreneur that is obsessed with progressive rock / metal, marketing, and nightlife. Please direct all business inquiries or review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.

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