INTERVIEW: Busch Gardens Williamsburg “No Escape” Rooms

This is a guest video by Kara Dennison.

I’m not nearly done with Howl-O-Scream. I have plans to go back over the course of the month and see everything there is to see. But before that, I was invited backstage to learn more about the “No Escape” rooms currently running in Rhinefeld.

In addition to speaking with the events manager, I also had a rather… special… interview with the stars of the rooms themselves, Jack the Ripper and Mr. Karver. I also got to speak with Nate Edwards and Nick Hanni, the actors behind the two terrifying characters, and learn about their experience with the park and what makes a room escape experience different from a haunted maze or terror-tory.

There’s still time to buy tickets and try the rooms out with your friends! Visit the Howl-O-Scream website to find out more!



Oh yes, I love me almost anything prog / guitar based. Like THIS SHIT: LEPROUS – The Price (OFFICIAL VIDEO). Taken from the album “The Congregation”. Inside Out Music 2015.

Details about the band here.

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 Stranded at Disney World: Hurricane Matthew; $12.99 sad box lunches; 3 hour waits for food; complete disorganization

Hello to everyone new following me on twitter after my pix went viral. I’m Oni – you can learn more about me on the left column. But TL; DR I’m the woman who runs (Re)Generation Who, which is major Doctor Who convention in Maryland this March featuring Michelle Gomez, Karen Gillan, and a ton more folks to be announced. :)

This has been a strange #OniHaunts year. (To the new folks, I am also one of the highest read-Halloween/haunted attraction-focused writers, so if you like haunted houses check here.) in the I am currently in Florida attempting to cover the Florida haunts but instead I am stranded at Walt Disney World, bracing for Hurricane Matthew to hit us. I love Disney, so this could be worse. :)

While I appreciate all of the Cast Members here helping us, I can’t say that Disney corporate has handled this the best. Tomorrow, all food services will be closed. We received a phone call telling us not to worry and to come to the lobby and get a box meal. We all thought to trust Disney and didn’t go off site to shop for groceries. We don’t have a big refrigerator in our room so if Disney has us covered then cool.

We were advised to buy enough food for tomorrow inclusive of lunch and dinner. Disney at no point showed us what was in the boxes we were buying.

The problem? They are charging an incredibly elevated price for shockingly meager / bad food. Every park guest who saw me with the boxes stopped me on my way back to the room warning me I’d be shocked when I opened the box.

I thought “How bad could it be?” Well this is what I paid $12.99 plus tax for:


Don’t believe me? Here:


The line was about 30 minutes long when I got mine.


When the parks closed at 5PM the place got flooded and the line expanded to over 1.5 hours and then to 3 hours. It literally wrapped around the Port Orleans: French Quarter lobby twice and went through the gift shop. At 12:00 the line wrapped back and forth about 3 times as well–it’s a lot larger than it looks. Here’s a pano. It’s the best shot I could get – too crowded. The line moved about 3 people every 10 minutes. Very slow. This is before it wrapped around twice. Sorry its not clearer – but it was very chaotic and slippery so I could not easily get a better photo without stepping on a kid or something:

line pano

I am pretty surprised that Disney doesn’t have a better method of handling this and that they are charging such an elevated price for their emergency food boxes. I spoke politely to a Cast Member / Manager who refunded me – but there are thousands of Guests paying this cost for their food for tomorrow when concessions are closed. Heads up to all there – if you are at WDW and you say something they might refund you.

It’s puzzling because there’s been very little communication from WDW and when they did they first told us that they had this in hand. I was also told they were not closing the food concessions. Then I found they didn’t have it in hand and they were closing the food concessions.

I waited in line for over 2 hours (after asking if there was enough food for all and being told yes) for the last night of hot food to be told right when I was almost at the head of the line that they were shutting off hot food and that I was out of luck. Then suddenly they changed their minds and opened up hot food again. I guess someone complained. I have to admit – I was close to passing out and felt sick and the idea of no food after standing in line for that long was not cool.

The Cast Members have been phenomenal, but the pre-planning and implementation from Disney corporate has been pretty poor and I truly feel it put these kind folks into a tough situation that could have been avoided with a modicum of thought. The park guests have all been super polite to the CMs who are truly keeping the “Disney Magic” idea alive. I just wish that Disney corporate would have supported this better so they could have had an easier time doing it. I’m going to cut this post short because I’m pretty dizzy after today. I’ll update again with how things are going here as a Hurricane Matthew refugee at Disney World.

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 MUSIC MONDAY: Sia – The Greatest

Sia’s unsettling tribute to those killed at Pulse in Orlando reminds me of when pop used to have more substance:

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 Busch Gardens Williamsburg: Howl-O-Scream 2016 Opening Night Review

This is a guest post by Donika Haddock.

September 23rd marked the opening night for Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Each year the park brings in a new theme for their event. Cursed (2014), Unearthed (2015), and new for 2016, Evil Encore.

The premise with Evil Encore is heavily advertised dolls. And not just any dolls, but the creepy ventriloquist type dolls. Aside from the new ‘No’ Escape Room, and some random creepy decorations throughout the park, this is where the creepy theme ends.

New attractions for 2016 include an all new maze, Circo Sinistro, and two ‘No’ Escape rooms, one themed to Jack the Ripper, and the other themed to the dolls and their creator, Mr. Karver.

Returning attractions for 2016 include the same mazes from the last several years, Bitten, Deadline, and Catacombs, plus the new mazes from last year, Unearthed, Lumberhack, and Cornered. I have to say, while I love Bitten and Catacombs, I’m ready for a change. Can we retire them and bring on something new??
I will say though, there were quite a few changes to Unearthed and Deadline that really impressed me. While I won’t give them all away, I will say, the park has added projection screens to the mazes, as well as throughout the park itself. They make a difference to the overall Howl-O-Scream experience, and not in a bad way. They’re well done and not cheesy like one would expect or anticipate. While they certainly don’t replace the human factor in the mazes, they are an added bonus to the overall theme.

Unearthed was my favorite maze last year. The amount of detail that went in to it was fantastic. I still wish we could walk through it with the lights up so guests can take in every bit of detail to the rooms.

This year Busch Gardens presents Circo Sinistro. This replaces last years’ Cutthroat Cove, the pirate themed maze. With this change, Festa Italia has gone from pirates to clowns. Not the creepy terrifying clowns from a few years back with Fear Fair, but a new version of the creepy clowns. I love this theme!
The downside to the new maze on opening night, it wasn’t completely finished. And it was obvious. The characters within aren’t quite sure of their roles, and like most of the mazes, there wasn’t a lot of actors within it. But those that were there did a good job of keeping you on your toes as you didn’t know who would jump at you and when.
On the upside, I LOVE this maze, it’s a new favorite (coming from someone that was terrified of the clowns from Fear Fair), along with the accompanying scare zone, Sideshow Square. You simply must visit the fortune teller booth for your reading!

One disappointment with the park is the removal, or partial removal, of the pirates. If you’re going to do a theme in a particular area, I want to see the theme throughout. While the pirates were a major theme in both Festa Italia and San Marco, it is now just the San Marco portion of Italy that is themed. And by theme I mean, they kept the Pirates Baaaaargh (the bar), and kept the decorations throughout the shops in the area, but that is it. I say get rid of the pirates completely and just make that area circus themed, clown’s and all.
Speaking of San Marco, the park has brought back, for the first time in eight years, their Starfright Orchestra. I wish I could comment on their performance, but since we were there on Friday night, and they apparently only perform on Saturdays, well, we were disappointed. So those attending Howl-O-Scream on Fridays or Sundays won’t get the chance to see this show. Why even bother with one day out of the weekend? Either do it, or don’t. While I tend to avoid the park on Saturdays, I feel I will be forced to fight the crowds at least once this season, just to see this show.

Just beyond Oktoberfest, located in the Wilkommenhaus gift shop, is the all new ‘No’ Escape rooms. These rooms replace the beloved Blood Banquet dining experience. For $30 (before 4pm) or $40 (after 4pm) you can choose between two themed rooms, Jack the Ripper, and The Case of Mr. Karver. You’re locked in, trying to find clues to help you escape. If you’re familiar with escape rooms, you know the drill here. While we were given a ‘modified’ experience for these rooms, the experience was NOT to the parks advantage. Our group was disappointed and confused with the Mr. Karver room. The actor in it is AMAZING however, and I feel that had we been given the full on experience, or even had someone actually EXPLAINED to us what the room was about and what clues to look for, we would’ve walked out wanting more, but this attraction fell flat in my opinion. The Jack the Ripper room though, definitely a keeper. I loved the theme, and the actor inside was great. The sneak peak we had in this room convinced me the money for the full thirty minute experience would be worth the price.

One more thing with this year’s event, a not advertised little piece of fun, if you have the Busch Gardens app on your phone, they have snuck in a game. Basic premise, you go around and pick up buttons. There’s sixteen total around the park. In previous years, you can win prizes such as a free drink, free snack, and during Christmas Town, an ornament. Not sure what the prizes will be for Howl-O-Scream but it’ll be fun finding out!





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