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On Friday, Sept. 9, high school students from across the state flooded into Busch Gardens for their annual Howl-O-Scream High School Journalism Day.

The program provides student journalists a behind-the-scenes look at this year’s line up of scare zones and haunted houses that inhabit the park throughout the month of October.  Attendees learned about the makeup design process, interviewed event coordinators and toured The Black Spot, one of the new houses.

Centered around pirate mythology and the curse of the black spot, this house focuses on a crew of sea dogs who crashed onto a cursed island.  Designers used styrofoam and wood to create the house, then coated it with a resin finish.  

The crew behind the houses continues to find new and intuitive ways of scaring event-goers, with the Black Spot, the house’s rooms mirrored this mindset.  For instance, in one room an actor sits visible to the audience, making it feel as if the room lacks any danger.  However, once the group of attendees passes a certain point, another actor jumps out at passerby from behind a hidden window in the wall, completely throwing the audience off balance.  

The creative team’s main goal resides in making attendees feel like they’re a part of the house’s story.  One of the ways they go about this is through environmental interaction.  Designers make the sets “guest proof” and durable so that nothing breaks while the attendees move through the area and bump into props. Some of the rooms within the Black Spot rest on hydraulic bags that make them move.  This gives the impression that the room sits on water, further adding to the pirate theme of the house.  

“We try to implement a storyline throughout the house by having actors interact with the guests in both the cue lines and the house,” Stage Manager Jay Krause said.

Both the Black Spot and the event’s other new house, Motel Hell, run for the entire duration of Howl-O-Scream.  These, alongside guest favorite attractions like Zombie Mortuary and Circus of Superstition, ensure that this year’s event is a memorable one.  Howl-O-Scream started on Sept. 23 and runs until Oct. 30 every Thursday-Sunday.  Click here for more information and ticket prices.

The Hilights

Event: Howl-O-Scream

Theme: Evil Encore

Type of event: Theme park haunted houses 

Ticket price: Single Night ticket: $65.99 Wild+Wicked Weekend Ticket: $99.99