Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream losing student interest

By Miki Shine, Managing Editor
On October 12, 2016

October means cooler weather, the stress of midterms and a raised interest in creepy things. Just around the corner from campus, Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream works to tap into that interest in horror.

However, a poll the Oracle did through twitter over the weekend found that 77 percent of the 67 students who answered were not interested in Howl-O-Scream or didn’t have plans to go.

“I'm not sure if it will meet my expectations,” Naela Curtis, a senior majoring in Health Science and Psychology, said. “I also don't know anyone who's going and it doesn't seem like the type of event you go to on your own.”

One of the commonly cited reasons students don’t attend the event is the price of admission.

“I know they have group fees,” said Jorden Irby, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering. “I think it depends on the student. Maybe if it was a little cheaper or there was something new (more students would go).

“I’ve heard it's a good experience. I’ve always wanted to go but I haven’t had the time.”

Similarly, Walker Wilhelm, a sophomore majoring in business, said he prefers going to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, Orlando because it has the rights to some classic horror movies which allows it to make haunted houses based off the movies.

Busch Gardens doesn’t have these rights, which means the houses are not based on specific movies. This year’s theme, Evil Encore, is based on a doll maker whose creations come to life.

There are also two zombie inspired houses, last year’s feature, Unearthed, which deals with a vengeful demon, and a circus-inspired house. This year’s new houses include a hotel where nightmares become reality as well as a pirate-based house.

Along with the houses, there are also cast members wondering the park to terrify visitors and various shows. Additionally, all of the park’s regular roller coasters are running.

According to Karen Varga-Sinka, senior manager of public relations at Busch Gardens, the park is advertising to college students in a number of ways. These include the use of social media, taking out a booth at Bull Market on Wednesdays, commercials, radio promotions and special offers at 7-11, Taco Bell and Wing House.

Additionally, she said that there’s a special student ticket, which is $39.99 available on Thursdays and Fridays rather than the $65.99 that a regular one-night ticket costs. Saturday night tickets cost $70.99 and Sunday nights cost $65.99, according to the Howl-O-Scream website. However, a group of four or more can get cheaper tickets with the 4-Pack Deal.

Students said that offering discounts or give-aways might get more people interested in going to Howl-O-Scream, but for others, the incentive is based on content.

“Maybe try to stand out a little more,” Wilhelm said. “I’ve seen a lot of advertising with creepy dolls. That’s kind of a (horror) trope. Try mixing it up some.”

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