Once entering the gate, his cold, gray eyes watch in silence. His calm is unnerving as he circles, intimidating all who pass. It is sheer torment waiting for him to do something – anything. Welcome to Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream.
This year’s theme is centered around the creature Torment – a creature of the night who leads and commands his followers of fright. Though the atmosphere of Busch Gardens is dark and intimidating, officials tried to tone things down to reflect the mood following the Sept. 11 attacks.
For instance, Torment was originally supposed to be named Terror. A name change came the day of the attacks, but the character remained the same otherwise.
But Torment doesn’t leap at people or run after them, as does his brethren. Instead, he stalks his prey quietly with an sense of intimidation. He makes anyone around feel uneasy, using psychological tactics to disarm and unnerve all with whom he comes into contact. And his reasons for tormenting the visitors of Busch Gardens and his overall goals are clear.
“To take over the world, starting with Busch Gardens,” he said.And his next conquest? USF should expect an invasion anytime. “Whoever designed the parking is first because on his first day there, Anthony missed his first class because of parking,” he said.Torment is a USF student, attending classes under the name of Anthony Casale.
Casale, whose favorite holiday interestingly enough is not Halloween, but Christmas, is a junior majoring in magazine journalism and minoring in theater, though he may consider switching the two to “pursue theater more vigorously.”
Torment haunts Howl-O-Scream each week sending his minions throughout the park.
In its second year, Busch Gardens has stepped up its scare factor and encourages people to leave their kids at home for this event. Howl-O-Scream is a pre-cursor to Halloween activities and touts a scary, fun night for all who attend. It is not for the timid and easily frightened. With five haunted houses and plenty of scary creatures wandering the park in the dark, there is plenty to be frightened of in a night.
Busch Gardens makes it clear how scary each haunted house is supposed to be using a rating from three skulls (denoting the least scary attractions) to five skulls (denoting the most scary attractions). A map denotes each house’s rating.
Several places where the creatures are doing Torment’s bidding are in the haunted houses. One of the haunted houses with a low scare factor was “Curse of Tut’s Tomb.” Under the premise of passing through the tombs of dead Egyptian kings, visitors tentatively enter each chamber with trepidation, pushing through the darkness and mummy wrappings that separate each chamber. Mummies chase and follow each visitor as they try to escape.
“Escape from Insanity” is a trip through an insane asylum that makes One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest look like a day at the beach. Deranged nurses greet new “patients” at the door, placing hospital medical ID bracelets on their wrists. Then the patients get a tour of their new home – a psychotic ward of cages filled with maniacs going berserk and obviously neglected corpses stacked in their cells. While the fear factor here is given the highest rating in park, it doesn’t invoke the same fears as Tut’s tomb.
Another house was “Screaming Reality.” It featured psychotic hillbillies living in a bayou. Granted, hillbillies can be scary, but these hillbillies weren’t really frightening, nor did they do anything more than walk past visitors clanging little pipes telling them to “watch where y’all go.”
The scare zones, areas of the park set aside for intense but short journeys into the macabre, use lighting effects, fog and themed creatures to scare passers-by who wander through. One USF student attending the event said it was better this year. Lee Ward, a junior majoring in biology, said the lines were so long last year that he didn’t get through any haunted houses. He said this year had improved, but offered one more piece of advice.”It was alright, but they should’ve scared the girls more,” Ward said.