TAMPA, Fla. — Busch Gardens officially kicked off Howl-O-Scream, its annual fright fest, on Friday.
This year's event features six haunted houses (two of which are new) and six scare zones. In each instance, there are dozens of scare actors waiting to jump out at you, follow you, scream at you and just make you uneasy.
The haunted houses are the big draw at Howl-O-Scream. Each one offers its own surprising twists and scares, some more than others.
Here's a ranking of this year's houses, from worst to best.
6. The Black Spot
The Black Spot is a returning house and doesn't really offer anything new.
It's pretty much a walkthrough house that has a few scares here and there. The pirate theme, however, is well executed, from the music to the design of the pirate ship.
5. Simon's Slaughterhouse
This new house is recommended for those 17 and older, and it's easy to see why.
As you enter the slaughterhouse, you can hear pigs squealing and banjo music playing.
From there, you'll encounter dozens of dead bodies. Slaughtered pigs hang from the ceiling. A few human bodies hang as well. Blood is splattered all over the walls and the floors. The sounds of meat grinders and chainsaws follow you throughout.
Visitors will also encounter masked characters with large butcher knives.
But beyond the gore, there aren't many scares.
4. Death Water Bayou
One of the returning houses, Death Water Bayou, is set in New Orleans. So the house has the voodoo, swamp vibe down.
It features a spinning tunnel effect that can be a bit disorienting. This house also uses strobe lights to limit your visibility.
Unearthed is probably the most well-execute house in terms of theme and scares.
Visitors are met by construction workers who excavating an old house that has sinister vibes.
The lighting, or lack thereof, really make this house a highlight. Most of the rooms are dark, with the most of the light coming from candles or a flashlight that's given to some visitors before they enter.
Of course, there are plenty of bloody body parts placed throughout the house. And also the skeletal remains of a few house pets.
2. Motel Hell
Motel Hell has plenty of gore and plenty of scares.
Visitors enter a rundown hotel where they are likely to come face-to-face with a few dead bodies.
There are words written in blood on the walls. Nightmarish hotel employees jump out from behind hotel room doors.
This house also features creative smells and other special effects up the creepy factor.
It's easy to see why this hotel has is vacant.
Insomnia is the other new house created for this year's event, and it's easily the best. Visitors enter a haunted asylum where the doctors are demented and the patients are tortured.
Walking through, you'll notice that one of the rooms has a distinct "hospital smell."
This house also takes advantage of digital projection technology. In one room, spiders crawl up the walls as one of the patients screams behind a glass window.
There are also plenty of strobe lights, which limit your ability to see.
Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream runs select nights Sept. 21 through Oct. 28. Learn more about it here.
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