Busch Gardens is looking for about 700 flesh-eating undead zombie-types for 2016’s Howl-O-Scream.

  • Busch Gardens holding Zombie auditions for Howl-O-Scream
  • Auditioners will step behind a wall called “The Gaunlet,” a sample of what's inside a haunted house
  • Hired actors receive training and costuming and a zombie back story

It’s their signature spooky event – haunted houses, scare zones, undead people dragging shovels on the concrete in the dark, random piped-in screams of terror. You get the picture.

Auditions are taking place in the following weeks for the late September kick-off.

So we went to get tips on how to nail the look, the touch, the feel of the zombie audition.

Major skills required are the ability to roam around with vacant eyes, searching endlessly for flesh, as well using scare spots in haunted houses to shock and horrify somewhat unsuspecting event-goers.

How far should you go to get the part?

"If you show up in zombie clothes with the zombie make up we might ask you to wash it off," said a smiling Ben DeWitt, the Howl-O-Scream Entertainment Project Manager. "But we just love seeing everybody who loves Halloween as much as we do."

Morgan Malice is the Creative Director for Atmosphere and a Make-up Artist for Howl-O-Scream. He changed our very own Virginia Johnson from mild-mannered reporter to flesh-eating undead maniac.

Auditioners will step behind a wall called “The Gaunlet.”

"It's a sample of what's inside or haunted houses," said DeWitt.

The wall is filled with secret windows—some drop open with a bang. It shocks the “victim” before the scary zombie screeches and vaguely reaches for them!

Other secret windows slide open sideways and slam shut in seconds—with a freaky undead zombie in between the slams.

There is a special lattice work effect—under the appropriate lighting it looks like wood, but the woven pieces are really a stretchy fabric that zombies can push aside and pop right through.

Get the picture? It’s all for horror.

And all the would-be zombies have to be able to master the timing and finesse these “scares” as people pass by.

After the fear tests, there is a fun one—in the form of improvisational games.

"We’ll ask you to do something goofy, maybe we'll ask you to be an octopus that had a lot of red bull," said DeWitt. "What we're looking for is your ability to feel silly."

If actors make it through the fear and the fun and get hired, they will receive training and costuming and a zombie back story.

That yellow-ish makeup you see on Virginia Johnson’s face is called “Swamp Gas.” It’s the perfect name for its job: draining all pink alive-looking flesh tones on her face —and turning them into an undead pallor of doom and death.

We went through the process for fun!!

"We're gonna turn you into a victim from a zombie bite."

Morgan Malice is the Creative Director for Atmosphere and a Make-up Artist for Howl-O-Scream. He has been at Busch Gardens for a decade of great transformations.

"I've learned over the years that guests love blood," said Malice.

Malice applies liquid latex to my face that has “blood powder” mixed into it. He does it in layers and uses a blow dryer to speed up the drying process.

Next he soaks ripped up pieces of used dryer sheets, soaks them in the red liquid latex, and adds them to the slashed across my left face and neck.

Malice adds a waxy substance to create a raised flesh look. That gets covered with a blood-colored edible jelly, along with faux mucus and faux pus products. Yes these products exist.

There is airbrushing to replace my alive pinkish flesh tones with deadly whitish-grayish ones.

Malice makes hair look greasy and sweaty with—wait for it—hair conditioner.

“Our zombies smell great, but they look awful!” said a laughing Malice.

Even the costuming, created to look filthy, smells laundry fresh—it’s all make believe dirt and crud.

I picked a black mid-calf length dress with a proper Peter Pan collar that looked like it had pockets of faux pus all over it!

Finally, we breathe life into our undead characters with a backstory.

Our “story” will dictate how we act, walk and moan.

“It looks like maybe you had your neck broken,” said DeWitt, “and then maybe while you were running you broken your ankle at the same time."

So now I crank my neck to the side, and start to drag my foot. And I go slow and try to groan with a death rattle.

Except I start to choke on my own spit and break into laughter—very non-zombie.

But Dewitt is reassuring.

"We will give you everything you need to audition successfully--even a couple of extra hints," he said.

By the way, DeWitt and Malice thought I really committed to my character.

So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Zombie auditions are:

  • Friday, July 29, 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 30, 11 a.m.
  • Friday, August 5, 5 p.m.