SeaWorld in San Diego has a great-looking Halloween event coming called Howl-O-Scream. I was able to attend a preview of the show early in the summer and as we get closer to covering opening night in mid-September, we have an interview that goes into detail about what guests can look forward to.
How did the decision to hold a Halloween event in San Diego come about and why now since San Antonio has done them prior?
As you are aware, Howl-O-Scream has been an established event within the SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment umbrella for many years so we have a lot of learnings to help us kick off this inaugural event. The adult Halloween event space in Southern California has a lot of opportunities, with several events already in San Diego, as well as across Southern California, so it felt like a natural fit to add it to our event lineup. Howl-O-Scream complements our existing family-friendly Halloween Spooktacular event which takes place during the day offering fun activities for younger guests. Then at night, Howl-O-Scream takes over the park and caters to a more mature audience with scare zones, haunted houses, boozy beverages, and dancing. We’re eager to now offer Halloween-themed fun for guests of all ages.
What sort of activities will be available?
Tickets to Howl-O-Scream include haunted houses, scare zones, live entertainment, DJ dance parties, access to themed bars, rides and coasters inside the park, and more. Below are descriptions of our three haunted houses, each with a link to the teaser video.
Nightmare Experiment – A government medical experiment at a run-of-the-mill sleep clinic has gone horribly wrong, descending into utter chaos. The patients have given into their worst nightmares and have driven the staff to the brink of madness. Guests will have to fight for their life and sanity as they rush to escape the clinic, dodging unruly patients along the way.
Simon’s Slaughterhouse – The local meat processing plant has fallen into the hands of the demented Simon the Butcher and his crew. Guests must navigate their way through bloody corridors, meat-hooked mortals, and screeching buzz saws to avoid Simon’s blades.
Death Water Bayou – The stifling heat and dank humidity permeate the air and beckons visitors deeper into Death Water Bayou. Guests will wander amid gravestones, voodoo dolls, and the spirits of prior mortals who couldn’t escape the Bayou Witch’s house of cursed horrors.
The themes for the scare zones are First Fright, Deadly Toys, Graveyard, La Llorona, The Sirens, and The Hauntings zone. These are classic haunt genres that everyone will be familiar with, but we are putting our own spin on them so that there are unexpected surprises around every corner. We set out to create haunts that we ourselves would want to walk through and we’re really excited to welcome our fellow Halloween and haunt fans.
Wandering throughout the park, the event will feature four roaming hordes of zombies, creatures and terrifying characters that will scare and startle at every chance they have. For thrill-seekers and adrenaline fanatics, Electric Eel, Manta and Journey to Atlantis will all be open for high-speed nighttime rides. For a break from the howling and screaming, guests can head to The Underground, a steam-punk-themed dance club where they can show off their freaky dance moves and move their feet to a variety of music and Halloween classics with a twist.
What are some of the safety measures that will be in place and how will spacing in the mazes be handled?
The safety of our guests, Ambassadors, and animals in our care remains our top priority. Consistent with CDC guidance, we recommend that our guests wear face coverings while indoors however most of our haunted attractions are mainly outdoors.
All actors are directed not to touch or make contact with anyone. All open water exhibits will be staffed by Education or Zoo teams, as well as having barricades in select locations. All areas will be inspected daily by assorted Entertainment personal for any hazards. For Mazes: Groups would be pulsed in and our operations staff will be at each emergency exit. Security will be staffed at each entrance and exit for mazes.
How long did it take to come up with the concepts this year and what can you tell us about the process?
Howl-O-Scream began in 1999 at Busch Gardens. We’ve learned a lot since then about haunted attractions and events. We’ve taken all of the best practices from over the years and have applied them to this brand-new event for this park. The discussions for bringing Howl-O-Scream started in earnest prior to the pandemic and were delayed due to this worldwide crisis. A committee was formed to explore themes and opportunities. We took many things into consideration including looking at other haunted events around southern California to ensure that we are unique and stand out. We thought about who our guests are and what types of themes may resonate best. The creative concepts and brainstorming continued throughout the pandemic. The final creative was signed off at the start of this year and the real work began! Pre-production is when those creative pieces are brought to fruition. Along with development of the logistics (lots of moving parts, right?) we’ve been in full pre-production build mode since March!
What did the design work begin and how many cast members will be featured?
As mentioned, we’ve been designing and building the physical pieces since as far back as March and April. Our Entertainment Team has been the main drivers for launching the event, but we are currently auditioning and interviewing to supplement roughly 300 seasonal roles for scare actors, technicians, stage managers and wardrobe/make-up. If anyone is interested in joining us, they can go to our website for more information!
Compared to other theme park Halloween events, how would you rate the scares, and what makes this one stand out?
Our all-new Halloween event brings roaming haunts, scare zones, haunted houses, nighttime rides, boozy concoctions and a frightful Vampire Circus show to San Diego’s Halloween scene. We are offering all the fear of a typical Halloween event along with the thrilling rides and high-quality entertainment of a theme park. We are putting our own unique spin on classic haunt themes so that there are unexpected surprises around every corner at our Howl-O-Scream event.
In terms of the casting; what do you look for in a performer and what can you tell us about the casting process?
We are hiring hundreds of horrifying monsters, ghouls, and spirits to come scare at our inaugural Howl-O-Scream event. We are looking for enthusiastic performers to be part of our Scare Squad, they do not have to have experience, just a passion for Halloween. They need to love to scare and be eager to spread fear and fun at our inaugural event. Our scare actors will receive scare training from our in-house entertainment team to help them perform the best scares at Howl-O-Scream. We’ll teach them the different kinds of scares, such as the atmospheric scare and the startle scare, to ensure they’re ready for nights of haunting.
How tricky was it to develop the show yet keep it a secret until you were ready for the reveal?
We are lucky to feature an internationally recognized Cirque-style stage show for our first year of HOS. The Vampire Circus has toured all over the world in its full-two-hour format. We’ve shrunk the program down to it’s very best acts and production values. This show is jam-packed with incredible acts, amazingly talented performers. It’s a sexy, dark journey featuring vampires, ghouls, witches, and goblins. I think our guests are really going to love it! To be honest, it’s been difficult holding this one in until just the right moment.
Will SeaWorld be closed at a certain time to setup and then reopen later in the evening on event dates?
We will start closing the park at 5 pm and asking guests to exit since HOS is a separately ticketed event. Howl-O-Scream guests can enter the park starting at 6 with festivities beginning with ‘The Gathering’ at the Underground Dance Party location, the scare squad will gather to officially kick off the haunts and howls! The park will close at 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 pm on Sundays and select Thursdays that Howl-O-Scream is offered.
What sort of food items will be offered at the event? We’re still finalizing the food menu, but something exciting I want to share is about the selection of libations. As mentioned, we have three haunted houses and at the end of each house, we have an accompanying themed bar.
- AmBARlance – After escaping Nightmare Experiment, the AmBARlance is there to cure all guests’ ailments. The boozy “medications” will be administered via IV bags and syringes as well as Vodka soaked “vitamins” in medicine cups. For a more intense treatment, the Pop Rocks rimmed “ElectroShock” cocktail will be sure to make their brain pop.
- Simon’s Screamatorium – Guests are on the menu at Simon the Butcher’s Screamatorium. Bartenders will serve up the hottest drinks from within Simon’s human-sized smoker, including “The Bloodiest Mary” and “Vomit Shots.”
- Murder She Float – Pulled from the depths of the murky swamp, this abandoned Mardis Gras float was brought back to life and is glowing with the “spirits” of the Mardis Gras dead. Guests will feast on grasshoppers and worms in a scoop of “mud” and wash it down with cursed concoctions, served up on Ouija boards, in fishbowls and the skulls of those who have crossed the Bayou Witch.
What do you have planned for younger guests as this has been billed as an adults-only event?
This is our biggest and best Halloween celebration in history at SeaWorld San Diego with two amazing offerings – the family-friendly Halloween Spooktacular during the day with trick-or-treating, then as the sun goes down, thrill-seekers will tremble at the transformation of the park into an intense horror-filled haunt during Howl-O-Scream. We truly have something for everyone this year!
Spooktacular is included with regular park admission and offers fun for all this fall season. The weekend-only event has daylight trick-or-treating for kids of all ages with multiple ocean-themed trick-or-treat stations around the park, kids of all ages can dress up in their Halloween best and join in the fun at Spooktacular Costume Party. We also have a Spooktacular Pumpkin Hunt, kids can use purchase a special map to find hidden SeaWorld animal-themed pumpkins throughout the park, then collect an exclusive Halloween prize!
For information and tickets; please visit.
The horrors of Howl-O-Scream lurk just around the corner with SeaWorld San Diego’s first ever nighttime Halloween event kicking off September 17 and running through October 31 on select evenings. This separately ticketed event provides guests a terrifying experience unlike any other in San Diego, offering all the fear of a typical Halloween event, along with the thrilling rides and high-quality entertainment of a theme park. Guests adventure through three petrifying haunted houses and six scare zones, and no one is safe with four eerie roaming hordes moving throughout the park. Amid the horrifying mayhem, guests can enjoy nighttime rides on three exhilarating coasters, marvel at twisted acrobatics and contortions during the Vampire Circus show, dance the night away at steam-punk themed dance club and partake in spirited libations at three creatively creepy themed bars.
“We are putting our own unique spin on classic haunt themes so there are unexpected surprises around every corner at Howl-O-Scream,” says Randolph Borden, Vice President of Entertainment. “All our haunted attractions are designed by leading experts in the Halloween production industry and have helped us create the most terrifying houses, scares and experiences for our guests. The expectations are extremely high for our first year and we are ecstatic to welcome our fellow Halloween and horror fans to what will surely become a yearly, must-experience event!”
Horrifying Haunted Houses
Nightmare Experiment – A government medical experiment at a run-of-the-mill sleep clinic has gone horribly wrong, descending into utter chaos. The patients have given into their worst nightmares and have driven the staff to the brink of madness. Guests fight for their life and sanity as they rush to escape the clinic, dodging unruly patients along the way.
Simon’s Slaughterhouse – The local meat processing plant has fallen into the hands of the demented Simon the Butcher and his crew. Guests navigate their way through bloody corridors, meat-hooked mortals and screeching buzz saws to avoid the butcher’s blades.
Death Water Bayou – The stifling heat and dank humidity permeates the air and beckons visitors deeper into Death Water Bayou. Guests wander amid gravestones, voodoo dolls and the spirits of prior mortals who couldn’t escape the Bayou Witch’s house of cursed horrors.
Concoctions and Cocktails for Post-Haunt Celebrations
Upon the exit of every haunted house, attendees enter an accompanying themed bar.
AmBARlance – After escaping Nightmare Experiment, the AmBARlance is there to cure all guests’ ailments. The boozy “medications” are administered via IV bags and syringes as well as vodka soaked “vitamins” in medicine cups. For a more intense treatment, the Pop Rocks rimmed “ElectroShock” cocktail is sure to make their brain pop.
Simon’s Screamatorium – Guests are on the menu at Simon the Butcher’s Screamatorium. Bartenders serve up the hottest drinks from within Simon’s human-sized smoker, including “The Bloodiest Mary” and “Vomit Shots.”
Murder She Float – Pulled from the depths of the murky swamp, this abandoned Mardi Gras float was brought back to life and is glowing with the “spirits” of the Mardi Gras dead. Guests feast on grasshoppers and worms in a scoop of “mud” and wash it down with cursed concoctions, served up on Ouija boards, in fishbowls and in the skulls of those who have crossed the Bayou Witch.
Scare seekers and daring visitors are forced to face their worst fears when stepping into any of Howl-O-Scream’s six different scare zones. Each one is based on classic haunt genres and will provide unexpected surprises around every turn. The unforeseen scare zones include killer clowns and snakes at First Fright zone, creepy dolls at the Deadly Toys zone, undead evils at the Graveyard zone, a deadly legend at La Llorona zone, alluring yet terrifying callings at The Sirens zone and lastly sinister monsters that lurk in the forest at The Hauntings zone.
Vampire Circus Show
Populated by a motley collection of off-the-wall characters and incomparable acrobats, The Vampire Circus is a performance set in a twisted fantasy universe where chaos and craziness give way to a haunted celebration. Guests are immersed in a spirited journey through an abandoned cemetery where an extraordinary circus comes back to life. The suspenseful entertainment captivates audiences and is spread throughout the night with a selection of show times for attendees to choose from.
Additional Howl-O-Scream Elements
Wandering throughout the park, the event will feature four roaming hordes of zombies, creatures and terrifying characters that will scare and startle at every chance they have. For thrill seekers and adrenaline fanatics, Electric Eel, Manta and Journey to Atlantis are open for high-speed nighttime rides. For a break from the howling and screaming, guests head to The Underground, a steam-punk themed dance club where they can show off their freaky dance moves and move their feet to a variety of music and Halloween classics with a twist.
A Hauntingly Good Offer
Before they disappear on September 17, take advantage of Howl-O-Scream’s lowest price of the fall season with tickets starting at $44.99 at howloscream.com/CA. Exclusive discounts are available for SeaWorld’s Pass Members with a limited-time offer to purchase tickets at the park this Labor Day weekend, Friday, September 3- Monday, September 6 for only $19.99 per ticket. Fans of fear are encouraged to follow Howl-O-Scream on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on all the scary news and updates.
While Howl-O-Scream is intended for mature audiences, families can still enjoy Halloween at SeaWorld with the park’s beloved Spooktacular event taking place during the day featuring trick-or-treating, costume parades, a hay maze and the return of the Spooktacular Pumpkin Hunt.
SAFETY: Guests’ health and safety are top priorities for SeaWorld San Diego. Visit the SeaWorld San Diego website to learn more: https://seaworld.com/san-diego/park-info/park-safety.