For Halloween 2010, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay created a new “personal” experience at Howl-O-Scream called “Alone.” It allowed one to four guests at a time to spend roughly 10 minutes inside a haunted house of sorts, with actors paying special attention to all who pass through.
I previously offered my thoughts on walking through the experience. Now that Halloween has come and gone and Howl-O-Scream 2010 is over, I can safely share the details about what went on inside “Alone” without the risk of spoiling it for anyone. Though with that said, it’s possible (and likely) that Busch Gardens will bring back “Alone” next year in a similar, though slightly altered state, as they do with many of their other haunted houses, so if you plan on taking part in this unique Halloween time activity, I still recommend you do not read further.
I’m not including a review of the experience in this article (I’ve already done that here), but instead providing two scene-by-scene descriptions for those of you who are curious as to what exactly went on inside the “Alone” experience. No photography was allowed inside “Alone,” but Busch Gardens officially released two videos (here and here) of the experience, from which I have pulled select still images to accompany my descriptions.
You will first find a video walkthrough of sorts of “Alone”, which combines audio I recorded of my trip through the haunted house with released images and captions. Below that is a written-out walkthrough, using the the same images as the video but no audio.
“Alone” Audio/Video Walkthrough
This video recreates the experience of walking through “Alone” at Howl-O-Scream using live audio from the experience combined with images released by Busch Gardens and my own descriptive captions. Enjoy:
“Alone” Written Description (with Pictures)
“Alone” begins outside a chain link fence, guarded by a muscular man who looks as if he recently got into a fist fight – and likely won. The sign above the fence tells visitors that they will be entering into Minotaur Storage, owned by a man named Alexander Daedalus. Once it is time to enter, we pass through the metal gate and walk down a dimly-lit path, with no one around us.
We first encounter this man, who seems to have a few mental issues due to the large scar running across his forehead. He appears to have been reduced to an infant, possibly a result of a recent lobotomy. Nearby we spot a chair and small table, but move past that toward the door that marks the entrance to Minotaur Storage. But the “big baby” stops us from entering, instead pointing at the chair, directing us to sit. We oblige, at which point he presses “play” on a tape recorder on the table.
We hear the voice of Alexander Daedalus, explaining to us that his prized collection of rare artifacts lies within Minotaur Storage. We are invited inside, but told to never, under any circumstances, touch anything.
The recording ends and the “big baby” allows us to pass through the door, slamming it shut behind us.
Inside, down a dark hallway, we spot a bellhop who appears to have had his eye gouged out. It’s not a pretty sight, but our attention is drawn away from him and to the rickety elevator behind him.
He invites us to step inside. We don’t have much of a choice, as there is no where else to go.
Upon entering the elevator, the bellhop slides the wooden doors shut and pulls a large lever. The floor and walls shake and rattle as bright lights pass upward outside. We’re clearly on our way down.
After we pass by what feels like 10 floors, the elevator stops and the bellhop utters, “Welcome home.” But he just stands there. We are forced to slide open the heavy elevator doors, revealing a different dark hallway outside. (Reality check: We know this was not a real elevator, but the effect is convincing, especially when the exterior is revealed to look different than where we entered from.)
Around a corner, we encounter a woman chained up high above, with her dress flowing out from under her. She warns us of continuing inside, getting increasingly agitated as she tells us we must leave.
As her voice reaches a screeching yell, two people suddenly burst through the dress below her and come face-to-face with us, screaming. It’s a startling moment that likely sent many “Alone” visitors running away in terror.
But we press on, passing through the darkness from which the screaming people came.
Entering the first storage room, we are greeted by a black-and-pink-haired woman who immediately wonders who we are, asking for a name. She repeats our name several times before taking us on a tour of the collectibles that line the nearby walls, pointing out a few unique items along the way. (Reality check: She seems to say visitors’ names loudly enough so that other nearby actors can hear her and continue to address guests by name throughout the experience.)
Wooden shelving units jut out from the walls, forcing us to walk around them. As we turn the first corner, the woman directs our attention to a shelf up high, at which point another woman pops out, yelling at us to produce a scare. Apparently this woman is one of “the master’s” artifacts.
We continue to follow the pink-haired lady through the room a bit longer before we reach a door, which she tells us to pass through. As we leave her, she offers advice to only take the right passage way.
But her advice proves to be worthless, as she slams the door behind us, leaving in a hallway with just one exit: a closed door straight ahead. We open the door only to find that there is a solid brick wall behind it. Then we realize we broke the most important rule of being inside: don’t touch anything. Suddenly a masked man with a bullhorn appears behind us asking why we touched the door. We try to blame it on the crazy woman from the previous room but he’s not hearing it. Instead, he sends us back through the door from which we came… but this time, the door doesn’t lead into the storage room but instead into a series of hallways created by horizontal wooden beams, spaced just far enough apart to see from one side of the room to the other.
As we’re prodded along by the bullhorn man following behind us, eyeless crazy men emerge from within the wooden beams. Tension increases as the volume does, with each additional man screaming at us. We wind our way through the beams toward the light at the other side of the room, but find only a dead end. It’s blocked. We turn around in search of an exit but find that the way we came in has now been sealed, locking us inside a wooden cage.
We’re then surrounded by screaming eyeless men and the bullhorn guy. Fortunately, they’re on the outside of the wooden cage and we’re inside, safe for the moment, but with no way to escape. They’re clawing at us, trying to get our attention and, apparently, they want our eyes.
Finally, after pacing back and forth for what feels like hours (but in reality was just a few seconds), one of the men opens a gate and allows us to pass. It’s a moment that could send claustrophobic “Alone” visitors into a panic.
When we arrive in the next room, we realize we’re barging in on an operation. We’re flanked by two surgical tables and more eyeless men, this time performing surgery on clearly-dead creatures.
But when we enter, they sense our presence by sniffing the air, drawing slowly closer to us with their instruments. But there’s a clear exit on the other side of the room, so we take it.
In the next room, a man is being electrocuted. There is no need to stay around and watch, so we quickly move on.
In the next room, we’re greeted by a smiling face (wearing far too much makeup). She tells us we are now walking among “the master’s” prize possessions. Once again, we’re told not to touch anything. She points out a few taxidermied creatures, one being a favorite pet cat, before drawing our attention to the fragile-looking vase she’s been fumbling with while we’ve been with her.
She says it’s the most important collectible of all and must remain safe at all costs. So, naturally, she sets it down on the corner of a nearby table and proceeds to “accidentally” knock it off.
Immediately, alarms sound, lights flash, and two incredibly large masked men come bursting into the room. The woman blames the broken vase on us, all the while laughing about it. We’re escorted by the men into the next room, getting a sense that punishment is on the way.
As we enter the next room, we see a large throne dead ahead. Sitting there is a foreboding long-haired man with his head in his hands. We’re instructed to sit on a bench opposite him.
He reveals himself to be none other than Alexander Daedalus. He is furious, informing us that the vase “we broke” contained the ashes of his son. He loudly ponders about what to do with us for a moment before making his decision. On his cue, the bench underneath us begins to strongly rattle, bright lights flash, and a horned man/creature emerges from behind the throne, wielding (what else?) a chainsaw. Is it really the storage facility’s namesake minotaur? Or just a man with a horned mask? We don’t have time to decide as the chainsaw is coming directly at us and we have nowhere to run, as the two incredibly large men are guarding us uncomfortably closely on both sides. We can feel their breath as the chainsaw comes at us, threatening to slice us to bits.
But fortunately, they relent short of our demise and we’re told to leave by way of a small opening along the ground in the wall opposite us. We’re instructed to get down on our knees, but as we begin to crouch, a larger door is opened in front of us and we’re chased out by the chainsaw.
Just outside and down the hall, several monitors reveal pictures taken of the potentially horrified looks on our faces just as the horned chainsaw man emerged. I was just sporting a silly grin.
“Alone” did not terrify me as much as entertain, but it had the potential to thoroughly frighten more timid visitors. The most impressive of all moments was the elongating hallway, which replicated the famous “Jaws shot” (a dolly-zoom) in real life. It’s a camera trick that has been used in countless movies (see examples here), but this is the first time I’ve ever experienced it outside of watching a movie or TV show.
I got the sense that while the entire “Alone” experience felt like it was covering a large area, it was actually contained in a relatively small one, with careful choreography and moveable walls providing a sense of grandeur. Occasionally, if you watch the video/listen to the audio embedded above, you’ll hear some sound leakage from other scenes. While guests can enter “Alone” all by themselves (or in groups of up to 4), there are several individuals or groups walking through the experience at different stages simultaneously. So while one person is exiting, another is entering, and several more are in the middle. It’s carefully timed so you don’t run into anyone else by accident, but it is possible to hear shouting from other scenes. Fortunately, at the time, you don’t realize that’s what you’re hearing. Instead, you just chalk it up to general insanity going on inside.
I offer this description and walkthrough not as a way to spoil the experience but instead as a response to the many of you who asked for it. It’s clear that “Alone” struck a nerve with haunted house fans, offering something different than the usual never-ending “conga line” filled only with quick startle-scares. And for those of you who were unable to make it to Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream to experience “Alone” in person, I hope this gives you a good idea of what it was all about. And more importantly, I hope by revealing all the details from within “Alone” it encourages Busch Gardens to reinvent the experience next year, keeping only the best of the best and improving on the rest. I hope see “Alone” returns for Howl-O-Scream 2011 with an all-new story, new scenes, more actors, bigger scares, and more intensity. If so, I’ll be happy to pay another $25 for another “personal experience in horror.”