Best Year of Howl-O-Scream?

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Connor

Stone Cold Terror!
Sep 20, 2013
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With HOS being confirmed to be cancelled for the 2020 season and Halloween Harvest taking it's place, now seems like a better time than ever to reflect on the past. The event started in 1999 with a fairly small offering of one haunted house in Hastings, the themed railway overlay known as the Transylvanian Express, and Fiends in Das Festhaus. The event has grown rapidly, and has experienced significant changes throughout years due to slashed budgets and the constant shuffling in the entertainment department leadership.

I found the strongest year to be 2011 by far. Almost the whole park was decked out in halloween decor, the path scares we're arguably stronger than ever, and the new houses that year provided detailed sets and showed a step-up in quality that we hadn't seen before. The shows we're lacking slightly that year with a watered down, but still solid version of Monster Stomp: Revamped, and the strange family-friendly version of Jack is Back! It seemed like the event really started to embrace it's adult side by dropping the pumpkins rating system, and moving away from Jack as the icon and using the Dark Side of The Gardens theme, which fit the landscape of the park perfectly. 2011 HOS as a whole just provided a really immersive over-all feel throughout the park that I have yet to see another year come even close to in comparison. Ranking my top five years would be:

1. 2011 - ^
2. 2009 - Strong cohesive zones and house that were tied together, neat how they only relied on using the European theme.
3. 2015 - Really creative new houses themes that year and some superb marketing.
4. 2006 - Great Jack's Nightmare Express with some sweet fire effects, good zones as well. OG Monster Stomp was killing it in the Canadian Paladium.
5. 2008 - Masquerage and the introduction of MS:R, was just a stellar year overall.

Obviously, many of us on this site have been visiting for varying numbers of years and are going to have different opinions. What did you find to be the best year of Howl-O-Scream? Share your thoughts!
 
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Feb 14, 2019
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I can't remember which one it was, but I remember the haunted train actually attempting to be scary with jump scares and whatnot. Was definitely before 2007, just don't remember the year.

Also, what year did they have the headless horseman/ghost carriage ride along next to the train when passing DF? I remember that was pretty neat until I saw two regular employees just chilling next to it when it stopped.
 

Applesauce

未来の月
May 22, 2010
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Virginia Beach
2009 was imo the best year. After that it started to go down hill. 2011 is when I first noticed it taking a massive dip in scare level. The park simply couldn't handle the scare is everywhere theme. There's something to be said about rose colored glasses. I can't properly judge 00-07, for the years I went, as I was far to afraid of everything. I didn't do my first house until at least 05-06. But I can't super make a judgement call on the years prior besides, Festa Dementia was prolly the most decked out scare zone I have ever seen, and nothing has come close since.

But there is some miss information in your post, the event started in 99, and the house was in Hastings (of course now it's Ireland, but Ireland didn't come around until 2001).
 

Merboy

Resident Sea Monster
Oct 25, 2009
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Raleigh, NC
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2009 was imo the best year. After that it started to go down hill. 2011 is when I first noticed it taking a massive dip in scare level. The park simply couldn't handle the scare is everywhere theme. There's something to be said about rose colored glasses. I can't properly judge 00-07, for the years I went, as I was far to afraid of everything. I didn't do my first house until at least 05-06. But I can't super make a judgement call on the years prior besides, Festa Dementia was prolly the most decked out scare zone I have ever seen, and nothing has come close since.

But there is some miss information in your post, the event started in 99, and the house was in Hastings (of course now it's Ireland, but Ireland didn't come around until 2001).
I'd have to agree, 2009 was one of the best times I've ever had at HoS. They hit all the notes that year beautifully.
 
Aug 18, 2018
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York County, Virginia
2009 was imo the best year. After that it started to go down hill. 2011 is when I first noticed it taking a massive dip in scare level. The park simply couldn't handle the scare is everywhere theme. There's something to be said about rose colored glasses. I can't properly judge 00-07, for the years I went, as I was far to afraid of everything. I didn't do my first house until at least 05-06. But I can't super make a judgement call on the years prior besides, Festa Dementia was prolly the most decked out scare zone I have ever seen, and nothing has come close since.

But there is some miss information in your post, the event started in 99, and the house was in Hastings (of course now it's Ireland, but Ireland didn't come around until 2001).
yea i remember being 6 years old and 2009 HOS was so good, wish there was video recording of Hunted so i can relive it
 

Connor

Stone Cold Terror!
Sep 20, 2013
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Virginia
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But there is some miss information in your post, the event started in 99, and the house was in Hastings (of course now it's Ireland, but Ireland didn't come around until 2001).
Whoops! Thanks for pointing this out, I always struggle to remember if the event started in 98’ or 99’ as that’s all before my time. Totally agree about Festa Dementia being the best zone, back in the early days it was unreal how much theming was contained in that one hamlet alone. Something felt very off in 2008 upon it’s removal, it’s shame in recent years that they can’t even come anywhere close to that level of quality. It’s embarrassing honestly to see what has happened in Festa, every zone has just been a decline in quality, props, and actors repeatedly year after year.
 
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Wings

A Bygone Era of Terror
Sep 28, 2009
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East Lansing, Michigan
I went to Howl-O-Scream for so many years in a row from about 2005 - 2018, traveling from NY to VA (spending an entire weekend at BGW) until I decided to take a break. A few times I also spent a night at KD's Haunt.

#1 - I have to say 2009 would rank #1 for me, though Revenge/Curse of Pompeii was getting stale at this point. The introduction of Cavern of Darkness (though not that great and much inferior to Root of All Evil/13) was refreshing due to its unique location in comparison to the frequently used spots for mazes/houses. The Hunted, which was an awesome maze that used a lot of the same decor from Tormented Tales was still around. This was the last maze to grace the old Drachen Fire storage building (behind the one used for Bitten/Vault) though it returned in 2010. Shows were much better at this point. I consider 2009 the last year of "classic HoS" as in 2010 they started radically changing things and trying new ideas.

#2 - 2018 (The 20th Anniversary) - The first thing I will say about 2018 HoS is that the scares were still much weaker than the 2005 -2010 era. However, I felt the offerings were overall decent. There was a lot of variety, and a lot to see. I very much appreciated the tributes made to HoS' past through The Vault XX and in other areas. It may have just been the nostalgia for me, as there were a lot of flaws in areas such as Distorted Dimensions, but the effort to really offer something much more significant than the previous 3-4 years really shined for me.

#3 - 2010 (The Scare is Everywhere) - This year had a lot of flaws as well, but I think it was still better than many of the overall offerings from 2011 - 2017. Many of the attractions were the same from 2009, with the exception of Cavern of Darkness being gone due to EiTA opening. Harvest Hollow (a "scarezone" which bridged the two houses in Festhaus Park) was very well done this year. "The Scare is Everywhere" was definitely much worse compared to having Scare Zones or Terrortories, but the uniqueness of it offered a different approach to the event not present in other years. I will always remember the scare actor in a ghillie suit jumping out of a trash can placed at the end of The Lochness Monster exit. Though I wasn't the one scared by it - I thought it was so clever and fun. Seeing guests' reactions to the roaming hordes (which got boring because it was usually clowns all the time) was interesting and something not present during other years. The element of the event invading your park experience unexpectedly (though weak in the presence/scares compared to zones) made it unique from other years.
 
Sep 24, 2020
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2015, no projection mapping
I would say 2015, it was our first one we attended since moving here in 2014. Everything after hasn’t been the same.
2015 really was a great year for HOS. I loved the haunted house selection. That was when Unearthed first came out, I believe, and there were actually a lot of creatures hiding in it. There was Cornered, my personal all-time favorite house, as well as the long-running Catacombs. The terror tories were also good- I still think Wendigo Woods was much better than the Axe Alley it was replaced with. Maybe they invested more money that year because I feel like there was more of everything- props, people, etc?

On a side note, I do miss the werewolves. That feels like forever ago now.

Also, anyone else remember when Demon Street had actual demon-looking creatures (instead of the people with painted faces)?
 
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