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In October, Orlando is the spookiest place on Earth

On Friday the 13th, the spirits of the undead were restless, and the hope for additional information from some of the greatest Halloween themed attractions on Earth could not be quenched. Planning for the season will soon be replaced with the banging and moaning of construction crews, as the relatively mundane streets of the world's favorite theme parks will be transformed into havens for beastly creations out to steal your soul!

HHN brings death, destruction, mystery, and mayhem together for a spooky good time!
Photo by Handout/Getty Images

Visitors looking for thrills beyond roller coasters should look no further than Orlando, offering more than 80 individual Halloween events during the six weeks leading up to Oct. 31.

In June, fright fans were graced with the knowledge that the Walking Dead will once again be terrorizing both suspecting and unsuspecting guests at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights in the fall. For those of you who've been hiding under the covers for more than two decades, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort is an elaborate celebration held on select nights Sept. 19 - Nov. 1, with pulse-pounding spooks, fully-themed haunted houses, "scarezones" and live stage shows.

Deviously-inspired original haunted houses will terrify guests as they “die laughing” in Giggles & Gore Inc., experience the terror of a community in cannibalistic turmoil in Roanoke – Cannibal Colony and face the horrors within the decaying walls of the Dollhouse of the Damned. Even more horrors fill the streets of Universal Studios as guests are hypnotized by deceptive patrons of a seemingly glamorous ball in MASKerade: Unstitched and surrounded by voodoo practitioners that fill the snake and spider-infested Bayou of Blood. More details on these experiences, as well as a look into how they were created, are available on the Official Universal Orlando Blog.

Also featured at Halloween Horror Nights 24 are disturbingly-real experiences based on some of the most outrageously terrifying, highly-recognizable names in entertainment and pop culture. Announced experiences include “The Walking Dead: The End of the Line,” based on AMC’s hit TV series, “From Dusk Till Dawn,” inspired by inspired by Robert Rodriguez’s cult film and El Rey network’s TV Series, “AVP: Alien vs. Predator,” based on the Twentieth Century Fox film franchise, “Dracula Untold: Reign of Blood,” based on Universal Pictures’ upcoming epic action-adventure film, “Face Off: In the Flesh,” based on Syfy’s TV series and “Purge: Anarchy,” a new scare zone inspired by Universal Pictures’ blockbuster thriller.

Across the state in Tampa, the horror lovers of Howl-O-Scream recently released details about their annual rite of spookiness. There, visitors are challenged to survive the curse this fall, for 18 select nights, as Howl-O-Scream® 2014 returns to Busch Gardens® Tampa with unexpected terrors around every corner.

Hundreds of undead creatures emerge from the shadows and lurk throughout Busch Gardens as paranormal terrors keep your pulse pounding with an all-new haunted house, roaming slash mobs and more, including a brand new interactive experience that tests your skills and places you in the sights of an undead mob. Even more excitement awaits you on some of Florida’s top thrill rides, including North America’s tallest freestanding drop tower, Falcon’s Fury™.

Howl-O-Scream 2014 brings fear to a whole new level with brand new terrorizing experiences:

NEW! Dead Fall – The ghosts of long lost memories reach into the present and will NOT be forgotten! These spirits from the past lurk in the shadows of this Victorian garden and greenhouse, longing to drag unsuspecting guests into their world.

Howl-O-Scream® 2014 Facebook fans have once again spoken, and the murder weapon of Dead Fall’s Gardener is a pair of gardening shears. Thousands of fans participated in the second round of voting and will be able to see the end result when they visit Dead Fall and witness how the shears bring the groundskeeper to his demise.

The third and final poll, open through Aug. 26, allows fans to name the resident ghost of Dead Fall. Perched in an overhead branch on estate grounds is a precocious young male ghost who watches, teases and distracts you as you try to make it out of Dead Fall's Hedge Maze. Visit the Howl-O-Scream Facebook page to vote to name this resident of Dead Fall – the winning name will be prominently displayed on his tree house on estate grounds.

VOTE in this week's Dead Fall poll.

NEW! Cursed Front Gate Experience – The curse begins from the moment you enter the terrorizing gates of Howl-0-Scream 2014. There’s no escaping the evil spirts or spine-chilling song that seeps from the old music boxes and radios, cursing all who hear it. The only way to silence the curse is to survive the night with undead creatures and paranormal terrors.

From the depths of the basement to the eerie bogs of the Bayou, some of the most demented houses ever are back by popular demand with some horrifying new twists:

Death Water Bayou—Deep in the bayou the Voodoo Queen mystically transforms lost wanderers into her minions of evil with black magic. Here, her night servants roam with a zombie-like hunger and seek to grow her collection. The darkest evils lurk in shadows. Get out before you fall victim to her spell.

The BASEMENT—From Momma’s secret ingredient to Granny’s bone-ground flour, Momma’s Meats’ award-winning recipe has always been a family affair that’s only created in the BASEMENT. Escape the depths of the BASEMENT before she turns you into the secret sauce! She always said it took blood, sweat and tears!

Circus of Superstition: The Final Act—You’ve tried to avoid black cats and sidewalk cracks, but all those years of bad luck caught up with you! Surviving the terrorizing surprises of Circus of Superstition: The Final Act will take more than luck as you try to escape this whole new dimension of fear.

Blood Asylum—As lightning rages and thunder crashes outside, “The Creature” escapes from his holding cell in a high-security asylum for the criminally insane. Now this sadistic deviant is running rampant, skinning his former cellmates and turning the mental hospital into his own torture chamber. This serial killer’s bloody playground will drive you out of your mind with fear.

Zombie Mortuary—No one remembers how the epidemic started, but now, the undead terrors infest this small town funeral home and feed on the fresh flesh and brains of mortuary mourners to satisfy their insatiable hunger. Avoid the walking dead or you may find yourself deeper than six feet under.

The Experiment— Researchers have devised some new ways to challenge your fear tolerance and mental endurance in this interactive Experiment. “Test subjects” endure psychological tests in this exclusive study, pushing the limits of the human body and putting them face-to-face with their worst nightmares. How far is too far in study of fear? Will you survive The Experiment?

Note: The Experiment is a unique, interactive experience that challenges your threshold for fear for an additional fee. Reservations are required, and each reservation can accommodate you and up to three additional “test subjects.” Pass Member discount does not apply. Not included with any other VIP tour or upgrade product. Howl-O-Scream 2014 admission is required, but not included. The Experiment admission for the first test subject starts at $50. Each additional test subject is $10.

After braving bone-chilling coasters in the dark, such as Cheetah Hunt, SheiKra, Montu, Gwazi and Kumba, you can catch your breath at Howl-O-Scream’s signature show, Fiends, or keep the party going all night in Howl-O-Scream’s signature club and shops.

Fiends— Is there a doctor in the house? Dr. Freakenstein and his naughty nurses will infect you with dance fever and keep your pulse pounding with their deranged dance party.

Club Cursed™ – Drive yourself mad partying at Howl-O-Scream 2014’s dance club. Sample Howl-O-Scream’s signature potions “Cursed,” “Contained,” and “Possessed,” along with craft brews at the full-service bar, and keep the energy pumping all night with a DJ, non-stop music.

Howl-O-Scream Shop of Horrors—Find GOREgeous apparel and trendy tees featuring Howl-O-Scream favorites. You can also purchase or pick up your Front Line Fear Passes here.

Amp up the fear with evil upgrades that are sure to elevate the sinister surprises and tormenting twists that Howl-O-Scream has in store.

VIP Tour Packages – Take advantage of the best way to see Howl-O-Scream 2014 with all-inclusive VIP Packages, which include event admission, a tour guide and your choice of three levels of terrifying special treatment. All tours include commemorative photos, merchandise discounts and complimentary beverages, including beer, water and soda. Packages start at $99, and pass member discounts are available.

Front Line Fear Passes – For those who prefer to self-guide themselves through the event, but want the front-of-the-line perks, there’s the Front Line Fear pass starting at $45, which grants no-wait access to six houses, excluding The Experiment. The Front Line Fear Extreme pass ups the access and also lets guests skip the line at five freaky coasters starting at $55.

Fright Feast – Devour monstrous main courses and devilish deserts from a buffet and witness an exclusive performance of Howl-O-Scream’s fan-favorite show, Fiends, at Pantopia Grill. Then, be the first to brave the dark with a half-hour of early access to the haunted houses and front-of-the-line privileges until 8:30 p.m. Fright Feast is $26 per person, with group rates and discounts for Pass and Fun Card members available. NEW! This year, purchase your admission and Fright Feast together for Friday nights for just $75 on

Freaky Preview returns this year with Howl-O-Scream 2014’s opening weekend on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 26 and 27. The event then runs Thursday through Saturday nights, Oct. 2-Nov. 1. Howl-O-Scream will also be open on Sunday, Oct. 19. Operating hours are 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. for all event nights.

General admission is $89 plus tax. Reduced advance-purchase rates and special offers are available for Busch Gardens Pass members at Guests can save $39 on general admission tickets in advance at participating Publix Supermarkets and AAA locations. Take advantage of promotional codes found at participating WingHouse and Taco Bell locations in Central Florida and on Fanta products in participating Walgreens and Coca-Cola products in participating Circle K locations.

Howl-O-Scream 2014 is a separate ticketed night event. No costumes are allowed. For guest information, visit or call 1-888-800-5447. Howl-O-Scream is unique in the fact that they reuse some of the haunted attractions from year to year, giving them a chance to improve and tweak the experience. All of the attractions do not return, however, which allows the new blood to replace the old. After all, what kind of vampire or zombie likes old blood!

If HHN and HOS are a bit too intense for your liking, a trip to the homes of Shamu, Mickey Mouse, and the land of LEGO might be more your speed. Every weekend in October, families can experience SeaWorld Orlando's Halloween Spooktacular with special Halloween shows and a sea of sweet treats for kids. For not-so-scary Halloween fun, guests are invited to dress in costumes and trick-or-treat throughout Magic Kingdom Park during Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, held on select nights September 1 - October 31. From a haunted scavenger hunt to the largest LEGO Jack-O-Lantern in the world, LEGOLAND Florida's Brick-or-Treat offers families spooky and kooky fun during weekends in October.

Remember that Halloween is a time for fun and frivolity. It is a time to come out of your shell, and to acknowledge the mischievous spirit that resides within all of us. Be sure to keep following this column for news on other spooky events and more. If you know of another local event that needs additional undead light shone upon it, please tell me about it!

Be sure to keep an eye on this column as we travel to some of the greatest local getaways around, all from the comfort of your desktop (or laptop, or PDA, or smartphone!) If you have a favorite local attraction you'd like to see profiled, please let me know. Also, be sure to follow me on twitter, and read my articles about motorsports, HOAs, elections, and restaurants. For more travel news, check out Orlando Informer and Behind the Thrills!

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