Simply driving to Scream-A-Geddon, the annual Halloween attraction now in its third year, can be unnerving. Once you exit Interstate 75 North, the skeletal branches of dreaded dark woods seem to converge over the black asphalt, increasing your anxiety as you navigate onward toward the vast acreage where Dade City’s premiere haunt is located.
Scream-A-Geddon exists in stark contrast to other Central Florida Halloween attractions. For one, the five haunted houses have only changed once since its debut in 2015, with a new house, Blackpool Prison, introduced last year.
By keeping the same attractions, Scream-A-Geddon’s management can focus on improving, intensifying and expanding their five destination haunts – Infected: Ground Zero, Cursed Hayride, Blackpool Prison, Dead Woods and Bedlam 3D.
Also, each house at Scream-A-Geddon is nearly twice the length and size of the houses that customers encounter when paying more to check out Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream in Tampa and Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando.
But, really, Scream-A-Geddon’s reputation, and the reason it now threatens to overtake the more well-known Halloween destinations, can be summed up in two words: Interactive experience.
Where other attractions herd and hustle paying victims through haunted houses at a rapid clip, Scream-A-Geddon is capitalizing on the idea that people actually want more – they want to not only experience a haunted house, but become part of it.
There are two interactive houses at this year’s event – Blackpool Prison and Infected: Ground Zero – and both offer fans something truly unique, the choice to have hands placed on them by actors who don't break character, to be pulled away from their respective group of friends and fully immersed in a nightmare scenario.
“You’re going to get exposed into a much more in-depth experience,” says Adam Sala, general manager. “We do want to continue to build on it. When I tell people I work at Scream-A-Geddon, people say, ‘That’s the place where they touch you!’”
With ticket prices starting at $22, there’s really no better place in Florida for people who love being scared.
To prepare for its third year, Sala said a lot of time and attention was spent honing the details on certain attractions, like Dead Woods, which sends small groups of patrons along a near pitch-black wooded trail armed only with a glow stick. This year, expect to be horrified by a new addition, a ramshackle outhouse filled with bubbling, gurgling toilets. Beware, though, you may get sprayed with an unknown liquid if you get too close to one of the pots.
Deep inside Blackpool Prison, arguably the best of the five attractions, brave and willing customers who choose to go interactive can expect to be thrown into a variety of jail cells or forced to entertain the revolting, grotesque inmates who haunt the prison. Just be careful, you never know what, or who, might be hiding under that stained mattress in the corner of the cell.
The most attention has been given to Infected: Ground Zero, which converted to an interactive experience
last year. It’s clear why Sala and his crew are proud of this particular haunt. It’s by far the longest, most time-consuming of the attractions, which is a big plus. And the opportunities to be sucked into the mayhem are plentiful. BVB found itself grabbed on three separate times – once by a fear-stricken military soldier trying to escape the zombie horde, who demanded we help try to drive a bus away from the carnage; a second time by a frothing-mad doctor who threw us into a medical chair to analyze our blood; and, most memorably, by a nurse who caught us wandering and dragged us into a tent, forced us to stretch out on a table and proceeded to saw our skull open to extract a contagion. No lie – the saw felt and sounded real, a master stroke of prop and audio genius.
If you’ve never been to Scream-A-Geddon, you are missing out.
Having watched its evolution over three years, and after hearing Sala talk about possible additions for next year (a haunted escape room, anyone?), Dade City may soon find itself as a mecca for Halloween travelers seeking a thrill unlike any they’ve had before.
Where: 27839 St Joe Rd, Dade City, FL 33525
When: Open daily through October 31 (7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., weekdays; 1 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays), plus November 3-4, 7:30 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Tickets: Ranging from $21.95 per person to $40.95, depending on the date.