Well, apparently this is happening…
Today we’re seeing an absurd protest from an incredibly small number of people, triggering what may very well be one of the largest overreactions by BGW in recent memory. Busch Gardens Williamsburg staff have spent the past 24 hours removing all the severed heads from the park. This bowdlerization is a problem because, as you can imagine, disembodied heads make up a rather notable chunk of the park’s Howl-O-Scream theming. Why is this happening? Who is to blame? Well, to answer those questions, we have to backtrack a little…
In the “Last Word” section of the September 14 issue of The Virginia Gazette (posted online on September 16th), readers complained about the previous weekend’s front-page story on Howl-O-Scream, calling it offensive, especially the large, full-color picture of a pile of fake severed heads. In case you don’t feel like digging through the story, I’ve included three of the six responses below:

I find the front page picture advertising Howl-O-Scream depicting a pile of decapitated heads distasteful and definitely disrespectful in light of current events. There are many other scenes that could have been used for this annual event. Even the Busch Gardens’ website indicates that Hall O scream may not be suitable to young children yet the Gazette choose to show the most gruesome and horrific type of picture on the front. Busch Gardens may want to reconsider this scene in light of the journalists that lost their lives to ISIS.

~ Virginia Gazette Reader



I believe the Virginia Gazette has ‘lost its head’ with the front page photo of the ghoulish chopped off heads. It is highly insensitive given the reality of people being beheaded by terrorists around the world. At minimum it presents images that some of us care not to have foisted on us and therefore don’t go to Busch Gardens in the fall.

~ Virginia Gazette Reader


Good judgment was AWOL in the Gazette’s front-page photo of severed heads from Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream. When I saw the photo, any thoughts of Halloween fun evaporated, replaced once again by anger and sadness at the savage executions of two Americans by Islamic State terrorists. I won’t fault Busch Gardens. I know their exhibits are planned well ahead. But they might want to consider whether this particular exhibit is appropriate this year.

~ Virginia Gazette Reader

As you can see, the vast majority of people’s complaints seemed to be directed more towards the Gazette for choosing the image for the front page story in light of recent terrorist activities in the Middle East, than towards the park for having used severed heads at their event.
In any case, backlash against graphic scenes at Howl-O-Scream is nothing new. A few years ago there was intense and widespread outrage over the Fiends “naughty nurses.” The park went so far as to included a pre-recorded message offering an option to file an official complaint about the show on their official customer service line. Halloween events are always a catalyst for controversy. The vast majority of the time, however, parks with haunts simply ignore the angry minority, and instead focus on the massive numbers of new guests these events have been shown to draw in year after year.
I won’t go into how asinine I find the original comments sent in to The Virginia Gazette, but I will say this: I believe Busch Gardens Williamsburg is setting a incredibly dangerous precedent by bowing to the ridiculous complaints of a very small fringe group. The people who claim to be offended by these props likely won’t attend the event no matter what the park does. Thus, Busch Gardens stands to gain absolutely nothing by catering to them.
So, because I know the park’s new rules for theming at Howl-O-Scream are probably a bit confusing, I’ve included a convenient pictorial guide below, showing what is acceptable and what constitutes a gross violation of the everchanging line in the sand known as “political correctness.” Hopefully, you will all find this cheatsheet helpful as you evaluate the event for yourselves over the coming weeks.

Halloween 2015 Political Correctness Cheat Sheet

Special thanks to MCMM who originally posted about the negative responses The Virginia Gazette received and to the multiple sources we worked with to confirm the removal of all of Howl-O-Scream’s many severed heads.