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Sept. 16, 2022

Day 16: Writing Blood Beckoning for Howl-O-Scream at SeaWorld Orlando

Day 16: Writing Blood Beckoning for Howl-O-Scream at SeaWorld Orlando

Today, the new maze for this year’s Howl-O-Scream at SeaWorld Orlando is Blood Beckoning. Now in its 2nd year, Howl-O-Scream at Orlando has an overall theme and the main villains are sirens. This year, Scratch the Blood Siren has a dedicated maze –...

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Today, the new maze for this year’s Howl-O-Scream at SeaWorld Orlando is Blood Beckoning. Now in its 2nd year, Howl-O-Scream at Orlando has an overall theme and the main villains are sirens. This year, Scratch the Blood Siren has a dedicated maze – Blood Beckoning. Scott Swenson wrote the new maze, and today he’ll discuss what that process was like. Follow along to our Hauntathon:


Scott Swenson: Hi, my name is Scott Swenson with Scott Swenson Creative Development, and I am a writer, director, and producer for attractions, for theme parks, museums, zoos, and I have a certain love for Halloween. I'm so excited to be able to say this, for the first time in my career, as an outside contractor, I am the writer of the new Haunted attraction that is going into Howl-O-Scream at SeaWorld Orlando, and it's called Blood Beckoning. My career prior to being an outside contractor, a sole proprietor LLC which is my official title I guess, was working with Busch Gardens and I was part of the team that put together the very first Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens that worked with it for the 1st 15 years. I basically took a seven or eight-year vacation, and now I'm back as a contractor and working with a phenomenal team at SeaWorld Orlando to write the script and work with the designers in the initial preproduction phase for Blood Beckoning.

Philip Hernandez: Walk us through Blood Beckoning. What will guests experience when they go through from the story perspective?

Scott Swenson: So, when they came to me, they said, "we would like to do a haunt based on one of our sirens." The sirens, of course, are their iconic characters, and each one of them represents something a little bit different. They wanted to focus in on Scratch. Scratch is the blood siren, and the story that we've created for Scratch is that she has built her temporary realm in an abandoned urban location, to be discovered as guests go through. What she's doing is she's using the homeless who are in this urban setting, she has transfixed them somehow, to bring her the bodies she needs to drain them of their blood, so that she maintains her beauty and her sexiness.

Philip Hernandez: Talk to me about how it fits into the larger puzzle.

Scott Swenson: Well, each of the sirens have a bone to pick with humanity, and this is the way Scratch has manifested that. She is the blood siren and the thing that excites me is, she's probably the most frivolous, but also that makes her, I think, the most dangerous. But, of course, I'm biased.

Philip Hernandez: Guests will be able to see Scratch in the stage show as well, so there's tie in with different elements, right?

Scott Swenson: Yes, and what's interesting about Blood Beckoning is Scratch will appear, she will be very recognizable, but you might see a slightly darker or more sinister side to Scratch than you will see in the show. The idea here is, the character is the same, but she can morph herself slightly to become a little darker, a little more dangerous, and who knows, she may actually snatch someone from the audience.

Philip Hernandez: In a way, it's like an IP. You're using characters that have already appeared in a stage show that aired last year.

Scott Swenson: So, every haunted attraction comes together in its own way. There is not one cookie cutter way, or at least I've not discovered one cookie cutter way, to put together a haunt. This one had a very unique sort of path. I was told originally, "we want something for Scratch." OK, so, now we have the character, the idea behind it and we know that it's going to be bloody. Got it. Then, the next level. They had seen a haunt, a new haunt that I had done at Busch Gardens in Tampa several years ago, that started in a subway station and utilized vampires. They said, "we want something that has the same sort of feeling as that." So, now we have the essence and the entity of what the guests are going to experience, or what they are going to feel, as they go through this haunt, and it also took us immediately to a broken-down urban environment. Then we went through the actual location where it's being built, and the location itself is several buildings and outdoor spaces that have been cobbled together. 

Scott Swenson: So, the very first thing we did before I even wrote the story was to walk a potential path. This was before they had even started any of the work on the structure. This is, obviously, before any of the designs have been done. We let the environment help dictate some of the story progression. So, it's been a unique process, but I'm really pleased with how it's turned out so far. Again, my responsibility for this particular haunt stops after the designs are done. However, I have seen construction photos that have been sent to me, and the last thing that was sent to me by one of the Sea World team is, "Scott, I can hardly wait till you can see because your baby has grown up beautifully."

Philip Hernandez: Talk to me about some of the design choices you've made, maybe like color schemes or some of the lighting and whatnot.

Scott Swenson: I have certain biases when it comes to haunts. I want to make certain that, especially if you're doing urban spaces, they looked lived in, they don't look fabricated. So, I want to make certain that there's that extra layer of gunk on the outside of them. I wanted to make certain that with the lighting that so much of it appears to be motivated by the scenic, so it doesn't really have a theatrical style in it. There's a lot of practical lighting, well, because there are homeless people, there are a lot of fire pits, fire barrels, and that sort of thing with flickers. I also wanted to make certain that as you enter into her realm there is this layer of elegance over this layer of decay. We talked a lot with the designers and when we were doing the sketches. When you finally reached the hub, when you finally reached where she has set up her throne room, we want people to recognize this is elegant, but it's elegance overlaid in a dilapidated urban setting.

Philip Hernandez: Can you give me an example of how you created that? Maybe one specific?

Scott Swenson: It's difficult to say how it's going to pan out, but in the design one of the things that we wanted to do was we wanted to have this introduction of metallic gold and burgundy velvet. Again, it says rich, it says blood, and if you look at velvet fabric, I love burgundy velvet, especially when we're talking anything about blood because it moves like blood. When you see velvet moving, it has that undulation, that same sort of seductive quality that that flowing blood has. It is all focused on Scratch, she is the ultimate, most recognizable character. The homeless folks, or the folks that have been brought unwillingly into her service, are... I don't want to call them vampires, nor do I want to call them zombies, but they're sort of a hybrid of the two. They are acting without will, they have no will of their own, they are enacting her will, and they're enacting her will because she has called them. That's why it's called Blood Beckoning. She has beckoned them to her service, and the guests, of course, play a role as well. The guests are the food to feed the almighty Scratch.

Scott Swenson: I think it's essential to make certain that the guests are assigned a role, and that can be very complex or that can be very simplistic. The reason it's so important is, it gives the other performers a way to interact with the guests. It also makes the guests, if it's done well, and I've worked on projects where it has and I've worked on projects where it hasn't, but if it's done well, the guests feel as though they aren't just passive, they're active participants, they're not bystanders. I think if you're walking through something, you need to feel as though you are engaged with the environment and engaged with those who live there.

Scott Swenson: If you know I've been involved with something, always keep an eye out for rabbits. People have said, "why do you throw rabbits as easter eggs into these different haunts?" I was born in the year of the rabbit, my professional career I was a puppeteer who did a rabbit for years on television, I have always snuck bunnies into something. Sometimes they're graffiti, sometimes it's the name of a character, sometimes, big hint here, sometimes it's the name of a store that you walk into as part of the experience. Sometimes it's a book that's sitting on a shelf. Hint, hint, hint. Keep an eye out, because you'll see them.

Scott Swenson: One of the things I'm so excited about in working on this project is I get to work with the SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment Team again. These are people that I worked with in very, very different relationships, and I have gone from being the director to being the producer. It's so much fun because I get to work for them now. Walking into an environment like that is amazing, because we already have a preconceived notion of how we're going to work together, and these are already people that I respect and people that I know what their background is. It made my job really simple because they supported me, I supported them, and I hope, I hope that the end result is something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Scott SwensonProfile Photo

Scott Swenson

Owner/Creative Director

For over 30 years, Scott Swenson has been a storyteller, bringing stories to life as a writer, director, producer and performer. His work in theme park, consumer events, live theatre and television has given him a broad spectrum of experiences. In 2014, after 21 years with SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Scott formed Scott Swenson Creative Development LLC. Since then he has been providing impactful experiences for clients around the world. Whether he is installing shows on cruise ships or creating seasonal festivals for theme parks, writing educational presentations for zoos and museums or directing successful fund raisers, Scott is always finding new ways to tell stories that engage and entertain.