Director Of Darkness

Phil Raybourn Is A Key Producer At Busch Garden's Howl-O-Scream

A thick fog blurs the dark and terrifying scene before you, and the only sounds you hear are the bloodcurdling screams of those who have bravely walked ahead. For a moment, you consider turning back, but you’ve already made it this far. Slowly and carefully, you step foot into the unknown abyss, wondering if this was a horrible mistake and trying to muster the courage to let go of the poor stranger’s arm that you’re clinging onto for dear life.

It’s just another day at Busch Gardens’ 15th annual Howl-O-Scream®, and if guests find themselves stricken with panic and fear, it means Phil Raybourn, senior manager for show production, has done his job.

For 10 years Raybourn has helped to produce the year-round shows and attractions at the park, but his eerie talents were soon realized. “People saw that I had kind of a penchant for dark things, so then I started working with Halloween more and more,” he says.

Each year he and the rest of the Busch Gardens® creative team are presented with the task of trying to outdo themselves from the previous year by coming up with new themes, costumes and haunts. “It’s a huge collaboration of a lot of great talent,” Raybourn remarks. “We really focus on that traditional Halloween, so how can we take that traditional Halloween and turn it on its head to give something fresh for our guests?”

Surprisingly, Raybourn doesn’t turn to horror flicks to find the inspiration for creating dark, chilling scenarios. “I don’t watch a lot of scary movies,” he says. “It’s all in my head.”

After Howl-O-Scream® goes live, Raybourn walks through the haunted mazes regularly to make sure everything is in order, but he says he never gets scared. Everybody tries to scare me, and it just doesn’t work,” he says. “And if they do, I’m really excited because that’s a great moment.”

Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream® will be open through Oct. 27 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.