If you have never been to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Since I extensively covered the 2008 and 2009 events, I wanted to provide you with a brief guide to the action. Here is what you should know about Halloween Horror Nights:
What Is Halloween Horror Nights?
Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) is a nighttime event that takes place during the Halloween season at Universal Orlando. Universal Hollywood also has its own version, but the Orlando event is the original and, by many accounts, the best.
HHN started in 1991 as a 3-night party called "Fright Nights." The name changed in 1992, but Fright Nights is now considered the first HHN. Over the years, it has grown into a 23-night event. HHN started at Universal Studios, moved to Islands of Adventure for a few years and is now back at the Studios again.
Is Halloween Horror Nights Really Scary?
HHN is an extremely intense experience. It carries a PG-13 rating, due to the psychological intensity. The entire park is transformed into a fright fest, with eight haunted houses and multiple “scare zones” on the streets. Hundreds of actors are hired for the event to portray horror movie villains and original characters, and their entire job consists of making guests scream.
Will Halloween Horror Nights Trigger My Phobias?
In a word, probably. HHN’s designers work hard year round to ensure that the event is psychologically scary, preying on common fears and creating an atmosphere of inescapable terror. This dedication to the psychology of fear sets HHN apart from many local haunts.
The overall theme and icon character change each year, and each year’s houses and scare zones are different than those of the year before. Therefore, it can be difficult to predict which phobias may be targeted in a given year. You can be pretty sure, though, that fear of the dark, claustrophobia, fear of loud noises and fear of blood will always be triggered by the event.
If I Have a Phobia, Should I Skip HHN?
Not necessarily. Only you know your own phobia and your level of tolerance. If you have coping mechanisms that work for you and supportive friends or relatives who are willing to let you go at your own pace, you may find a lot to enjoy at HHN.
A major advantage of HHN over some other haunts for those with phobias is its design. Each house is relatively short, generally taking only five minutes or so to walk through. There are attendants dressed in black and carrying flashlights stationed throughout each house, and you are never far from an emergency exit. If you have a panic attack inside a house, all you need to do is ask an attendant to get you out. Although it may feel like you are stuck, you never truly are.
The scare zones are generally indicated on the park map. These are short sections of the street that contain numerous scare actors. Although some years, including 2008, market claims that there are “no safe zones,” you can always ask a park attendant to guide you to somewhere that you can relax and catch your breath. This may be a backstage area or even the First Aid station, depending on where you are in the park. Be assured, though, that the park will always offer a safe place to go.
If you do find yourself becoming overwhelmed with panic, do not just make assumptions about what a safe location may be. Always ask for guidance and perhaps an escort. When I was a teenager, HHN made me a bit nervous. I was meeting my boyfriend at the event and did not want to walk around alone, so I made plans to meet him at a hamburger place just inside the park entrance, thinking that the actors would never come into a food venue. Shortly after my boyfriend arrived (thankfully!), the Chainsaw Drill Team burst into the restaurant and made a beeline for our table. I still don’t know how I did it, but I ended up across the table and hidden behind my boyfriend in under 5 seconds flat!
Other Activities at Halloween Horror Nights
If your friends want to go to HHN but haunted houses are not your thing, you will still find plenty of things to do. There are generally four special stage shows for the event. One is the opening show, which introduces the year’s event theme and icon character. This show is gory and involves stage violence, so if you have a blood phobia, it may not be the best choice. It is silly and fun, though, rather than scary.
The must-see show for Halloween Horror Nights is the "Bill and Ted" show. A HHN tradition since 1992, Bill and Ted features the lead characters from the hit '80s movies Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey as hosts of a show that spoofs the pop culture events of the previous year. The show is edgy, racy and usually hilarious.
The other shows vary from year to year and fit the theme of the event. Bizarre magicians, self-proclaimed “freaks” such as Lizard Man, and other performers have been featured in recent years. A new addition from 2007, which returned in 2008 and 2009, is a live-action tribute to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Many of the park’s regular rides and shows are also open during Halloween Horror Nights. These activities can provide a much-needed respite from the psychological intensity of HHN. In the past, scare actors have sometimes been found lurking in the ride queues, but this seems to have been phased out in recent years.
Halloween Horror Nights is a psychologically intense horror experience. The event preys on common human fears, including those that may trigger phobias. It is easy to become overwhelmed, particularly if you suffer from multiple phobias. Nonetheless, there are a variety of activities to enjoy. Take it slowly and do not be afraid to ask for help if needed.