The frights of Halloween Horror Nights


Kaden Bryant

A scare actor looms above the Halloween Horror Nights guests, jumping out at the people passing by.

Kaden Bryant and Lauren King

A dead man hangs from the ceiling, wrapped within the confines of tarnished bandages as he dangles limply in the air.

You might hear a story similar to this when walking the halls of school in reference to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, a wildly popular outing ever since its initial opening in 1991. Taking place throughout the duration of September and October, the event offers visitors a night filled with adrenaline rushes from the petrifying haunted houses, unexpected scare zones at every corner, entertainment from skilled actors, and thrilling rides that send each guest home with a new story to tell.

‘Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake’ is among the list of these bone-chilling houses – literally. It is set in a frozen New England fishing village on a dark, stormy night when the dead sea captain unleashes an army of sailors onto the unimposing town. The moment you walk into the experience, the air is cold, frigid, and desolate. Sprinkles of raindrops drip upon your skin as you go on to explore a fishing shop, goosebumps fluttering up while the hairs on the back of your neck rise. Zombified, disfigured sailors emerge from the fog adorned in tattered clothing, or for instance, a vintage scuba diving attire.

You then discover the result of a shipwreck adorned with a mournful siren, singing along to a hauntingly melodic violin. An old lighthouse is visible in the distance, with a light shining just a ways off from the hopeless vessel. It’s evident that the captain never returned to shore safely – the same captain that is relentlessly unleashing his broken fury onto the living. The house is found in Soundstage 24, a location used for filming programs. Past popular experiences that were hosted in this building have been ‘Alien vs. Predator’ (2014) and ‘The Walking Dead’ (2016). Even after leaving the horror attraction, you don’t escape any horror.

All it takes is rounding a corner and you’re back into having chainsaws and baby clowns in your face from scare actors. But the utmost fascinating scare zone was walking into a graveyard through a metal gate. The style of everything is Victorian-Gothic, with crumbling stone and brick buildings with bramble and vine rising to the sky. Out from thick fog would leap out ghoulish, gaunt men and women adorned in tattered, vintage clothing. Angelic statues stood by pillars and one scare actor came to life, watching you with her soulless eyes. Gargoyles stalked the top of a foundation as haunting ambient music played. A low, deep voice spoke upon the rolling fog, “nightmares are eternal”. This area was eerie yet mesmerizing, captivating the guests with the story being told through narration and visual contexts.

Another house located in Soundstage 24 is ‘Fiesta de Chupacabra’, based on Latin American lore. It was originally being constructed in Soundstage 44, but was instead torn down to create ‘Transformers the Ride: 3D’. The premise is a village throwing a traditional festival in honor of the urban legend, but instead of streamers there is blood. It is made clear as to how when a man chases you down the claustrophobic walls with a cleaver, only to end up in a room with butchered bodies. Crunching noises are heard in the distance, and it’s only left to your imagination why. The star of the show pops out of windows, the Chupacabras faring their fangs at you with menacing snarls as you pass by. It is a miracle you leave the attraction with your limbs still intact.

In comparison to its previous years, Halloween Horror Nights’ production has only continued to skyrocket in quality. The annual event of barbarity is undeniably a thrilling experience for any guest who dares to wander the gates that whisper a promise of inevitable terror. If you manage to make it home safely, you’ll be left with unparalleled memories and an efficacious desire to return next year. The adrenaline rushes, unexpected jump scares, engaging entertainment, and remarkable production work Universal contrives is certainly a scarce yet riveting time for all attending. Every guest’s mutual fear of what lies beyond the looming darkness of each house fabricates a connection between attendees that can only be enjoyed a few times a year at Halloween Horror Nights.