Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights: Frightening adventure worth the thrill

Posted Nov. 12, 2012


ORLANDO, Fla. – There I stood in the 75-minute wait line and swayed from side to side as I began to approach the first stop of the night – Silent Hill.

I was about 300 feet away from the haunted house entrance but I could still hear screams, shrieks and loud noises coming from inside. I was getting anxious anticipating how I would react to the haunted house I was about to experience for the first time.

This haunted house was one of Halloween Horror Nights’ featured houses of the year. Horror Nights is an annual month-long event held at the Universal Studios locations in Hollywood, Orlando and Singapore. It begins Sept. 21 and ends Oct. 31, Halloween night.

Halloween Horror Nights 22 poster (Photo by Elizabeth de Armas).

Halloween Horror Nights 22 poster (Photo by Elizabeth de Armas).

The spooky event attracts millions of residents and visitors. This means a lot of revenue, but also long and tiring wait times … and not a lot of breathing room.

Regardless, I was ready for the experience of a lifetime. I am not a fan of scary movies, but I love the rush of adrenaline you begin to feel when you’re about to be frightened. It is half suspense and half terror. And, when it’s over, you’re ready to do it all over again.

This wasn’t my first time traveling to Universal Studios for Horror Nights, but it had been the first time, in six years. The last time I had been was during the “Sweet 16” anniversary. This year Horror Nights was celebrating No. 22.

Each year the event is based on a theme that the directors and producers of Halloween Horror Nights put together based on past or current television series, horror films and scary characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, Chucky and Bloody Mary.

For those of you not familiar with Horror Nights, it is an infamous attraction that has intrigued thousands of locals and visitors worldwide since it launched in Florida in 1991 — but the first year the event came to life, it was named “Fright Nights” instead of Halloween Horror Nights. In 1997, the location in Hollywood followed and then in 2011 Singapore was added to the list.

Entrance to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando Florida (Photo by Elizabeth de Armas).

The entrance to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando Florida (Photo by Elizabeth de Armas).

“We’re so close to the entrance now,” my friend Jay said. “I’m pretty excited to see what’s going to pop out at us.”

Then, it hit me.

I felt a burst of cool wind as I entered Silent Hill. After that, I saw white strobe lights. Then, the screaming began. It didn’t even take five seconds before a demonic looking dead nurse approached me with a knife in hand.

I grabbed onto my friend and refused to close my eyes, but I knew this was only the beginning. I looked to my right, and there was another weird looking creature, popping out of an opening in a wall.

Sometimes I was standing in darkness, other times I was standing in a narrow hallway with flashing white lights, but no matter where I was there was always noise – girls screeching, boys cursing, footsteps and pounding on walls.

One of the demon stilt walkers standing at the entrance of the park (Photo by Elizabeth de Armas).

One of the demon stilt walkers standing at the entrance of the park (Photo by Elizabeth de Armas).

I didn’t think I would make it out without crying. But, I did. And, I didn’t close my eyes once.

Six haunted houses left.

There were also scare zones on the way to the rest of the park attractions. Stilt walkers, dead people running around with chain saws and possessed trick-or-treaters crossed my path several times.

As I walked through the zones, I didn’t know which direction any of the actors would come from. There was fog in the air, green lights, eerie music and rustling coming from the bushes.

At one point I walked into the fog and all I heard was chainsaws and screaming. I clenched my fists to try to contain my emotions of fear and just looked down at the floor as I walked.

When I thought the scare zone was over, I looked up and there was a zombie just a few inches from my face staring at me. I screamed louder than ever before and ran straight into the bathroom… where I thought I was safe. That wasn’t until I realized that there were chainsaw noises coming from outside of the bathroom stall because the actors were allowed in there, too.

One of the dead prisoners with a chainsaw in the scare zones (Photo by Elizabeth de Armas).

One of the dead prisoners with a chainsaw in the scare zones (Photo by Elizabeth de Armas).

Because the lines were so long, my friend and I knew we wouldn’t be able to walk through all seven of the houses, so we decided to pick four more to experience: Dead End, Walking Dead, Penn & Teller, and Gothic.

Of course, there was a new Despicable Me virtual ride and I couldn’t leave without transforming into a Minion for approximately six minutes, so we made time for that too.

As I waited the 125-minute line for the Walking Dead haunted house, I watched the videos that were being projected on the giant screen above me. Clips were being played of the new hit show, The Walking Dead, and I was getting more terrified by the minute.

My feet were in a lot of pain, and there was no where to sit while I was waiting, but I tried to think about what was coming — the most talked about house of the year. After exactly 125-minutes, we were in.

Thrilling? That doesn’t even begin to describe it.

About 10 vampires jumped out from hidden areas throughout the house, while others banged on doors and the rest stared at me vicariously. I walked into what looked like a hospital, and the doors in front of me read, “Don’t open. Dead inside.”

The buzzing of flies and the smell of dead corpses also lingered during the Walking Dead maze. It smelled like a mix of rotten eggs and sour milk — not pleasing in the slightest. There was dead people lying over me on the roof of the haunted house, and lying next to me. The dead people were obviously dummies, but in pure darkness, my brain was playing tricks on me.

For the first time, I felt I was immersed into the dark side. My body never flinched, but all I could do was scream and jump and bend down. At one point, I think I was screaming, jumping and bending down simultaneously.

One of the stilt walkers in one of the scare zones (Photo by Elizabeth de Armas).

One of the stilt walkers in one of the scare zones (Photo by Elizabeth de Armas).

When I saw the “exit” sign, I ran for it. But, I was not fast enough. Two vampires followed me out and then two dead people from the scare zones tried following me into the bathroom with chainsaws.

I had never felt such an exhilarating rush in my entire life. I walked into the bathroom and pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

“If you want to feel what it’s like to be scared out of your mind, Horror nights is waiting for you,” Jay said. “And for those people that swear nothing can scare them, think again.”

I don’t know if it’s the acting of the staff, the eerie and suspenseful mood, or the cemetery feel of the entire park during Horror nights, but Oct. 14 was a night I will never forget.


  • Visit  http://www.halloweenhorrornights.com/ for more information.
  • Ticket prices vary by day.
  • Florida residents are eligible for a discount on ticket prices.
  • Tickets are sold online, at Guest Services in the park, and at select Publix Supermarkets.
  • If you present a Pepsi can when purchasing a ticket, whether in person or online, you may be eligible for a discount. This only applies to Florida residents who have marked Pepsi cans.
  • California and Singapore residents have there respective discounts as well.
  • Hours vary by day, but the calendar is posted on the website: http://www.halloweenhorrornights.com/orlando/faq.html
  • Fast Passes are available for $100 in order to avoid long lines.
  • There is no age restriction, but young children are not encouraged to attend.
  • Costumes are not allowed.
  • There are no child rates for admission.
  • All park attractions in Universal Studios that operate 365 days a year continue to stay open during Halloween Horror Nights.
  • Food, beverages and alcohol are served.
  • The park requires all individuals buying alcohol to show an I.D. 

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