Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights is the undisputed champion of Halloween events in North America. Now celebrating its 25th year, longtime fans flock to this event, many claiming it gets better every year. I, on the other hand, swore to never set foot inside the gates of this terrorizing event. Last weekend I broke that oath and faced my fear… and I loved it! I am astonished to admit that I had a great time and am already making plans to attend next year. But this success story didn’t happen without some very important factors. A game plan is needed if you want to enjoy Halloween Horror Nights when you are scared of pretty much everything.
Wait until the first week has passed
Thankfully, Halloween season starts early in Orlando, usually the second week of September. Halloween Horror Nights is an incredibly elaborate production that changes dramatically each year. After opening week there are typically adjustments made to the shows, a few scare zones, and even a house or two. This is not to say that the first week is not enjoyable, but if you’ve never been to HHN before I think it is a good idea to let them iron out any kinks of the first week before attending yourself.
Study the map
The Halloween Horror Nights event map shows exactly where each house, show, and — most importantly — where each scare zone is located. During my visit I actually enjoyed the scare zones the most. A few I made sure to visit at least twice, like the All Night Die-In and Pyschoscareapy Unleashed. Because I had studied the map and knew where each scare zone was located, I felt more confident navigating the park.
During this year’s event there are roaming hoards of scareactors (the name given to any team member employed in a role whose purpose is to scare guests or enhance the fearful experience). However, I found that these hoards really did not roam all that much and thanks to my next tip I was able to truly prepare and take something that would have been unexpected and turn it into a known factor.
Read the spoilers
This advice does not apply to everyone. For some people knowing anything about what is to come may make them more fearful or dampen the experience. For me personally, it helps me to know what to expect. When I am taken completely by surprise I feel powerless or when I don’t have any clue what is going to happen I often panic. However, if I can watch a video or see some pictures, I feel much more prepared and ready to handle the situation.
A few visits on Twitter searching #HHN25 proved to be very helpful. As you can imagine plenty of people tweet out pictures, videos, and their thoughts on each show, house, and scare zone. By viewing these tweets I was able to determine which scare zones to start with in order to work my way up so to speak, and also which houses would be way more than I could handle.
Also, reading about this year’s event through multiple blogs and social media accounts gave me specific things to look forward to. I surprised myself by actually looking forward to the grayscale set of the Die-In scare zone as well as the freakingly frightful, fantasy characters in the Evil Roots scare zone. I knew I did not want to miss either show: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure or Jack’s Carnage Returns, and neither one disappointed (though I’ll admit, I stood way in the back for Jack’s show – it is very intense).
Watch a few scary movies ahead of time
If you’re anything like me, you are scared of pretty much anything and that includes scary movies. I’ve never really enjoyed being scared, however, I am working on overcoming that and trying to expand my horizons. Prior to preparing for Halloween Horror Nights I never watched any of the classic scary movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, or more recent scary movies like The Purge. But for a few nights prior to my visit I selected a few scary movies to watch. This helped me get used to the foreboding, suspenseful mood.
Plus, one of the many reasons Halloween Horror Nights is so popular and has won so many awards is because of its authenticity. Many of the tactics used in scary movies are employed during the event. From music and lighting to diversions that take your attention in one direction just as something out comes out of nowhere, lots of elements come together.
Go with a group
I was fortunate enough to attend with an AMAZING group of people (BIG shout out to Brandon Glover, Derek Burgan, Megan Stump, and the rest of the squad). I could not have done it without them. If you are fortunate enough to know a few HHN veterans, employ their assistance. They can act as your guide and help you feel more confident. I also felt more secure traveling as a pack. Unfortunately though, I couldn’t bring myself to go into the more intense houses with the group so we eventually separated. Yet, in doing so my husband and I were able to conquer the rest of the event as a duo.
I’ve heard it over and over again, “the more scared you are, the bigger your reaction, the more they’ll come after you!” Yeah, no pressure, right? This advice actually did not help me. Yet, the same message put a different way made all the difference. When I picked up my HHN ticket at the CityWalk Guest Services window, the Team Member told me to “strut through the scare zones, be confident, act like you own the place.”
As I walked through each scare zone I recalled that advice. I elongated my body, held my head high and walked with confidence. The scareactors tried to spook me but for the most part I didn’t jump, I didn’t flinch. It was…fun! After a short while, and perhaps a dose of liquid courage (in a HHN blinky cup of course), I really started to have fun with it. I asked for pictures with them and complimented them on their appearance.
Remember they can’t touch you and it’s not real
Nothing more to say really…the scareactors are not allowed to touch a guest, so if fear takes over for a moment and you think the scary person in front (or behind) you can actually cause you any harm, they simply cannot. Moreover, the atmosphere can become overpowering, but just remember this is all for show, it’s not real.
If you do need a break head into a restaurant or bar. After walking through the Die-In scare zone and seeing Bill and Ted’s show, we took a few minutes to dodge the chainsaw welding gang and ducked into Moe’s Tavern for a round. We could heard the chainsaws and screams outside the doors. Taking some time inside to relax and have a drink gave me some more time to get used to this whole experience.
Appreciate the pageantry and enjoy the moment
Halloween Horror Nights is the perfect example of how an organization can perfect an experience over the years. It is an incredibly impressive, elaborate production. Each time I felt fear creeping in I slowed down and reminded myself to take a deep breath and really look around. It is easy to get tunnel vision when you’re scared, but if you can remember to see wider and look further it will help. The most important thing is to not let fear overcome you and instead take a deep breath and appreciate a masterfully executed experience in one of the most exciting places on Earth.
P.S. – Reading the Touring Plans Survival Guide is also a big help!