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It’s Only a Nightmare- Halloween Horror Nights 2011

What’s in your nightmares? Well, if you don’t want to see them in the real world, face to face, you probably want to avoid special events like Halloween Horror Nights hosted by Universal Studios. It’s not for the squeamish, or the faint of heart, but if you can handle a zombie or two, you will do just fine.  Most of you probably don’t think of me as the “scary movie” type, but I like them for the excitement they bring, how they can make my pulse race, and that’s why since I had heard about this event years ago, I wanted to attend some day.

My day came last night, October 6th, 2011, when good friends Ken, Anthony, and Joe asked if I would be interested in going with them. Craig wasn’t interested, I would never let Emily go, but Kyra did have an interest in it. I thought it best for myself to try it out first before introducing it to anyone else, just so I had a clear idea of what I was getting in to. So after some red wine and a fantastic dinner made by Anthony, we were ready to get our scare on.

Because Anthony is a passholder to Universal, the parking was included. We parked in Cat in the Hat, and took the long walkways to the main hub of Universal, heading through security then having to walk through City Walk first, and then the area splits off to either Islands of Adventure, or Universal Studios. We headed to Studios, taking in all the cool stuff that City Walk has. I do have to say that Downtown Disney is so much nicer and accessible than City Walk- you can park at DTD and walk in to grab a sandwich or something, but here you would have to pay for parking, then walk forever just to get to grab a quick bite of food. I don’t forsee us ever having Annual Passes here, but I still would like to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter once.

We grabbed a group photo before heading in, because of course you need one before you look like you have been scared to death. We headed through the turnstiles, and before we could even put our passes away, the Chainsaw gang was out in full force, revving up the chainsaws as close as they could to you. Yes, it caught me off guard, but it also got me in that “prepared mode” for what was all to come that night.

Anthony bought express passes for us, because he is so awesome, and because he and Ken had done this event in past years and had waited up to three hours in one line for a haunted house, and they just weren’t going to deal with that again.  What the Express Pass is, is a pass in which you carry on you at all times, and can be used only ONCE at each haunted house, attraction, and show. Unlike Disney’s Fastpass, this is an extra cost, so purchasing it for this even or any Universal park day would have to be worth it.  I could see using it on a busy holiday week, or weekend, but at any dead time I wouldn’t bother with it.  But, I will tell you it was an amazing thing to have, because as the night went on, the crowds got bigger and bigger and we were bypassing lines with no problem. It is a great feeling to know you can walk right in without stopping once to wait and it was honestly probably better for me, because the nerves start to get to you when you have to wait to experience you know what is going to be scary. Check the Universal Studios site for more details on express passes and how much they cost, as they vary from event and Park to what day of the week you need it for.

Our first experience would be the Scare Zone named “7.” Here the ladies during the daylight are beautiful and charming, but once it got darker out, they would reveal their 7 deadly sins.  Since we caught in the daylight, it wasn’t anything bad, except for people coming to scare you in your face, you just got used to looking forward and not making eye contact. I learned very quickly that if you LOOK scared, they will scare you- so I put my poker face on through every scare zone we encountered.

We walked past the Pantages Theater which would host the “Ghost Hunters- Steve and Tango” later that evening, and already the line had started. I had hoped to meet them, but I really wanted to experience everything there, and standing in line all night for a 2 minute meet didn’t seem as appealing anymore.  We passed on them and headed into another Scare Zone called “Grown Evil” which was like a garden that had went all crazy.  Animals on stilts, monsters coming out of every corner- it was hard to take pictures because you were constantly being scared.  We made it through and headed to our first haunted house for the evening.

You have to imagine this- I hadn’t been to Studios in many years, so I was already in awe of everything we passed. E.T. made me smile, as we had taken little Kyra there back in 1999.  I laughed as we passed the Fievel playground (um, does any child know who Fievel is anymore?) and then got in line for the first house- “The Forsaken.”

Of course walking up to this house was a bit nerve wracking, until we had to walk through the “Barney” soundstage to get to it. Again, seriously, does ANYONE know who Barney is anymore?? Universal, wake up and work on that Park! So anyways, we walked up to the first house and I looked at Anthony and said “I am going to grabbing your arm or hand, it’s my gut reaction, and I apologize now.” He was such a sweetheart about it, why wouldn’t he be- best guy friend a girl could have.  We headed in to “The Forsaken” which was an abandoned Spanish fort where Columbus’ forth ship went missing- basically ghost pirates took over.  It was cool to walk over planks, and you could feel the wind and spray of the ocean water on your face.  Once someone got scared in front of you, you were pretty much guaranteed to be left alone by that character. They also had many hallways in the houses where you could see the actors hiding, so it gave you a heads up on where to watch for them.  Once we got that first house done with, I felt empowered to do the rest. You knew what it was going to be like now, so the actual scared feeling was something you were ready for.

The next house was right next to the first one, which was a bit confusing. They had signs to mark it, but with all the ropes for lines everywhere, and being right next to another one, it could have been confusing for some. Also a lot of the houses emptied into the same exit area, so you felt you were having constant déjà vu.  Our second house was the “The In Between” which was a 3D glass wearing experience in which you went into room after room like you were tripping on something.  I wound up not wearing my glasses as it could be very disorientating experience with them. Walking through a tunnel full of neon graffiti, then a room full of mirrors with neon string attached from ceiling to floor- it was very, very cool. It wasn’t as scary as just visually stimulating.

The next house was super exciting, as it was based around the madness that was Edgar Allen Poe. I figured ravens would rule pretty much everything in the house, and I was right. I loved the rooms, and  my favorite was a ballroom where the dancers dressed in masquerade clothes would dance and then scare you as they went past you. It was a very unique house and I thought they did a great job with it.

We decided to hit one more house before getting a seat for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, so we expressed passed it again into “Saws N’ Steam.”  Every time we used our express pass we would need to show it first to get into the line, then they would scan it before you walked into the house. I was a bit weary of this house, the sound of steal slamming down could give me an instant headache, but it actually was nothing to bad.  Every time we walked into a house, Joe led in first with Ken, then Anthony and I screaming and laughing together.

After another house under our belts, we found a seat for the Bill and Teds Excellent Halloween Adventure show. Before we even walked in, I wanted to buy a T-Shirt with Bill and Ted on it because I truly loved the movie and the concept of it.  The show started minutes after we sat down, and I would have to say that there is no point to getting there early- there were plenty of open seats left.  Maybe the reason why was because the show was seriously horrible- besides the fact that Bill and Ted just didn’t have much of a plot line, the pop culture references just weren’t that funny. I laughed once when they poked fun at Twilight and True Blood, but that was about it.  I would say to anyone wanting to see this show, save the time and do something else.

After that disappointment, not only didn’t I want the shirt anymore, but I was now even more excited for another haunted house because they were actually interesting and exciting. Next house was “H.R. Bloodengutz: Holidays of Horror” which was a comical look at different holidays. I can tell you this, Santa’s elves were very unhappy, and the Easter Bunny had quite a lot of tooth decay.  The standby line for this house was very long, so again, happy to have the express pass.

It was time for a drink and a sit for awhile, so we stopped by a quaint little pub and Restaurant located across from “Mummy’s Revenge.” Posh benches helped us relax for a bit, and I was able to check in with the family and let them know that I had not died of fright.  After getting recharged, the guys headed to the Mummy for a ride, while I enjoyed the Scare Zone called “Acid Assault” which was basically like every movie that looked like the atomic bomb had dropped on it. The surrounding buildings had a video on them, so they looked like the buildings were falling apart around you- like the images on the Castle during the Magic, Memories, and You Show.  I enjoyed talking to Craig on the phone while taking all the sights in, it was cool to enjoy something different.

Next we headed into the house called “The Thing.” Coming out soon in Theaters, they have revived the old classic movie, and revved it up with a bit more scare.  If I had seen the movie first, it may have may a bit more sense, but I think once I see it, I will go “Ah yes, I remember that!” It was snowing inside the house, which I told Anthony it’s the ONLY snow I want to see in FL, and basically you watched the movie play out with all the characters. Again, it would have been cool to see the movie first.

House seven would be “The Nightingales Blood Prey” which took place in World War 1.  Gun fire could be heard everywhere, and the good guys would warn you to get out. Overhead were the nightingales, peering over at you while they attacked the service men.  I didn’t like this house as much, only because they were using fake guns, but they would fire blanks over your head and behind you, and it was just too close to something that happens in real life for me.

“Winter’s Night” would be our last house of the evening, and I believe we left the best for last. The standby line for that was crazy, crazy long- so we were pretty giddy to walk right in.  I thought we had walked right into the land of Narnia- it was a beautiful winter scene. Too bad we were walking right into a Cemetary, which was incredibly creepy. The walking dead came out of every wall, and I would have to say that this house scared not only me the most, but Anthony as well.  Every time we came around a corner we would either slow down and wait or hurry to get past what was there- we were pretty good at looking for the dangers by the time we hit that last house.

Needing some type of snack, we came across a stand that sells potatoes on a stick. Different flavors were available, and they cut the potato right in front of you and fry it. Anthony got the salt and vinegar, and Ken got the Cheddar one. I tried both and they were delicious, definitely try them out when you are there! I think they were $5 each.

We headed back to the Simpsons Ride, as I had ridden “Back to the Future” before, so I knew what the ride was like. When Anthony told me in line it was like being on a rollercoaster, my head started to spin. I don’t do well on the simulators anymore, so I was a bit nervous. In the front row, I made sure to close my eyes when I had to, but otherwise did just fine. Still like Back to the Future better though.

We hit the rest of the Scare Zones we had missed, called “Nightmaze , Canyon of Dark Souls, and Your Luck Has Run Out.” Nightmaze wasn’t too bad, they moved the walls constantly while you walked through it, so you had to be quick if you wanted to get out without getting scared. The Canyon one was a bit more challenging, as they had large figures who didn’t move, but the actors were hidden near them, so you didn’t see them coming. I got really good at looking forward all night, so when I did get scared, it was almost fun like “You got me!”  The Luck one had the ladies that you have seen on the commercials that were pretty much the face of the theming this year. They weren’t scary as much as the Chainsaw gang that was back, and located in the very small ally.  It was a very small space and quick space, probably the smallest zone they had.

The thing about the Scare Zones is that if you wanted nothing to do with them, you could just walk up on the sidewalk around them. They were located mostly on the streets, and marked very clearly, so you knew what you were heading in to. For the life of me, I will never understand why I saw little children there last night- take them to MNSSHP, not HHN.

We wound up by the Pantages Theater around 11, and the Ghost Hunters were just wrapping up. The guy let me go in and look at Tshirts, so I did get to see them, but they wouldn’t let me take a picture.  Once I headed out, the Drums show came out, very loud but cool to see at least once.

The guys hung out at the Bakery while I shopped for awhile, getting excited at all the new merchandise I had never seen before. Seeing the Harry Potter stuff got me really excited, I hope to go there soon. It was an amazing night and it was everything I had hoped it would be. Because we got there right at 6:30 at the start of the event helped us tremendously get stuff done and see things in the day light.  Again, the express pass was definitely worth it, as we had done pretty much everything, plus stop and chill out, by 11 p.m.  We headed out before midnight, grabbing a pic near the HHN sign on the outside of the gate.

If someone asked me if it is worth it, I would say YES! But, you have to like the scary stuff. If you don’t mind screaming and occasionally jumping, it’s a lot of fun. If any of that genre offends you, then REALLY don’t go.  I always took scary movies as silly fun, but that as an adult you have to make the choice to see. I don’t encourage the kids on them, as it’s not for children’s eyes AT ALL.  It’s something, as an adult, I wanted to try once, and I am glad I did. Thank you to Anthony, Ken, and Joe for a great evening!


  1. Thanks for the review! But, Miss “it’s the ONLY snow I want to see in FL”, you’re going to eat your words when you visit MK & HS during Christmas. 🙂 I look forward to the snow on the Street of Dreams every year – it’s what makes it Christmas for us!


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