The Halloween Horror Nights event in Orlando is a Halloween event presented annually at Universal Orlando. Beginning in 1991 in Universal Studios Florida with only one house, it has continued annually for 26 years to become one of the largest Halloween events in the United States. In its later years the event has split time between its original park and the more recently built Islands of Adventure. Universal's design team has created nine original Icons for the event and have also used many of the Universal Monsters. Recently, deals was made with New Line Cinema and Lions Gate Entertainment to bring more recent horror icons to the event.
Halloween Horror Nights began at Universal Studios Florida in 1991 under the title Fright Nights but was re-christened Halloween Horror Nights in 1992, advertising it as the "second annual" event. It began as a 3 night event but has since evolved into a 23-night scare-a-thon spanning late September through the first weekend of November. Although it normally only operates from Thursday to Sunday, an occasional Wednesday occurs during what scare-actors dub "Hell Week", known for its large crowds and the increase of alcohol related incidents.
From 1991-2001, the event was held at Universal Studios Florida. Halloween Horror Nights moved to Islands of Adventure in 2002. 2004 was an experiment with a dual park format, which opened parts of both parks. Guests were funneled through backstage areas and the soundstages, where most of the haunts are built. In 2006, the event made a return to Universal Studios Florida where the event continues through its 27th year in 2008.
Each year's event, though unique, has certain characteristics in common with other years, these include houses, shows, scare-zones, event icons, and event phrases. Depending on the park in which the event is held, certain popular attractions that are regularly open during business hours are also opened during the event to help alleviate the crowds.
Halloween Horror Nights has amassed a number of Icons, nine of which were original creations by the Universal Design team. These Icons were characters with elaborate back stories that involved the event's theme, houses, or scarezones. Predominantly they have been used for promotional materials and merchandising. The first unofficial icon was the Cryptkeeper, from TV's Tales from the Crypt, a series popular at the time of his first event appearance: "Halloween Horror Nights V." He returned the next year, but didn't return after the series had been canceled. After the Cryptkeeper came four years of the event without an Icon , until the design team created one for the tenth year.
- Jack Schmidt/Jack the Clown/The Ringmaster was the first original icon. Developed for Halloween Horror Nights X, Schmidt is an evil clown and mass murderer. He returned as the icon in Halloween Horror Nights XI, He appeared alongside The Caretaker, The Director and Eddie in the Halloween Horror Nights XIV house Horror Nights Nightmares, and also appeared in Rat Run during Halloween Horror Nights: Tales of Terror. He was once again an icon during Halloween Horror Nights: Sweet 16 he appeared in the house PsychoScareapy: Maximum Madness and in The Arrival.He was icon again as the ringmaster of the Halloween Horror Nights: Carnival of Carnage where he hosted Jack's Carnival of Carnage show. He reappeared as a sub-icon for Halloween Horror Nights: Twenty Years of Fear where he appeared in the house Horror Nights: The Hallow'd Past with the other icons. He appeared yet again to lead the event into its 25th anniversary at Halloween Horror Nights 25 with the house Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem and the stage show The Carnage Returns.
- Dr. Albert Caine/The Caretaker, was the second original icon developed and used for Halloween Horror Nights: Islands of Fear, where he appeared in ScreamHouse. Caine was a respected surgeon who became The Caretaker of the Shady Oaks Cemetery. He returned at Halloween Horror Nights 13 in the house ScreamHouse Revisited he returned at Halloween Horror Nights XIV with Jack the Clown, The Director and Eddie in the house Horror Nights Nightmares . He returned at Halloween Horror Nights: Sweet 16 in The Arrival and in the house ScreamHouse: Resurrection.
- Paulo Ravinski/The Director was the third original icon used for Halloween Horror Nights 13, where he appeared in the house All Nite Die-In and the show, Infestation. Ravinski was a snuff film director from Eastern Europe. He returned for Halloween Horror Nights: Sweet 16 in The Arrival and All Nite Die-In: Take 2.
- Elsa Strict/The Storyteller, was the fourth original icon used for Halloween Horror Nights: Tales of Terror where she appeared in the house Where Evil Hides. Strict was an old woman who introduced guests to the world of "Terra Cruentas" She returned at Halloween Horror Nights: Sweet 16 in The Arrival and in the house Dungeon of Terror: Retold.
- Dr. Mary Agana/Bloody Mary was the fifth original icon, used for Halloween Horror Nights: Reflections of Fear where she appeared in the house Reflections of Fear. Agana was a psychiatrist in 1958 who was slowly possessed by the spirit of her Grandmother to become the evil entity known as Bloody Mary.
- Julian Browning/The Usher was the sixth original icon, used for Halloween Horror Nights: Ripped from the Silver Screen where he appears in the house Silver Screams. Browning was an usher from 1922 to 1940 for the Universal Palace Theatre who died in 1940 while dealing with a rowdy moviegoer. He now haunts the Theatre bringing the movies to life and punishing anyone who shows disrespect to his beloved theatre.
- Fear was the seventh original icon, used for Halloween Horror Nights: Twenty Years of Fear. He didn't appear in a house, instead appearing in the scare-zone Fear Revealed. He is the personification of fear and an ancient demon who was unleashed from a portal called Portameus by the Legendary Truth which leads to his realm.
- Lady Luck was the eight original icon, used for Halloween Horror Nights 21 where she appeared in the scare-zone Your Luck Has Run Out. She is the personification of luck and a vicious succubus who feeds off those who gamble with her and lose. She reappeared in the scare-zone Icons: HHN at Halloween Horror Nights 25.
- Chance was the ninth original icon, used for Halloween Horror Nights 26 where she both appeared in the scare-zone A Chance In Hell and the house Lunatic's Playground 3D: You Won't Stand a Chance. She is the just as insane girlfriend of Jack the Clown who takes as much delight from murder and mayhem as he does.
- Edgar Sawyer/Eddie Schmidt was meant to be used during Halloween Horror Nights XI, where he was meant to appear in the Run haunted house and would be portrayed wielding chainsaws and as a horror-movie lover going too far to make a scary Halloween event. He was ultimately dropped as the main icon due to the September 11, 2001 attacks. He would eventually make appearances in Halloween Horror Nights XIV with The Caretaker, The Director and Jack the Clown n the house Horror Nights Nightmares, and in Halloween Horror Nights: Sweet 16, as the main character of his house, RUN: Hostile Territory.
- SINdy/Cindy Caine - The young, insane daughter of The Caretaker. After a mob burned her father's home and place of business down, she was scarred and hid her burnt face behind a broken china doll mask. She was dropped from Halloween Horror Nights: Islands of Fear due to a rash of kidnappings in the Orlando area. The main theme for ScreamHouse: Resurrection during Halloween Horror Nights: Sweet 16 were The Caretaker's followers looking for Cindy so Caine could resurrect his daughter. She also got her own house, The Orfanage: Ashes to Ashes in Twenty Years of Fear.
Islands of Adventure
When the event moved to Islands of Adventure for Halloween Horror Nights: Islands of Fear where it stayed until 2006, new opportunities arose along with new complications. Every island of the park was to be converted into a scarezone with its own house, however, Seuss Landing is used with express permission from Audrey Geisel, widow of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), who approved of its construction and the attractions within, and has rights over what occurs during the events. The park was restricted to simply darkening this island and playing the music backwards. Strobe lights and fog were inserted in some sections, but actors were restricted until 2005.
Marvel Superhero Island was first used as a scarezone in Halloween Horror Nights: Islands of Fear. In its incarnation, Island Under Siege it would be taken over at night by the Marvel villains. The Superheroes were either dead or had been defeated, while Carnage, Scream, an army of chainsaw gangs, supervillans, scarred police officers, and the Punisher, roamed the streets. Flamethrowers, broken-down cars, and junkyard debris littered the streets. The main attraction was Maximum Carnage, Carnage's haunted maze. The island came under fire for its portrayal of the heroes. Props implying that well known superheroes had died upon them inside the Maximum Carnage attraction were used. Universal has not focused the island on its Marvel heroes since, and instead used the area as a generic cityscape with bikers, mutated residents of a toxic spill, and more innocuously, a party zone with stilt walkers dressed as Dracula and Frankenstein.
Each year, except for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th, Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights has had its own unique subtitle and/or marketing slogan.
- Fright Nights - Dying for a good Halloween Party? (Blood Begins)
- HHN V - The Curse of the Crypt Keeper
- HHN VI - Journey Into Fear
- HHN VII - Frightmares (You'll never sleep again)
- HHN VIII - Primal Scream (The last scream you'll ever hear)
- HHN IX - Last Gasp (Sayonara)
- HHN X - Not afraid of the dark? You don't know Jack... (Stay away if you are not interested in grisly entertainment)
- HHN XI - I.C.U. / Jack's Back
- HHN XII - Islands of Fear (Your time has come)
- HHN 13 - The Director will see you now. (You oughtta be in pictures)
- HHN XIV - What's your breaking point? (Twice the fear)
- HHN XV - Tales of Terror (No one will live happily ever after)
- HHN XVI - Sweet 16 (Horror comes home)
- HHN XVII - Carnival of Carnage (Choose Thy Fear)
- HHN XVIII - Reflections of Fear (I Dare You to Say it One More Time...)
- HHN XIX - Ripped From the Silver Screen (It's Showtime)
- HHN XX - Twenty Years of Fear (A New Era of Darkness Begins)
- HHN21 - Are you in? (Nobody beats the house!)
- HHN22 - Once you're inside... There is no way out!
- HHN23 - What evil has taken root?
- HHN24 - You've been warned...
- HHN25 - Jack's back (25 years of fear)
- HHN26 - You won't stand a Chance!
Since 1991, Universal Studios Florida has held Halloween Horror Nights annually. The first year the event, known as Fright Nights, was held for three nights, and featured one maze and a number of special shows. Since then the event has grown such that the latest, Halloween Horror Nights: Reflections of Fear, was held for 23 nights and included an event icon, eight mazes, three shows, and seven scarezones. Dungeon of Terror was the first maze at the event held in the queue of the newly built Jaws attraction. The second event introduced the annual Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure show and also began to use the soundstages on property for mazes. The fourth event introduced the use of scarezones to bring roaming street scare actors together for easier scares, while the fifth and sixth introduced the concept of an event icon, although an unoriginal character at that point. The event icon would return for the tenth event, this time an original creation, and since then four other original icons have been used. The twelfth year moved the event to the newly built Islands of Adventure, while the fourteenth experimented in a dual-park format. The fifteenth year was the first to bring an elaborate back story for the full event, interconnecting all of the mazes, scarezones, and shows, while the sixteenth returned the event to Universal Studios Florida exclusively. The seventeenth year introduced an exclusive deal with New Line Cinema to bring three horror icons to the mazes. Finally, the latest event featured the most mazes and scarezones in Halloween Horror Nights history.
List of events
Haunted Maze Locations
With two amusement parks full of rides and a number of soundstages between the parks, Universal Orlando has found a number of places to host their haunted mazes each year. The first maze, Dungeon of Terror, was hosted in the empty queue of the, then down for refurbishment, JAWS ride. Since then a number of ride queues, soundstages, specially built buildings, and even walkthrough attractions themselves, have been utilized to host haunted mazes. Soundstages were first used in 1992 and have been used for every year since 1995. Known for their greater detail, the event has grown to include three soundstage mazes each year. With the move to Islands of Adventure in 2002, a new building, known as Carnage Warehouse, was built to host mazes, hosting three in the years since. In the same vein, two sprung tents were built behind the World Expo section of Universal Studios Florida in 2006 and have hosted three mazes each since that time. The first walkthrough attraction used was the Bates Motel, a recreation of the motel from the film Psycho. It was used for mazes based on the movie before its demolition. Since then, the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, the Triceratops Trail, and Poseidon's Fury have been used, needing to be closed to regular park-goers during the day. A number of other buildings, including a seasonal restaurant, have also been utilized, with each location offering a unique experience for guests.
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