A Non-Horror Fan’s Guide to Visiting Halloween Horror Nights 

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I am not a horror fan. I can’t watch horror films. I won’t watch creepy television shows. I would call myself a chicken, but I think chickens might be braver than I am. With all that said, I’m here to tell you that Halloween Horror Nights is the highlight of my year. Turns out, you don’t have to love horror to make amazing memories there and I strongly recommend it to horror fans and non-horror fans alike.

My love of Halloween Horror Nights (or “HHN”, as it’s called by fans) is common knowledge among friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and even random strangers that catch me wearing one of my event T-shirts when I’m out and about. I’ve been to the event for over two decades and have visited up to 20 times in a single season (shoutout to those Frequent Fear Passholders who make it almost every night! I see you!). When I explain that no, I haven’t seen [insert name of classic horror film everyone knows], because I’m too scared to watch it, I always receive puzzled looks. What would this world-famous spooky event have to offer someone like me?

While I don’t love horror, I do love Universal Orlando Resorts’ theme parks. I love becoming part of the story, whether it’s having a conversation with the Mystic Fountain at Islands of Adventure or helping the heroes save the day on my favorite attractions. I love that the sets, the sounds, the smells, and the performers all add depth to the tale for me to discover. As a seasonal event, Halloween Horror Nights provides tons of brand-new stories for me to step into each year in houses, scare zones, and shows. New characters, new interactions, new backstories to explore — one visit would never be enough to fully appreciate the creativity and ingenuity the team dreams up annually. Every walk through a house or scare zone is different and it’s so rewarding to compare these experiences after each visit and take pride in noticing the details. As someone who doesn’t like horror, I can assure you that it’s worth getting scared just to see the incredible storytelling that happens at this event.

On top of the event experience itself, there is the absolute joy that attending HHN with friends and family creates. The flow goes like this: as you wait in line for a house or approach a scare zone, there’s nervous excitement, fidgeting, and usually some corny jokes to ease the tension. Then there’s the rush of experiencing the scares, seeing the details, and hanging onto your companions — oh, and don’t forget the riotous laughter when they get spooked! When you’re done, there is relief and giddiness that you did it. My favorite part is when I turn to my friends and ask what they thought, to see if they noticed the same details I did. You share everything you saw, what scared you, or what made you laugh. By the time you’re done exchanging stories, you’re ready to conquer your next experience.

What to Expect

Halloween Horror Nights During the Day

Being brave and stepping out of my comfort zone to start attending HHN has created countless happy memories for me, and I want to encourage other non-horror fans to take the leap and experience the same rewards. Here are some tips to help you face your fears on your first visit:

·           Get to know the Universal Studios during the day. To build your confidence before your night in the fog, get to know the Park during the day. Scope out some quiet spots where you can take a break from the action or identify a snack or drink from this year’s event you can look forward to picking up later in the night.

·           Bring supportive friends or family. Going to HHN with a support system will make your visit more fun. Some of the best people to bring with you are those that love visiting HHN and have been in the past — they can share stories of their favorite moments in past years, give you some cover in the scare zones, and point out details that you might be too distracted to notice. Most importantly, your friends and family can pump you up when you feel nervous and celebrate with you after you conquer your fears.

·           Find your favorites. Prepare for your visit by checking out the main HHN webpage. Where are the scare zones and what are they about? What are the stories behind the houses this year? Look for themes and stories that interest you and start your night there. You will become so wrapped up in looking at the storyline and the details that you’ll begin to appreciate how the scares come to life.

·           Try to avoid distractions when walking around the event. An unsuspecting Guest on their phone is the perfect target for a scare zone scare! Stay in the moment with your friends and family so that you take in the full experience and won’t be caught off guard.

·           Watch others enjoying the sights frights. Not ready to jump into the scares as soon as you arrive? Look for a spot in or near a scare zone where you can observe other guests interacting with the characters and experiencing the story. Try to spot how the details of the props, sets, and action support the description of the scare zone. This will help you recognize the artistry and creativity that goes into every element of the event.

·           Look for the shortest wait times. Especially for your first house experience, find the shortest wait time so that you don’t lose your nerve before making it inside. The build-up of the experience in your mind will never account for how much fun it is to be immersed in the story. Once you make it through the entrance, you’ll find that you’re suddenly less nervous than you were outside!

·           Try to visit more than once. Your first visit to a house or scare zone will be exciting and intense — there is so much to see, hear, and even smell! If you have time, try to see your favorite houses and scare zones more than once; by your second visit, you’ll have a better sense of what you’re going to experience and you will have more opportunity to observe the story, the characters, and the details. I notice new scares and effects every time I walk through!

Although I still avoid watching horror movies, I found that these tips have helped me become a little more confident attending HHN each year. Now I live for the excitement, the stories, and the immersion! Even if you aren’t a horror fan, I hope you’ll take a chance. Step out of your comfort zone, gather your favorite people, and experience the event yourself. I’m confident that your bravery will pay off!

Are you ready to summon your courage and visit HHN? Do you have any other tips to share with non-horror fans like me? Let us know in the comments below or by tagging us on social media. Hope to see you in the fog soon!

Cindy Skawinski is a Technical Documentation and Training Manager for Universal Parks and Resorts. She can most often be found enjoying HHN with her sister, swooning over VelociCoaster, or forming a deep emotional attachment to the park entrance music at Islands of Adventure.

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