It never feels quite like Halloween until I visit a haunted house. When I heard about Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios, home of the so-called scariest haunted houses in the country, I knew I had to go. There is nothing like the adrenaline rush of a haunted house to get your blood pumping for the Halloween season. However, the admission into Universal for the grand Halloween Horror Nights was pretty steep, and as a college student I knew my dream of going to such an amazing Halloween event may be crushed if I couldn’t find a cheap way to get tickets. Although, this year I was in luck. Burger King had a special promo for Halloween Horror Nights and gave out codes that would cut the admission price by 50 percent. I jumped on that deal, bought my tickets and planned to go with my friend who is also named Alyssa on a Thursday, the cheapest and presumably least crowded night to attend.
Thursday night arrived and Alyssa and I finally entered Universal. We made a slight miscalculation about the crowds. The streets were packed with hoards of screaming patrons. Once we entered through the gates to Universal there was no safe place for to hide. Zombies eating various body parts roamed the streets, and masked creatures hid amidst the people only to pop out of nowhere and growl, scream or hiss in everyone’s faces. Dead crazies with chainsaws walked around in packs chasing people into stores and down the streets. The actors in the streets were amazing to look at with such detailed makeup and costumes. Some of the masks I wouldn’t even be able to come up with in my worst nightmares. It was thrilling to see how Universal created a true world of horror.
After surviving the terrors on the streets of the park, Alyssa and I hunted down the source of real fear in the park: the haunted houses. Halloween Horror Nights has themed haunted houses every year. This year the themed houses included: The Walking Dead, Silent Hill, Penn and Teller and Alice Cooper. Alyssa and I got to the park around 9 p.m. and the place had already been open since 6:30 p.m., but it closed at 2 a.m. so we had limited time to hit as many houses as possible. Because the park was so crowded and dark, we found it hard to find the entrances to the houses. The lines made it even worse. They stretched as far as we could see and wrapped around in parallel rows. Wait times were around one to two hours, which was one of the most daunting parts. There was nothing to do but stand on your feet and slowly shuffle forward. I was anxious, hoping the houses would be worth the wait.
Alyssa and I waited for The Walking Dead house first. After standing in line for almost two hours while watching trailers and clips from the television series on a projected giant screen, we couldn’t wait to experience the man-eating zombies. We could hear the screams of those inside before we even got to the entrance. Once inside, it was incredible. Every detail, from the dead bodies to the blood splattered on the walls, felt so real. The masks for the zombies were freaky and terrifying, especially when we had to face them up close. Each actor was quite experienced in their acting abilities and knew exactly when to jump out at people. I couldn’t predict when the next zombie would jump out from behind a hidden door or corner. Besides the long lines, I didn’t like how quickly the haunted houses lasted. I wanted to spend more time hearing more blood-curdling screams, feeling the hair on the back of my neck stand up and tasting the bone-chilling fear.
With our late arrival to the park and the two hour line for The Walking Dead house, Alyssa and I were running out of time to visit the other houses. Once we made it out of The Walking Dead house alive, we ran through the park asking directions to the Silent Hill house. Standing in another line was agitating as both Alyssa and I felt a little like zombies ourselves, but we prevailed and after less than an hour wait our journey into Silent Hill began. It was mortifying.
“It’s like we’ve entered another world,” Alyssa said as we walked into Silent Hill. It had its own unique smell that hung in the air and ash fell from the ceiling and clung to our hair. The creatures in this house were terrifying and unimaginable. I consider myself immune to fear when it comes to haunted houses. I’ll jump a little, but I never actually feel fear. However, that all changed in this house. Creatures reached out their clawed hands in front of my face, showing up out of nowhere. As soon as I registered my adrenaline pumping, I laughed in excitement. Alyssa, on the other hand, was doing the opposite of laughing. She held onto my waist and hid behind my back the entire time, using my body to ward off the nightmarish creatures that pawed at her. After making it through that house, I finally felt like the money I spent and the time I wasted standing in line was all well worth it.
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios is the best experience for those who really love a good haunted house. They may not terrify some people, but what it lacks in fear it makes up in ambience. I would recommend Halloween enthusiasts to go to Halloween Horror Nights this year. Save money with the Burger King promo (if you are a Florida resident or find one like I did) or with a Coca-Cola can. Also, be sure to get to the park early.
Alyssa Hingre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org