By Alyssa Cortes
Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) has kicked off its 2023 season, marking 32 years of frightful fun.
Halloween Horror Nights, an annual Halloween event hosted by Universal Studios Orlando, features a range of haunted houses inspired by horror franchises like “Stranger Things,” “The Last of Us” and “Chucky,” as well as scare zones, Halloween-inspired food like the infamous pizza fries and beloved park attractions.
This event does require a separate admission ticket, and during its hours of operation, the park undergoes a chilling transformation into a nightmare-inducing destination.
HHN premiered in 1991 as Universal Studios Fright Nights. Initially, it was a modest three-night event featuring a single haunted house. The event grew and underwent a name change to Universal Studios Florida Halloween Horror Nights in 1992. Eventually, it evolved into the HHN we recognize today.
This season, guests can expect 10 haunted houses, five scare zones, a brand-new show and interact with death eaters.
One haunted house that gets a lot of attention from guests is themed around
“Stranger Things” season four. This haunted house envelops visitors in the eerie world of “Stranger Things,” featuring impressive sets, effects and scares by beloved characters from the series.
“I’m a huge ‘Stranger Things’ fan,” said Elijah Conley, freshman at The University of Tampa. “It was amazing to see Universal recreate the houses with such accuracy.”
Amidst the terrifying screams, delighted shouts can be heard as guests witness their favorite characters and scenes from the show coming to life before their eyes. The sinister presence of the shows villain, Vecna, effectively captures the horror elements of the series, making the experience even more spine-tingling.
“The Last of Us” stood out as one of the most popular attractions at HHN this year. While the HBO Max adaptation earlier in the year brought renewed attention to “The Last of Us,” this house was centered around the PlayStation-exclusive video game that inspired the show.
Within the immersive world of “The Last of Us,” one of the most frightening elements are the clickers. They became the highlight of the house with their meticulously detailed costumes and the clever use of sound, making many hearts race. As guests venture through the house, they can spot characters from the game as well.
“My favorite house had to be ‘The Last of Us,’” said Conley. “It was fun but also scary; the set design and actors were fabulous!”
Other houses included The Exorcist, Chucky Ultimate Kill Count, The Darkest Deal, Yeti Campground Kills and Blood Moon Dark Offerings.
A previous Universal Studios Orlando attraction called Dueling Dragons inspired a house at this year’s event. The house is appropriately called Dueling Dragons: Choose Thy Fate where, upon concluding the house experience, guests had the choice of two distinct endings—one enveloped in heat and the other shrouded in ice.
Dr. Oddfellow’s Twisted Origins is a circus-themed house with good scares and world-building. Universal Monsters Unmasked was a surprise favorite for guests, featuring many classic monsters such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Phantom of the Opera and Quasimodo.
“The aspect that surprised me the most was Quasimodo about to free fall on me when I was right below him,” said Ashley Cortes, a staff member at UT. “Immediate duck and cover, and then I scurried out of there; it was a great time.”
Apart from the 10 spooky houses, Universal Studios strategically placed five scare zones across the park to spread the eerie ambiance with Dr. Oddfellow’s Collection of Horror, Dark Zodiac, Jungle of Doom: Expedition Horror, Vamp ’69: Summer of Blood and Shipyard 32: Horrors Unhinged.
This year Diagon Alley of Harry Potter World featured wandering Death Eaters.
“I loved the death eaters; they messed with my family and I, so that was very fun for me,” said Olivia Mollica.
There are various pass options, from a single night pass to a frequent fear pass, and even experiences like the express tour. Halloween Horror Nights will continue until Saturday, Nov. 4.