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Unraveling the History of Halloween Horror Nights

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As travel enthusiasts, the folks at Next Year Travel have delved into the history books to get a bit of a background on Halloween Horror Nights history.

In 1991, Universal Studios Florida launched the event named “Universal Studios Fright Nights.” This 3-night Halloween celebration took place on October 25, 26, and 31, featuring just one haunted house, The Dungeon of Terror. The initial success inspired the event’s return in 1992, renamed “Universal Studios Florida Halloween Horror Nights,” advertised as the second annual event. This time, it expanded to five nights, featuring two haunted houses: The Dungeon of Terror and The People Under The Stairs at Soundstage 23.

Universal Studios Globe lit for Halloween Horror Nights. Photo: Lee Rivett.

Expanding the Scares: Halloween Horror Nights IV and V

In 1994, Halloween Horror Nights expanded to an eight-night run with four haunted houses, including locations like Nazarman’s, the Bates Motel film set, the Earthquake overflow queue, and the Boneyard. The event introduced the term “Scaracters” and the first official “Ghoul School” for participating actors.

Halloween Horror Nights V in 1995 further enhanced the event’s popularity with a 12-night run and three haunted houses, one being a dual-path house. The event introduced its first themed character, Tales from the Crypt’s Crypt Keeper, giving the event a new subtitle, “The Curse of the Crypt Keeper.”

Actors during the ‘daytime’ Universal Studios prior to their counterparts, “Scareactors” for Halloween Horror Nights. Photo: Lee Rivett.

Horrors at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood had its own Halloween attractions in 1986 and 1992, but it wasn’t until 1997 that Halloween Horror Nights officially launched. Initially running through the 2000 season, the event returned in 2006 and has continued annually since then.

Around Universal Studios Hollywood during Halloween Horror Nights. Photo: Lee Rivett.

Halloween Horror Nights VI through X

At Universal Studios Florida, the event continued to grow from 15 nights in 1996 to 19 nights in 2000. Each year featured three haunted houses, with two of them being dual-path houses from 1998 onwards. In 1999, Halloween Horror Nights introduced its first 3-D haunted house, housed in the Nazarman’s facade.

Terror and Adjustments: Halloween Horror Nights XI

The September 11 attacks led to changes in Halloween Horror Nights XI in 2001. The event toned down the gore, replaced blood with green “goop,” and adjusted the event’s theme. The original icon character, Eddie, was replaced by the returning Jack the Clown.

Lower Lot of Universal Studios Hollywood during Halloween Horror Nights. Photo: Lee Rivett.

Moving to Islands of Adventure: Halloween Horror Nights XII

In 2002, Halloween Horror Nights made a significant shift to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The event featured five haunted houses, with the icon character being The Caretaker.

Dual-Park Format and New Icons

Halloween Horror Nights XIV in 2004 experimented with a dual-park format, incorporating parts of both parks. The 14th edition introduced a mental patient theme and featured seven haunted houses over 18 nights.

Queues for Haunted Houses during Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. Photo: Lee Rivett.

Celebrating Two Decades of Fear: Halloween Horror Nights XX

In 2010, the event marked its 20th anniversary at Universal Studios Florida with an event titled “Twenty Years of Fear,” featuring Fear as the icon. It featured eight haunted houses over 23 nights.

Expanding to Singapore and Japan

In 2011, Universal Studios Singapore joined the Halloween Horror Nights franchise, followed by Universal Studios Japan in 2012. Both parks incorporated unique themes, local legends, and international franchises to offer spine-tingling experiences.

Haunted Houses during Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood

Continuing Evolution and COVID-19 Impact

Halloween Horror Nights has continued to evolve, adding new themes, iconic characters, and immersive experiences. However, the event faced challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to cancellations and delays. Nevertheless, Universal Studios found innovative ways to engage horror fans during the pandemic, ensuring that Halloween Horror Nights remains an unforgettable experience for years to come.

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