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A Unique Way To Celebrate Halloween At Universal Studios

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Texas chapter.

One of my biggest character developments of the year has been going from someone who doesn’t watch horror movies to becoming a bit of a horror fiend. Ever since deciding to watch Scream V (for Jenna Ortega, who’s definitely my actress crush) on a random bus ride back home one weekend in the spring, I have become someone who’s interested in keeping up with all the new horror movies. 

But if you can believe it from someone who used to scream at the lightest horror movie, it’s even stretched past that. Two weekends ago, I conquered one of my big fears: haunted houses. If you haven’t been to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, I think anyone who’s into horror at all should definitely add it to their bucket list!

 Me and my sister jetted off to Orlando for a quick theme park trip two weeks ago, catching the Horror Night event on a September Saturday. Here is how it went down!

For those who aren’t aware, Halloween Horror Nights are a bit of a cult classic as we quickly learned. Every year, the theme parks will announce 10 haunted house themes that will be developed in the backlots for guests to walk through for certain nights from September to November, as well as a special show and five scare zones. These are infamous for having amazing set designs and super talented scare actors who not only get amazing designs to embody their inspired characters but have no qualms about jump-scaring anyone they possibly can. 

This wasn’t something I was even aware of for this year, but two themes, in particular, settled the deal for me and my sister to consider jumping states for the night: The Last of Us and Stranger Things season 4 were both getting their own houses.

I am probably the biggest fan of The Last of Us TV show and the video games, so naturally, this was the number one priority for me. I couldn’t pass up a chance to walk through the world of The Last of Us for myself, especially when it was announced that new voice lines were recorded by the original game’s voice actors specifically for the house!

Me and my sister dressed up as different versions of Ellie, the main character of The Last of Us, and after getting invited in by Dr. Oddfellow, an eccentric magician who welcomed us in for the night complete with his own array of creepy scare actors, we ran to the line for that house first. Though there was a posted 90-minute wait, we managed to get through in 45 minutes (and then I got scared sh*tless by clickers that looked extremely eager to infect me with Cordyceps).

Though I may or may not have left my sister in the dust and ran out at the end of the house (sorry Aly!), I was hooked on the thrill. After heading into one more house and heading through a few scare zones, we managed to find the food stalls themed for The Last of Us and had our own Cordyceps corndogs (which were much yummier than they looked!).

After that, we made an hour-long line to head into the Stranger Things house. Despite our feet dying, it was well worth it; how many other people can say they’ve witnessed Chrissy’s death, fought creatures in the Upside Down while rock played in the background with Eddie and Dustin, or seen Vecna in the flesh and lived? 

But seriously, it was amazing. Even just for this house, every actor was phenomenal at embodying their character, and it really did feel like we stepped into the show. For anybody who’s just as obsessed with Stranger Things as me and my sister are (we may or may not have lived on our couch for a few days to binge all of season 4 last summer), I think it’s worth the trip!

With one night to see as much as we could, we hit 7 out of 10 of the themed houses and all of the scare zones. These included:

  1. The Last of Us
  2. Stranger Things Season 4
  3. The Exorcist: Believer
  4. Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count
  5. The Darkest Deal
  6. Blood Moon: Offering
  7. Universal Monsters Unmasked (featuring the Phantom of the Opera, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Invisible Man)

With Stranger Things being our favorite house as fans of the material, I think the other notable mentions were Blood Moon for being downright terrifying and Universal Monsters Unmasked had the coolest set. In Blood Moon, you are the subject of sacrifice for a colonial village that’s made a deal with the devil. Not only were the sets really gory, but walking in between lines of villagers and a chapel filled with devil’s worshippers was so scary when I couldn’t tell which ones were statues and which ones were actors ready to jump-scare me! In Universal Monsters Unmasked, we began in the streets of Paris hearing that four killers were on the loose, and got to walk through the opera house as the phantom carved face halves, up to Notre Dame where Quasimodo jumped at us, and down to the catacombs where the other monsters made their victims. 

The scare zones were also really cool. In different areas of the park, you will walk through themed areas where scare actors will jump-scare you as you walk by, ranging from people with chainsaws that make their signature ripping noise, monsters on stilts, or victims asking for help. Our personal favorites were the Summer of ‘69 Vampires (hippie vampires! Complete with their own hippie concert!) and Shipyard 32, complete with eerie fog and crates and ship parts assembled to feel like you’re on a haunted dock. 

Though it was our first time, we saw so many people who make coming to Halloween Horror Nights a yearly trip; we even saw people with shirts from Horror Nights 2000 and HHN 5 (for context, 2023 is HHN 32!). After racing between other theme park goers to squeeze in one last park, getting in our little conga line formation for me to hold onto them for dear life, and being targeted by scare actors who made me shriek from dinner time until 2 in the morning, it’s safe to say we’re both fanatics. 

So if you’re going to be close to LA or Orlando at any point in the next two months, I would spice up your usual Halloween festivities with a night of horror unlike anything else!

Raissa Cady is a writer and assistant editor for the Her Campus at Texas chapter based at UT Austin. In their second semester with the magazine, they love to write about media she's interested in, including television, film, music & pop culture events. She will also write about topics she is passionate about such as mental health & queer culture, and contribute the occasional personal essay. Beyond Her Campus, Raissa is a 3rd year psychology major with a creative writing certificate. They are the service director for Always Texas, a UT inclusive spirit group, a peer mentor for incoming freshmen, and a research assistant for Project SEED, which works with Mexican children who translate. She will be graduating in the spring and plans to go to graduate school for mental health counseling. In their free time, Raissa loves to spend time with their 3 dogs, go to aerial sling classes, and write fiction, especially her work in progress novels. She's an avid concert goer and weekend movie marathoner.