After 28 years of operation, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights has become one of the largest events of the fall season. Originally titled “Fright Nights,” the spooky celebration has evolved from a weekend of horrors to an iconic fear fest.
Fright Nights began in 1991 as a three-night event on October 25, 26, and 31. The event only had one haunted house called “The Dungeon of Terror”, and admission cost $12.95. The next year, Fright Nights became Universal Studios Florida Halloween Horror Nights. Along with the return of “The Dungeon of Terror,” a second house called “The People Under The Stairs” was added at Soundstage 23. The 1992 event ran for 5 nights, October 23, 24, 29, 30, and 31. This year a live show called Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure debuted also. HHN 4 introduced scare actors roaming the streets of Universal, adding another layer to the fright fest. At this point, tickets for the event were $36.
For the fifth year, Universal started displaying the event name with roman numerals. HHN V had a 12-night run with 3 haunted houses. This was the start of dual path houses, which created multiple experiences per house. This was also the first year with a theme, “The Curse of the Crypt Keeper”. By 2000, Halloween Horror Nights had grown to 19 nights with three dual-path houses and five total haunted houses. This year, Universal debuted 3D houses and an icon character to accompany the event’s theme, Jack the Clown. Admission was raised to $44.
HHN moved to Islands of Adventure in 2002 and featured five haunted houses. Universal also resumed using standard numbers instead of roman numerals in the event’s title. A little girl named Cindy, whose toys overruled each area of the park, was meant to be the icon for HHN 12. However, plans changed after a large number of child abductions in the area made the theme seem a little insensitive. Instead, a character named Dr. Albert Craine (“The Caretaker”) became the event icon. At this point, admission rose to $49.95 per person. It became a dual park event in 2004, with 7 houses scattered throughout Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. The 18-night event featured Eddie Schmidt from HHN12, Jack the Clown, The Caretaker, and The Director.
Universal started offering backstage tours as an additional feature of Halloween Horror Nights in 2005. Still running with 7 houses across both parks, HHN 15 lasted 19 nights and cost $59.75. Halloween Horror Nights reverted back to being a one-park experience at Universal Studios in 2006. The event still ran for 19 nights and had 7 houses.
Eventually, Universal started acquiring rights to licensed characters. That’s why reconizable characters like Freddy Krueger and Leatherface appear in the haunted houses. The park now makes use of tons of licensed intellectual properties as well as original characters. The annual horror fest has grown significantly over the years. Horror nights now feature live shows, haunted houses, scare zones, behind the scenes tours and special dining packages. HHN 27 broke the record for the longest running Halloween Horror Nights ever. It ran for a total of 34 nights, ending November 4. Tickets for the iconic Halloween event now range from $63.99 to $599.99, a huge difference from 1991’s $12.95 admission.
Unfortunately, Halloween Horror Nights did not happen this year due to concerns of park capacity and social distancing. However, you can explore two haunted houses and tons of other Halloween fun for a limited time at the parks!