After 27 years of operation, Halloween Horror Nights has become one of the largest events of the fall season. Originally debuted as “Fright Nights” at Universal Studios, the spooky celebration has evolved from a weekend of horrors to a months-long fear fest.
Fright Nights began in 1991 as a three night event on October 25, 26, and 31. There was only one haunted house called “The Dungeon of Terror”, and admission cost $12.95. The next year, Fright Nights was renamed Universal Studios Florida Halloween Horror Nights. In addition to the return of “The Dungeon of Terror” at the JAWS attraction’s queue building, a second haunted 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. HHN4 was the first year that scare actors roamed the streets of Universal, adding another layer to the fright fest in addition to four haunted houses. 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 3 dual path houses creating 5 total haunted house experiences. This was the first year that featured 3D houses and an icon character to accompany the event’s theme, Jack the Clown. Admission was raised to $44.
HHN was moved to Islands of Adventure in 2002 featuring 5 haunted houses and Universal resumed using standard numbers instead of roman numerals in the event’s title. The icon for HHN 12 was originally supposed to be a little girl name Cindy whose toys overruled each area of the park, but after a large amount of child abductions in the area the character Dr. Albert Craine was developed as “The Caretaker” and became the event icon instead. Admission cost $49.95.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 HHN 12 as the icon, along with 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.
Universal started acquiring rights to licensed characters like Freddy Krueger and Leatherface 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, now featuring 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, ending November 4 after a total of 34 nights. Tickets for the iconic Halloween event now range from $63.99 to $599.99, a huge difference from 1991’s $12.95 admission.