You know how when everybody splits up in a horror movie, they’re pretty much doomed? That’s been established time and time again. But what happens if you go it alone to begin with?
I did that last year. It was actually my first time ever attending Halloween Horror Nights, and there I was by myself at Finnegan’s, awaiting my doom at Freddy vs. Jason. As I entered the dark soundstage with Camp Crystal Lake looming in front of me, I almost had a panic attack. When I exited the maze three minutes later, I was a believer.
I didn’t go until late in the season last year, so I vowed to be at HHN 26 from day one. I’ve been through each of the nine mazes at least three times now, most of them at least six or seven times. I also went through the Unmasking the Horror tour this year and successfully survived The Repository (with quite a bit of help from my teammates). So for those of you thinking of going alone, here are some tips to help you survive the night. (For all the ins and outs of Halloween Horror Nights, the houses and ticket prices, head to the official website)
• First things first: GO!! It’s absolutely worth it, even if you can’t get anyone to go with you. Don’t feel bad if others don’t want to go, either. HHN is an entirely different world than what you’ll find at Universal Orlando Resort during the day. HHN isn’t cheap, and I’d never want anybody to spend the money on it if they didn’t feel comfortable about what to expect inside. But if you love a good scare, or if you want to appreciate some awesome set design, you’ll find plenty to admire – and you won’t have to wait for your scared buddy to recover from an encounter with Leatherface.
• Time your entry at the houses. You get to decide which mazes you want to go to, which allows you to move through HHN at your own pace. I’ve found that walking around by myself in the scare zones doesn’t draw very much attention from the scareactors (but shout out to Vamp ’55, where I get targeted every time I walk through). However, in the mazes you blend in with everyone else. If you’re looking to get ALL the scares, avoid getting in line behind a group of teenagers, or anyone who looks easily frightened. They’ll attract the scares and you’ll be left wondering what popped out just ahead. Alternatively, if you want to avoid scares, then by all means line up behind one of these groups.
Another tip if you want as many scares as possible: act the part! Scareactors pay attention to the rooms before them. If a scareactor gets a good reaction out of you, it’s likely his/her buddy is going to go in for seconds, or the first actor has a second door they can pop out of in the next room. The dark elves in Krampus pulled this trick on me. Then the demonic teddy bear popped out. I wouldn’t say I was traumatized, but I might avoid Christmas this year.
• Go late and stay late. While in the past there has been a “Scream Early” option, it was discontinued in 2015. However, anyone who has a pass for the park/parks during the day and has a ticket for HHN is able to get early entry. This is really great if you’re trying to get into a house like American Horror Story without an Express Pass (but I strongly recommend Express). However, it doesn’t work for a house like The Exorcist. The house is so dark, and it’s still light outside, so you’ll end up stumbling around and missing many of the cool effects. Same deal with Tomb of the Ancients. If you have the chance, spend some time at the parks during the last three hours of the night (10 p.m.- 1 a.m. or 11 p.m.- 2 a.m., depending on the night). Crowds start to drop off at this point. By waiting until the last hour, I’ve been able to go through Tomb of the Ancients, Ghost Town, The Walking Dead and Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield virtually by myself. THAT’S an experience. You don’t know what a scare is until four actors gang up on you at once.
• Whatever you do, don’t miss… Tomb of the Ancients and The Exorcist. Tomb of the Ancients is, in my opinion, the scariest house at the event this year. I’m a rather tall person, so I constantly have to duck in this house – it plays on claustrophobia. While you’re distracted, the scareactors pounce. The Exorcist isn’t so scareactor heavy (Although it has plenty of Regans…including ones that puke on you. Eww.) but it plays with your head. All of the houses are worth checking out, but make sure you don’t leave without experiencing these two.
• Bonus: Take the Unmasking the Horror tour. This is perfect if you don’t like the scares but love to see behind-the-scenes. The tour takes you through the houses during the day with the lights on. It gives you a chance to appreciate the crazy detail Mike Aiello and his team put into these houses year in and year out. You can choose a tour of three houses or a tour of six houses; tours are on HHN event days, and the houses you’ll see are based on availability. Tickets are available on the official website.
Love HHN so much that you’ve honestly considered flying to Carey, Ohio just to say you’ve been there? I’d love to hear from you! You can also follow me on Twitter @kburg_UF.