This week is a very special one as we have a second SATURDAY SIX taking a look at the Six MORE Reasons We Love Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights 25. That’s right, six MORE because we already give six of our favorite reasons why this year’s HHN is one of the best ever. But there was just so much more we wanted to talk about, and what better day to do it than Halloween itself?! So sit back, eat some of the good candy you bought for trick or treat but is really for you, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – HHN Bear
Every year a surprise hit comes out of HHN. Last year at HHN 24 it was Puppet Dyin’ (you had to be there). This year, the SILVER ANNIVERSARY of HHN no less (when Jack is back, there’s an incredible new stage show, and four houses that could be considered the best house in any given HHN), the viral sensation turned out to be HHN Bear. A scareactor located in Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters & Mayhem, HHN Bear was an immediate hit and took on a life of its own, including a Twitter account (@HHNBear) that has been favorited and retweeted by a Who’s Who of the HHN Community (not to mention some famous wrestlers such as Stardust and Scotty 2 Hotty.)
Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters & Mayhem is basically a “greatest hits” of awesome haunted houses Universal has made over the years. HHN Bear can be seen in the room recreating a scene from Scary Tales (HHN 18) and is a terrifying take on the Goldilocks children’s story. While guests are distracted by one bear on the floor going to town on a poor victim, out comes HHN Bear for the big fright. A classic misdirection that works to great effect, but one thing that has taken on a life of its own is guests in the know chanting “Bear! Bear! Bear!” when HHN Bear attacks. This chant has, on occasion, started an impromptu HHN Bear dance.
# 5 – Churro Dog!!!!
The movie Unbreakable taught us that if there is a truly evil thing in the world, there is also a truly great thing to balance it out. HHN 25 brought us many great things, but it also unleashed the Pizza Dog onto the world. What could be the antithesis to one of the most foul foods ever created outside the BoardWalk Pizza Window? Please welcome, the CHURRO DOG.
A churro is placed into a bun made out of a doughnut. You read that right, the churro is wrapped in a doughnut. That alone could possibly end the very idea of Atheism as this culinary concoction is clearly the work of some divine inspiration. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. On top of the churro is a healthy* serving of whipped cream, caramel and chocolate sauce. Finally… FINALLY something to replace our beloved fried peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich. Thank you HHN!
*Not healthy in the “healthy” sense of the word, but healthy in the “not healthy” sense.
# 4 – The Unmasking the Horror Tours
The absolute MUST DO for any HHN fan is the Unmasking the Horror Tours, which are a lights on look at several of the haunted houses. Not only do you get to see AMAZING details that you will never notice while walking through the houses during the event, but you are lead through the tour by a Universal VIP tour guide who gives background information on the houses and how HHN operates. It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at one of the premier Halloween events in the country. This year we took the tours with our friends at Pixels at the Parks and Orlando United, both of whom have fantastic articles filled with must see pictures. You can also read the articles we did on the tours from HHN 23 that including Morning Menace (La Llorona, The Walking Dead, The Cabin in the Woods) and Afternoon Abominations (Resident Evil, An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead).
I can not recommend these tours highly enough, and the VIP Tour Guides we have had over the years have all been great, but I do want to spotlight the guide we had this year, David. A HHN fan from Year One, David was an invaluable resource on each house and was incredible as he explained how the Team Members did their jobs inside the houses along with mixing in details of HHN history. What an amazing representative for Universal. A tip of the hat to you David.
# 3 – An Empty Diagon Alley
We here at the SATURDAY SIX love Diagon Alley. It is one of the most immersive lands ever created in the theme park industry. Turns out it’s even better when it’s empty. Ever want to take pictures in the insanely detailed bank lobby of Escape From Gringotts without no one else around? How about getting a Butterbeer ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s with no line? Did someone say no waiting for spells? Now you can do all of that, along with just roaming Carkitt Market and Knockturn Alley (Borgin and Burkes is extra creepy). Diagon Alley during HHN is even better than the Disney or Universal parks during Extra Magic Hours or early admission. Oh and by the way, the fire breathing dragon is even more spectacular at night.
# 2 – The ability to go MORE for LESS
We love Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, but if we want to go twice we have to buy two full priced tickets. Three times? We have to buy three full price tickets. In fact you can go to all the MNSSHP events and not get a price break on a single ticket. HHN on the other hand offers some insanely good deals for people who really enjoy the event. At the start of the event is the RUSH OF FEAR ticket, which allows guests to get into every single night of HHN for the first three weeks of the event for a price lower than a single night ticket. It’s bananas. Then there is the Frequent Fear ticket, which gives you every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday night through the end of the event for the price of about one HHN ticket. These are ridiculously good deals for fans of HHN. There are great annual pass and Florida resident discounts on tickets as well. If only theme park tickets for both Universal and Disney could be this affordable the rest of the year!
# 1 – The Scareactors
The haunted houses and the great IPs Universal gets for each HHN may get the lion’s share of attention and press, but it’s the hard work of the scareactors which we love more than everything. And we’re not just talking the awesome Team Members out and about on the streets, but the entire team involved on creating and bringing their great characters to life. During the Unmasking the Horror Tour we walked by some of the backstage area of Universal while everyone was getting ready for HHN to start and you can only describe it as “organized chaos.” It’s truly amazing that on each night of HHN so many people can be coordinated, put into costume, and given intricate makeup in such a short amount of time.
HHN 25 had some of the best scarezones in years, in large part to the awesome scareactors roaming the areas, and the entire team deserves a standing ovation.
HONORABLE MENTION: The Carnival Games
We here at the SATURDAY SIX are huge fans of Universal’s “games of skill” (especially the hilarious ones in Springfield USA) but we can’t deny they are a very hot button topic for many others. HHN brings out their own set of carnival games with great items that can’t be bought at any store in the park. This is the ONLY place you are going to find plush for Freddy, Jason, or Sam from Trick r Treat. There’s even Gizmo from Gremlins and Beetlejuice.
I will sign any petition to get rid of the games in Toon Lagoon which are poorly themed AND give out bad prizes, but in turn I will always knight up for carnival games that are well themed and/or offer great prizes.
DOUBLE SECRET HONORABLE MENTION: HHN Coins
This was a true surprise. Guests, including us, have stumbled upon HHN coins inside the houses. Some have discovered them while going through the houses at night, while others have found them during the tours during the day. While there is no official confirmation, it appears these coins are being left by an HHN super fan who is “giving back” to the community. These HHN coins are ones that were thrown to the crowd in Festival of the Dead parades from years past (think of an HHN version of the Mardi Gras parades Universal holds in the Spring).
So there you have it: the Six MORE Reasons We Loved HHN 25. See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan)
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Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, the lovely and talented Jenn Tracker, photo wunderkind Mike Sperduto, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and Brian Carey.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now and support SIX NATION (boy do we need a better name than that.)