Halloween season has come to a close across the country as theme parks shift into Christmas mode. But that doesn’t mean we’re done with the spookiest of seasons quite yet, still working on a few leftover stories beginning with a look back at the final surprises of Halloween Horror Nights 2013.
This year Universal Orlando extended Horror Nights past Halloween, adding two more nights of terror on November 1 and 2. And on the last Saturday evening, a chill filled the air as the sunset glowed behind the park’s city facades making the “Atlanta” scare zone appear to be smoldering away.
There are many reasons to visit Halloween Horror Nights after its namesake holiday, the most obvious of which is to simply enjoy a few more scares. From opening night through this final evening, the many scareactors turned walkers throughout the park’s streets never let up. It’s always amusing to step back and watch the horror take place.
The last night was a chance to revisit all of the haunted houses of Halloween Horror Nights 23 and, even then, the experiences were still changing and improving. Resident Evil easily become the most improved over the course of the event, adding more zombies in its first scene and in the “Pause” room, more animated features like a Licker’s tongue, and adding surprise scares to its finale. An American Werewolf in London continues to stand out as the best overall maze, with Cabin in the Woods a close second. But the ending of Evil Dead seemed to bring the most scares courtesy of the “naked” demon popping out of the forest – twice.
And speaking of Evil Dead, on this final night I witnessed a shift change inside the soundstage during which a few of the costumed scareactor came out to scare unsuspecting guests still waiting in line. It was a creepy and unexpected surprise, offering me only a few brief moments to snap a couple blurry photos.
In recent weeks, “The Walking Dead” theme of the streets received a few enhancements, including a better look for Bicycle Girl and the addition of Michonne’s pets.
For those who have been following the Legendary Truth interactive experience and games in the park and online, the final night was a chance to enjoy this year’s grand finale event. Throughout the weeks of haunted house hopping, puzzle solving, and plenty of RFID scanning, Legendary Truth had brought Horror Nights’ biggest fans together to socialize. This year’s additions to the experience included scanners hidden in park windows as well as special cards that could greatly increase or decrease players’ scores.
For the finale, hundreds of players followed a clue to the street surrounding the Blues Brothers stage, ultimately directed from one end to the other to see a few faces not normally part of an average evening at Horror Nights.
Video: Legendary Truth finale event at Halloween Horror Nights 2013
Head of Legendary Truth Dr. Thorncastle was there, his first appearance since showing up at Halloween Extreme a few months ago. And much to the delight of fans, Universal brought out Goth Wackee, another character previously only seen on Facebook. A fan favorite street character from last year, Rosie the Fox Girl, also surprised the group by showing up and leading her legion (Morphans) on a march through the area.
In the end, Universal Orlando’s director of art and design TJ Mannarino took the stage to thank everyone for playing, noting that Legendary Truth will continue well beyond the conclusion of Halloween Horror Nights 2013, with games continuing to be played online and possible in-park activities happening throughout the year.
And keeping with Legendary Truth tradition, cookies were handed out – this time a fortune cookie with a secret code inside. Decrypted, it reads “beware the horror within” – an ominous warning for what’s yet to come.
Then the night wrapped up with a final performance of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure, with the crowd enthusiastically saying all the lines along with the cast – who improved more than a few hilarious additional moments. Bill and Ted ended by thanking the Universal Orlando team, led by creative director Mike Aiello, for creating another fine year of Halloween Horror Nights.
And as the duo disappeared via their time-traveling phone booth, so did Halloween Horror Nights 23. It was an unusual year, certainly, with “The Walking Dead” receiving mixed reactions as the sole street theme. Moreover, the highly-marketed haunted houses based on “Evil Dead,” “Resident Evil” and “The Walking Dead” ended up not even being the favorites, with “An American Werewolf in London” and “Cabin in the Woods” coming out on top. Though the bigger names may get guests through the turnstiles, it’s ultimately the best experiences that they leave talking about – necessary to spread the word about just how great Horror Nights can be.
More photos from Halloween Horror Nights 23 at Universal Orlando:
More photos from Legendary Truth 2013: