A Coward’s Guide to Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights (and Other Haunted Events)

in Haunted Attractions, Theme Parks

Man screaming at Halloween Horror Nights

Credit: Halloween Horror Nights Twitter (@HorrorNightsORL)

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios is a horror fan’s dream. However, some people not as used to getting scared may still want to engage in the frightening festivities. Here are some tips that scared cats can use for any Halloween theme park event.

The Universal arch lit up for Halloween Horror Nights
Credit: Universal Studios

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It’s officially the time of year when things start to get spooky. For some, Halloween is just around the corner. For others, it has been here since July. Either way, theme parks are getting ready to try and scare the pants off of their guests with terrifying Scare Zones, mazes/haunted houses, and Scare Actors ready to strike at any moment.

However, some do not wish to have the bejeezus scared out of them. Does that mean these scaredy cats can’t enjoy events like Halloween Horror Nights? What about Six Flags Fright Fest, Knott’s Scary Farm, or SeaWorld Howl-O-Scream? Of course not! So, I prepared a guide for all the cowards out there.

A couple at Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream
Credit: Busch Gardens

So, what makes me qualified to give advice in this particular scenario? Simple. I, myself, am a coward. For the longest time, I didn’t enjoy watching scary movies or going into haunted houses. That all changed when I got married. My wife LOVES horror and anything to do with Halloween.

Naturally, I had to adapt. Throughout the years, I gathered tips and tricks to get through these events, and now I actually enjoy them! So, if you, too, would like to experience the best that Halloween has to offer despite your yellow-bellied disposition, read on. Here’s the best advice I found to help cowards get through Halloween Horror Nights and any other Halloween theme park event.

Go in a Group and Don’t Separate, Especially in Scare Zones

Guests running from a zombified cowboy at Knott's Scary Farm
Credit: Knott’s Berry Farm

This piece of advice may seem obvious, but it stands nonetheless. In any horror movie, the main characters are safest when they stick together. The last thing they should ever do is split up. It’s the same at any Halloween event. Stick with the group, and everything should be alright.

This is especially true for Scare Zones. In a haunted house, you will almost be guaranteed to stick with the people you came with. However, if the group wants to go in a maze that feels like it would be a bit too much for you, and you stay behind, it would probably be wise to find a place where there is a large group of people, like a food court or a bar. And speaking of a bar…

Have a Drink (Or Two. Or Three.) at CityWalk Near Universal Studios

Black Margaritas at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios
Credit: Universal Studios

They don’t call it liquid courage for nothing. The most important advice I found was to have a couple of drinks to really let loose and fully enjoy the experience. It’ll make you a little braver and more open to new experiences.

This is especially easy at Universal Studios when Universal CityWalk is just in front of the entrance. Head over to the park early and pregame before the main event. Every other park should have plenty of alcohol options as well, but one of the best is at Knott’s Berry Farm, where there is a saloon with a creepy piano player. The ambiance is excellent, and the drinks are incredible.

That being said, don’t go too crazy. Nobody wants to be that person at a party who can’t hold their liquor, and you definitely don’t want to be that person at a theme park. Plus, the constant loud noises won’t help at all.

Earplugs Minimize the Jump Scares

seaworld-howl-o-scream-sirens
Credit: SeaWorld Orlando

Regarding jump scares, most of the biggest shocks are auditory. Sure, there’s a giant, scary monster leaping in front of you with a terrifying face surrounded by flashing lights, but the thing that really gets you is the accompanying sound. If you can dampen that, you’ll be in the clear.

If you are particularly sensitive to sound, earplugs are a great way to minimize the effect without ruining the experience. It won’t completely eliminate what you hear but it will make it much less startling. You can go to pretty much any shop and find a cheap pair you can easily carry in your pocket. Plus, you’ll still be able to enjoy all of the cool visuals that accompany the sets, costumes, and makeup.

Focus on the Details of the Mazes, Especially at Universal Studios

A clown in the Mesmer maze at Knott's Scary Farm
Credit: Knott’s Berry Farm

If you’re scared and inside a haunted house, it’s easy to forget that you are moving through a work of art. Professionals have spent all their time perfecting every single detail to make the experience as scary and realistic as possible. Why not take a moment to recognize that?

While this is true for all these events, it is especially true for Halloween Horror Nights. Universal Studios has movie money. They have basically created active movie sets you can walk through and enjoy. Seriously, some of the things they are able to do are mind-blowing.

A multicolored window in a dark hallway with a spectral woman at the end for Haunting of Hill House at Halloween Horror Nights
Credit: Universal Studios

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This also works incredibly well in the various Scare Zones. Yes, there’s a chance that a Scare Actor will see you and try to scare you, but here’s the thing: you aren’t the only person there. Scare Actors want to frighten as many people as possible. Don’t be afraid to sit back and watch the professionals do their job. Watching a woman get so scared she threw her popcorn in the air was one of my personal highlights from last year.

If the Haunted House is Based on a Film, See It Ahead of Time

Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood Exorcist: Believer, Monsters Unmasked, Chucky: Kill Count
Credit: Universal Studios

In any professional sport, most teammates will get together and watch footage of their opponents ahead of time to know what they’re up against. Since Halloween Horror Nights and even Six Flags Fright Fest have many mazes based on existing films and video games, you can do the same thing.

Every single maze, attraction, and Scare Zone is listed on the theme park’s website, so you can plan ahead of time what you think you can and can’t handle. A great way to take this even further is to watch a movie that a haunted house is based on. Not only does this help you figure out where the scares will most likely be, but you can figure it out at your own pace.

Monstruo: Monsters of Latin America maze for Halloween Horror Nights
Credit: Inside The Magic

While this is harder to do for original mazes, it is still possible to do some research. If you’re going later in the event’s run, you will probably be able to find walkthroughs of the maze online. On top of that, there is a ton of information about the mazes from fanatics. For example, the new haunted house Monstruos: The Monsters of Latin America features multiple traditional monsters from across Latin America. You can quickly look up the legends online and learn about them.

Will this eliminate the spontaneity of not knowing what’s about to happen? Probably. But if that makes the experience more enjoyable for you, then you should absolutely do it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Break at Universal Studios

A hypnotist in a top hat hypnotizing a clown in orange lighting at Knott's Scary Farm
Credit: Knott’s Berry Farm

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Listen, doing anything for multiple hours takes a toll on anyone. If you are spending a whole day at Walt Disney World, you know that you need to take a break, rest your feet, and gather yourself. It’s the exact same thing with Halloween Horror nights.

If you are feeling tired or a particular maze was too much for you to handle, don’t be afraid to tell your group that you need to take a break. Stop, take a moment, and maybe even grab another drink if necessary. Just make sure that you feel confident enough to tackle whatever’s next. The best thing you can do is take care of yourself.

Don’t Look Scared, It Makes You a Target

People being scared by a clown with an axe in Knott's Scary Farm
Credit: Knott’s Berry Farm

While this may be another obvious piece of advice, it is also the hardest to execute. What’s the best way to not be scared? Don’t be scared! Wasn’t that easy? It’s much easier said than done, but there are steps you can take to at least make yourself appear as if you aren’t absolutely terrified.

First of all, don’t hide behind anyone. That immediately puts a target on your back. Nothing gets a Scare Actor’s attention faster than cowering behind someone else, especially if they’re a head-and-a-half shorter than you. Once again, I am speaking from experience.

Instead, take up a bit more space than you usually do and take deep breaths. While this doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be targeted, it does make you much less appetizing. That being said, don’t take it too far.

Don’t Look Too Brave, It Also Makes You a Target

A man in a Batman shirt getting scared by the Alien from Alien vs. Predator at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios
Credit: Universal Studios

Related: Knott’s Berry Farm Brings Back Controversial Canceled Show

When you’re trying not to look like a coward, one of the first things you’ll want to do is make yourself look braver than ever. You’ll stand tall, stick out your chest, face forward, and maybe even talk a little louder. Whatever you do, DO NOT DO THIS.

If Scare Actors love to go after easy targets, they really like to go after people who look infallible. These people are professionals, and they take pride in what they do. Of course, they’ll want to go after the biggest and the toughest-looking guests they can find. This may seem impossible but try to find the perfect middle ground between coward and hero. In other words, act like there aren’t a bunch of chainsaw-wielding clowns around you.

Laugh!

seaworld-howl-o-scream-scarers
Credit: SeaWorld Orlando

Laughter truly is the best medicine. It has been proven that even simulated laughter can have positive effects on your psyche. So, if you’re in a situation where you are feeling scared and uncomfortable, one of the best things you can do is laugh. This works wonders at any Halloween or horror event.

Now, this tip isn’t saying to go up to a Scare Actor’s face and start laughing at them. That’s weird and, once again, makes you a target. Instead, find the joy in what you’re doing. If you’re with friends, talk about what just happened and laugh about it. Not only will it make you feel better, it will bring you closer to those around you.

The No Boo Necklace (Not at Universal Studios)

knotts-scary-farm-no-boo
Credit: Knott’s Berry Farm

This, here, is the last resort. Although it isn’t offered at Universal Studios Hollywood or Universal Orlando Resort, other events like Knott’s Scary Farm and Howl-O-Scream offer a No Boo Necklace that prevents Scare Actors from scaring you. This may seem like an easy solution to the problem, but there are a few caveats.

First of all, it’s not guaranteed to work. While the necklaces light up in the darkness, the Scare Actors wear masks and a lot of makeup. There is a good chance they won’t see it and scare you anyway. On top of that, it doesn’t work in mazes, so you’ll still be subject to scares there. It’s also pretty pricey at about $15. That money can be spent better on food or other fun merchandise.

@jeremyhanna753

Knott’s introduces the No-Boo Necklace for Scary Farm and the crowd… well… Seriously though, props to the hosts for getting through this. #knottsberryfarm #knotts #knottsscaryfarm #knottsscaryfarm2023 #noboonecklace #halloween #halloweenhorrornightshollywood #hhn #hhn32 #frightfest #universalstudios #halloweenhorrornightsorlando #sixflags #hauntedhouse #scary #boo

♬ original sound – jeremyhanna753

Finally, you will be judged for it. While the different parks’ intentions are good, the reaction from the horror community hasn’t been nearly as positive. Just listen to the sound of Knott’s Scary Farm guests when it was announced this year. Still, if you want to feel more secure at these events, the No Boo Necklace is the way to go.

Remember: It’s Supposed To Be Fun

A couple dining with a scare actor at Halloween Horror Nights
Credit: Universal Studios

No matter how you feel about theme park Halloween events or getting scared, remember that one rule is more important than the rest: Have fun! Take in the ambiance, the excitement, and even the terror that comes with Halloween Horror Nights, Knott’s Scary Farm, Six Flags Fright Fest, or any other haunted attraction. As long as you aren’t causing harm to the Scare Actors or fellow Guests, you’ll be in for a good night.

Like comedy, romance, and drama, horror is meant to unify an audience through a singular emotional experience. It just so happens that horror focuses on fear. Have a drink, stick with your buddies, and don’t do anything that you don’t feel you can handle. Just remember to have a blast. See you in the fog!

Do you have any additional advice for other scaredy cats? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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