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Trivia / Halloween Horror Nights

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The following is a list of film, television, literary, and video game properties that have been adapted over the years into haunted houses, scarezones, or shows; whether the property was one owned by Universal Studios, licensed from another company, or in the public domain. Some of these may not seem like traditional properties, but they can be quite effective....

    Official HHN Properties 

Below is a list of properties that were "unofficially" at the event, meaning that they were sneaked in by the event's creative team by using the Captain Ersatz method on casting sheets or building permits.

    Captain Ersatz Properties 

  • Based on a Dream: The "Ring Around the Rosies" scene in 2019's Graveyard Games was based off of a nightmare that the event's former creative director, Mike Aiello, had once.
  • Creative Differences:
    • What caused the event's long-time Creative Director, J. Michael Roddy, to part after 2009.
    • The reason behind the planned Scream house being scrapped at the last minute in 2015 (see What Could Have Been below).
  • Dawson Casting: For obvious reasons, all of the child-aged characters in the event (such as Cindy) are portrayed by shorter adults. Usually the child characters are depicted as wearing masks in order to hide this.
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  • Development Hell: Many of the event's houses go through this, as a house usually has to be proposed multiple times to get approved; something that can take several years. Another reason for this is that if it's a non-Universal IP house, then the creative team will need to get the blessings of the IP's copyright holder — something that can also take a while. For example, an American Horror Story house has been proposed ever since the show first started airing, but Universal wasn't able to convince FX to let them have the license until 2016.
  • Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: The event has featured several wheelchair-bound characters that are portrayed by scareactors that cannot walk and/or have no legs. There have also been a few cases of actors with deformities being hired to play up their unusual appearance.
  • Distanced from Current Events:
    • The reason why both Eddie and Cindy never came to be as icons. Universal was afraid Eddie would be considered too violent in light of the 9/11 attacks, so he was cut and Jack, a more fantasy-kind of villain, was brought back instead. With Cindy, she was cut due to child murders that had been happening around the area at the time.
    • In the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Universal postponed the release of any new announcements concerning 2016's event until July. There were also plans to have a scarezone for The Purge: Election Year at the Orlando event that year, but it was scrapped following the shooting.
    • In 2017, the announcement of a house based on The Shining was pushed back a few weeks following an Amber Alert of missing twin girls going around.
    • During 2017's event, Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure was originally themed around a pop-culture festival, and the plot of the show involved Bill and Ted having to prove to Death that there's something redeeming about pop culture, or else he'll drag all of humanity to hell. After the Las Vegas shooting, the show was given some major revisions, with the setting being changed from a festival to a concert, and Death looking to kill only Bill and Ted, not the entire world.
  • Dueling Works: In 2011, both Halloween Horror Nights and Howl-O-Scream had a haunted house based around Edgar Allan Poe, and both houses were even titled Nevermore.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Many scareactors and show actors have had to undergo physical changes for their characters, but the most extreme example may be for Orlando in 2010's Havoc: Dogs of War and its 2013 sequel Havoc: Derailed, where every actor (male and female) shaved their head bald to play psycho super soldiers.
  • Executive Meddling: The event has experienced in some form since the beginning; and in particular, it's the reason why there has been an increase in IP houses over the past couple of years.
  • Executive Veto:
    • During the event's earlier years, there were once plans to have scare actors inside the queue line for E.T. Adventure. When Steven Spielberg found out about this, he immediately said no.
    • When the 2002 event, Islands of Fear, was held in the Islands of Adventure part of Universal Orlando, Dr. Seuss' widow Audrey Geisel vetoed attempts to host a scarezone in the Seuss Landing area of the park, feeling that it would be a disgrace to Seuss' family-friendly work and threatening to end the Seuss estate's partnership with Universal if it did so. They ultimately settled on Boo-Ville, a (somewhat) Lighter and Softer Halloween area that did not have any scareactors, but still maintained the same kind of creepy music and unsettling atmosphere that the rest of the event has.
    • Also during 2002's event, in a rather odd instance, one veto occurred after the event had already started. Supposedly, Universal did not give Marvel Comics the full details on what they were going to do with the event's "Island Under Siege" scare zone and Maximum Carnage house. When Marvel found out about the event's depiction of the heroes being brutally killed by the villains and their bodies strung up as trophies, they were less than amused. Even before Marvel got bought out by Disney, this incident pretty much ensured that Marvel's characters would never appear in the event again. note 
    • When the event returned to the Studios park in 2006, the Jaws skippers created their own script for the ride that was more adult and profane, which they hoped that they would be able to use during the event. However for reasons unknown, the script ended up getting shot down by the higher-ups.
  • Hey, It's That Place!: One of the commercials for the event in 2002 was filmed inside "Sting Alley", the hidden New York alleyway at Universal Studios Florida.
  • Milestone Celebration: Special anniversary years were done for the "Sweet 16", 20th, and 25th events.
  • Missing Episode: In a sense. Up until around 2001/2002 or so, the event was not widely documented by people, and several websites that did are no longer existent. Because of this, very few photos and videos of the event in its earlier years can be found, meaning that the only way to really get an understanding of what those years were like would be to listen to the stories of those who actually went back then.
  • Production Nickname: Every year, all of the event's houses are given vague, riddle-like codenames by the creative staff.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Many of the A&D members at Universal Studios in Orlando and Hollywood that helm the events started out as mere Scareactors/huge horror fans.
  • Prop Recycling: Very common, to the point of fans trying to identify what other houses and scarezones the props have been used in. Being Universal, they also get to use some movie props (such as a piece from Van Helsing or a Triceratops head from The Lost World: Jurassic Park). Props from former attractions like Kongfrontation and Ghostbusters Spooktacular are even sometimes used.
  • Recycled Set: The event has done this from time to time, one notable example being that 2010's Havoc: Dogs of War re-used many of the sets from The Spawning house from the year before it.
  • Release Date Change:
    • The first night of Halloween Horror Nights 25 was originally planned to be on September 25th, and it was also going to last for 25 nights; but due to fan demand for more nights, this plan was scrapped and the event instead started earlier on September 18th, and ran for 30 nights.
    • Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the 2020 event in Orlando and Hollywood was canceled out of safety concerns. What would have been the thirtieth year for the event has been pushed to next year.
  • Role Reprise: For one night only at the Hollywood event, Lupita Nyong'o played her character, Red, from Us in the house based on the respective film.
  • Screwed by the Lawyers:
    • After 2006, Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure became much more limited in what it can do with its parodies than in the past. For a long time, the show had absolute freedom in what it would lampoon, as the general assumption is that it falls under the "Parody" clause of Fair Use. Things changed in 2006, when Disney seemed to disagree and threatened to sue Universal over how the show that year utilized Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann. The controversy only worsened when on that same year DC Comics came down on Universal for its usage of Lex Luthor as the main villain of the show, and ultimately filed a cease-and-desist letter against them, which resulted in Lex Luthor being replaced by Dr. Evil on the final night of the show. After that, the show avoided putting certain copyrighted characters in the spotlight for too long, instead doing things like using a celebrity as the show's main villain rather than a movie villain. This also led to them completely banning videotaping and photography of the show, so as to prevent it from getting onto the internet and attracting unwanted attention. It is believed that the rising worries concerning the potential of legal backlash over the show's content was one of the many reasons why the show was brought to an end after 2017.
    • Thanks to Disney acquiring 21st Century Fox in 2019, the American Horror Story haunted house was not allowed to return for that year and beyond.
  • Sequel Gap:
    • 2004's Hellgate Prison house, despite being a fan-favorite, would not get a sequel until 11 years later in 2015's RUN: Blood, Sweat, and Fears, which is set inside the prison.
    • Another house from 2004, Ghost Town, went without a sequel for 12 years until 2016 with Ghost Town - The Curse of Lightning Gulch.
    • The People Under the Stairs was one of the houses in 1992 and 1993, with it not being until 13 years later that it got a sequel in 2006 called The People Under The Stairs: Under Construction.
    • Dead Exposure, one of 2008's houses, didn't receive a follow-up house until its 10th anniversary in 2018.
    • Though they appeared more frequently at Hollywood's event, Freddy, Jason, and Leatherface went absent from Orlando's event after their appearance in 2007's "Carnival of Carnage" for several years. Freddy and Jason eventually returned in 2015 with the Freddy vs. Jason house, while Leatherface returned the following year in a house based on the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre film, rather than the 2003 remake.
    • Saw got houses at both Orlando and Hollywood in 2009. Hollywood got a sequel the next year, but then Saw disappeared from the event until 7 years later when Saw: The Games of Jigsaw was at both parks.
  • Series Hiatus: Universal Studios Hollywood's HHN has gone through this a total of three times. It first started in 1986, but after an incident that resulted in the death of a scareactor, it was canceled until 1992. After 1992, it again went dark until 1997 and continued to run for 1998, 1999, and 2000 before once more going on hiatus. In 2006, the event was at last revived and has been run every year since.
  • Sleeper Hit: When the Orlando event first began in 1991, management was not expecting it to be very successful and were unsure if they would be doing it again the next year. The event ended up being a huge success, with lines for that year's only house, Dungeon of Terror, reaching over three hours long. Its success would then of course go on to make Horror Nights a yearly occurrence.
  • Throw It In!: Jack and Chance were fully allowed to improvise heavily in 2015's The Carnage Returns show, resulting in numerous Shout Outs and other random fun moments.
  • Trolling Creator: John Murdy, a self-professed carny, does this during the leadup to Hollywood's events with various puzzles and hints to what the houses are based off of the code names. They are not easy to solve.
  • Viral Marketing: Several of the event's years utilize this in advertising.
  • What Could Have Been: Many icons, houses, scarezones, and event concepts have been scrapped over the years; infamous examples include Eddie, the chainsaw-wielding horror movie addict who was changed into Jack's brother, then dumped completely due to the 9/11 attacks, Cindy being replaced by The Caretaker after a rash of child kidnappings, and an almost-finished extreme house, Extreme Fear, in 2003 that was scrapped due to fear of litigation just before the event (see below).
    • Eddie would reappear with other Icons in the Horror Night Nightmares house in 2004 and in the Horror Nights: The Hallow'd Past house & Fear Revealed scarezone in 2010. He received his own house, RUN: Hostile Territory (a sequel to the 2001 house RUN he was originally supposed to appear in) in 2006. The original RUN was intended to be his house before he was scrapped from the toned down event. In his original incarnation as Edgar Sawyer, he would have pulled a Hostile Show Takeover and killed Jack in the Opening Scaremonies. Whether Jack would have stayed dead is another story with how many times Edgar had to try before it stuck.
    • Cindy's case is interesting, as she had a cameo in Scream House: Resurrection in 2006 and her own house, The Orfanage: Ashes to Ashes in 2010. However, Universal was considering having her be the icon for the 2010 event and aren't against the idea of having her as an icon in the future.
    • In addition to having Cindy as the icon, 2002's Islands of Fear event was originally going to be even more elaborate than what the ultimate final product turned out as.
      • One notable thing is that the event would've had the park's rides be changed to reflect the theme of their respective scare zones, for instance, at Island Under Siege (Marvel Superhero Island), The Incredible Hulk Coaster would've been themed to the Green Goblin, Storm Force Accelatron would've been themed to the Kingpin and had heavy metal music playing, while Doctor Doom's Fearfall would have sound effects of blood-curdling screams added to the ride. At JP Extinction, (Jurassic Park) the River Adventure would've had extra effects added to make the ride scarier, along with having scare actors at the ride's exit. Finally, at Island of Evil Souls (Lost Continent) there would have been scare actors in the queue lines for Dueling Dragons and The Flying Unicorn, and the vehicles of the latter ride would've been facing backwards.
      • A haunted house for The Thing (1982) was originally going to be at this event for its 20th anniversary, but fell through due to budget cuts. It did ultimately come to life five years later at 2007's event, fortunately.
      • The original finale for the Project Evilution house would've included a giant Tyrannosaurus puppet.
      • Early drafts of the event included there being another comedy show inside the Sinbad theater.
      • At one point, there would have been a big nighttime show on the lagoon called Danse Macabre.
    • Concepts for an "extreme house" (a house in which, with full permission, visitors would be taken through more intense scares and scareactors would be allowed to break the cardinal rule: no touching the guests!) have been brought up for the Orlando event for quite some time. The most concrete example of this was the Severe Fear house for HHN 13 that was scrapped at the very last minute due to fear that someone might get injured and sue the park. The full treatment and construction documents can be found here. Elements from this house treatment (the door scene, the use of live flame in a house, a chainsaw wielding drill sergeant, etc.) would be reused in future houses and scarezones.
    • One of the ideas for the event in 2000 involved giving E.T. Adventure a twisted makeover that would've been dubbed "I.T.: Interstellar Terror". The differences in the attraction would've started off in the ride's queue line, where scareactors would be positioned throughout the forest to scare guests. From there, the actual ride would start off normally... until the riders reached the Green Planet, where all of the animatronics of E.T.'s friends would have been taken out and replaced with scareactors dressed as gruesome-looking aliens. The ride then would've ended with the last E.T. animatronic being replaced with Jack the Clown jumping out for one last scare. As mentioned earlier, Spielberg balked at the whole idea, which killed the proposed makeover dead in its tracks.
    • Early plans for 2003 had the icon being an evil Walt Disney-inspired animator that would've unleashed his creations upon the different islands, but in the end, A&D decided to take that year's icon into a different direction.
    • 2005's "Blood Ruins" house was originally going to be located inside the queue line for Dueling Dragons, but ended up getting moved to one of the soundstages. That same year, there were also plans for there to be an eighth house that would've carried a voodoo-type theme.
    • A scarezone for Army of Darkness was in the works for 2009's event, but cut and replaced with Lights, Camera, Hacktion due to Universal not being able to secure the license for it. A scene for the film was still sneaked into the Silver Screams house from that same year, however (via the Captain Ersatz method).
    • Many Icon concepts are gone through before Universal A&D finalizes the Icon to be used for the event. Most of these are lost to the archives but some of them eventually get used in some way, shape, or form. For example, Jack's girlfriend Chance actually had her origins as the Icon concept, Jack's EX-girlfriend Jill, in an event that would span both the main park and Islands of Adventure. Lady Luck had her origins in an earlier Icon concept as well, known as Fate (who was originally planned for the 2005 event as well).
    • 2004 originally would've featured an icon called "Dr. Payne", who also would've been involved in the Disorientorium house.
    • Earlier plans for 2001 had it being a two-park event and being about Jack going up against a modern biker-gang sort of guy. Another idea is that Eddie would've been Jack all along, and that Jack merely would've been a mask on him that he would rip off.
    • One concept for the Sweet 16 year had a scare zone that would've been located in "The Boneyard" and would've themed around Jack's "extended clown family". Another concept would've had there being a giant birthday cake prop with candles that would shoot fireworks off into the sky.
    • Supposedly, the 2012 house Gothic, set in a medieval cathedral filled with menacing gargoyles, is based on a canceled room concept for an old house.
    • Many of the masks worn by the Beasts in 2012 were based on the masks of older characters, but several of them were a more unique design. Rumor has it that these masks were part of a canceled house based on the Chupacabra.
    • There were initially plans to have 2012's event return to being in both parks due to the construction for Diagon Alley and Transformers: The Ride going on at the time, but the plans were ultimately scrapped.
    • An American Werewolf in London was set to be a house in two previous years, believed to be 2008 and 2012, and came close enough to completion that props and sets had to be scrapped or retooled. 2013 was when John Landis finally gave personal approval... and the positive reception to the house was enough for Landis to give approval again for the houses' return in 2015.
    • 2008's house Creatures! was a fun, campy house inspired by EC Comics. Set in a Southern roadhouse called the Butchered Buck, the house chronicled the battle between a group of rednecks and goofy-yet-scary aliens. That's all well and good. The problem? The alien costumes were too large and cumbersome and were deemed to be a safety hazard shortly before the event begun. With the exception of one creature seen behind a fence, there were nearly no creatures in the house called "Creatures".
    • American Horror Story was one of the planned IPs for 2013, but due to creative conflicts with the show's owners, it was scrapped and replaced with an Evil Dead (2013) house. It wouldn't be until 2016 that the show finally got its own house.
    • 2013 was going to have scarezones with a forest-type theme to tie into the "What Evil Has Taken Root?" theme that was being marketed. It ended up getting replaced when Marketing insisted on having the scarezones all be themed around The Walking Dead.
    • 2014 would've had an icon called the "Prop Master" that was cut for reasons unknown.
    • A house based off of the movie Scream almost made it into 2015's event, to the point that the house had already been fully constructed, leaked early marketing materials listed it as a marquee attraction, and an alternate version of the commercial for the event that included Ghostface had been filmed (though never aired). Things fell apart due to serious creative disagreements between Universal and The Weinstein Company, the short version being that the Weinsteins wanted the maze to be based on the new MTV reboot series while Universal's Art & Design department wanted to base it on the original movie. This led to the house being scrapped (with the scareactors getting less than two weeks' warning before rehearsals) and converted into a house based on The Purge. Numerous aspects of the planned Scream house were still very noticeable in the final product.
    • Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem was originally going to feature scenes from 2010's Catacombs and 2011's Nevermore: The Madness of Poe houses, but both wounded up being cut from the budget.
    • A third "Sprung Tent" was to be constructed in 2015 for the ninth house; but due to budget, creatives ultimately opted to use one of the Shrek 4-D theaters for the house instead. It later would be built in 2016, next to the queue line for Men in Black: Alien Attack; as the loss of the Disaster! queue line meant that a new house location needed to be added.
    • A house based on the films of Alfred Hitchcock has been proposed multiple times in the past, but has yet to materialize.
    • Likewise, a house based on H. P. Lovecraft's works has also been in Development Hell for a while.
    • The Caretaker was intended to return as an Icon for 2017, but after the mixed reception of Chance, the event's marketing department didn't feel comfortable about using any Icons outside of Jack.
    • Later on, two characters called "Blood" and "Bone" were intended to serve as the mascots of 2017's event, but due to a mixture of budget issues and creative disputes, only the latter came to be.
    • 2017's event was going to have a house based on The Conjuring, but it was dropped due to a variety of legal issues. At Orlando's event, it was replaced with the Hive house, while at Hollywood's event it was made into the Titans of Terror Maze.
    • 2017's The Horrors of Blumhouse initially was going to have a scene for Ouija, but it was cut at the last minute due to Hasbro refusing to license the property for a haunted house. Eerily similar to what happened with Scream in 2015, the scenes were given merely minor redecorations and made into scenes for The Purge. For Orlando's event, the house altogether was originally going to be based on just Insidious, but Executive Meddling resulted in it being changed to feature other Blumhouse productions. Insidious still took up most of the house, though.
    • A Beetlejuice show was proposed for 2018's event as a replacement for Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure, but it was dropped in favor of using the budget to add a tenth house to the event.
    • 2019's event was supposed to have an original house based around classic bedtime stories, but it was scrapped after executives were able to successfully negotiate for a Us house.
    • Rumor has it that the event's team once tried to pitch the idea of a Game of Thrones house, but did not achieve any success.
    • 2020's event was planned to feature a Billie Eilish themed house. When the event was cancelled, Eilish's agents declined to allow the attraction to return in 2021.
  • Working Title:
    • As said earlier, much of the houses, scarezones, and shows for 2001's event were altered following the 9/11 attacks.
    • Many instances for 2002:
      • The theme itself was titled "Islands of Horror", before being changed to "Islands of Fear".
      • Screamhouse was House of Dead Maniacs
      • Project Evilution was Jurassic Park: Extinction
      • Scary Tales II was Scary Tales Volume: 2 - Malice in Terrorland
      • Island Under Siege was Marvel City Under Siege
      • Treaks and Foons was Twisted Toons
      • Island of Evil Souls was Island of Lost Souls
      • Boo-Ville was Grinch Night
    • 2007's Psychoscareapy: Home for the Holidays was Silent Night, Psychotic Night. Despite the change, the t-shirt showing all of the year's houses retained the original title.
    • 2017's The Horrors of Blumhouse was initially titled Blumhouse of Horrors.
  • You Look Familiar: It's very common to see recurring scare actors throughout the event's years playing a different role. Even within the same year one scare actor can play multiple roles.
    • Erin Nicole Cline, the main actress that portrays Chance, also played Princess Anna in 2014's Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure show as well as the "Ring Mistress" in the 20 Penny Circus show from 2012. In the regular daytime park, she has also occasionally played Lucy Ricardo.
    • Likewise, James Keaton, the main actor that portrays Jack the Clown, has also played the title character from the park's former Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue show and portrayed Eelmouth for 2005’s event. He also has had several roles in the Bill & Ted shows from over the years.
    • Bryce Ward, one of the most known people to play The Caretaker, has also been one of the hosts for Universal's Horror Make-Up Show and one of the people to play "Lonnie" in the former Disaster! attraction.


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