A scaredy cat’s guide to Halloween Horror Nights – and other haunted house events

(CNN) – There comes a time when we have to decide which person we will be for the rest of our lives: a brave fan of horror movies or a scaredy cat who refuses to watch them.

For most of my life, I have identified as the latter. I was the teenager sitting with my back to the TV in a bedroom in “Paranormal Activity.” After watching “Insidious” I would stay awake, unable to forget its red-faced demon. While my friends talked about the decapitation in “The Hereditary” or the bent neck in “The Haunting of Hill House,” I preferred to look at Wikipedia plot summaries so I could talk about those scenes without witnessing the horror.

However, earlier this month, I found myself at Universal Orlando Resort’s Halloween Horror Nights, one of the most popular Halloween events in the US among horror fans. These aren’t homemade skin houses: Halloween Horror Nights “mazes” are movie-quality, with elaborate sets, dozens of “horror actors” whose only job is to jump and squirm, and dozens of severed limbs and bloody guts. establish

What was a chicken like me doing at an event designed for horror fans with iron stomachs? I wanted to conquer my fears, for example, but I also wanted to share the tips I picked up on my nightmare journey with my scaredy cats. (Note: I went to HHN as part of a media preview. A one-night pass is about $73 before tax.)

After surviving 10 hellish haunted houses, I came out a little braver than when I started. This is my journey from terrifying and, yes, very entertaining, to one of the scariest Halloween events of the season.

This skeleton king in a spooky pumpkin welcomed guests to the opening night of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort.

Octavian Cantelli / Universal Orlando Resort

Wear appropriate footwear

It doesn’t matter what haunted house event you attend: there will be chainsaws. If so, you’ll definitely have to run away from the running crowd, so choose your shoes so you can leave the scene quickly.

This year, the chainsaw gang from Halloween Horror Nights dressed up as scarecrows who would come to life and picked up tools they could find in a farmer’s barn to wreak havoc. They’ll lunge at you or run after you with their saws to scare you, and I almost ran into a concession stand trying to outrun them at one point. Fortunately, I was wearing slippers; I wouldn’t have run a marathon in them, but they got me out of there quickly.

Bring a friend

Okay, true, I watch horror movies if I’m forced to, but I’ve seen enough to know that you do. no undertake dangerous journeys only. “Never go alone” is also the motto of this year’s Horror Nights.

I took that advice to heart and brought along my partner, who acted as a breathing space between me and the monsters. I squeezed his arms so tight that the nails left indentations in his skin. It worked out well for both of us though, as he shouted potential scares at me as he watched and giggled with glee throughout the house (he’s a horror fan). Not bad for a first time human shield.

Play it cool

If you’re a haunted house walker who falls to the ground when a fake mummy comes out of the grave to terrorize you, the other mummies will quickly realize they can get a good scare out of you. It’s a good feeling, I guess, to see the fear these monsters cause. Maybe they work on commission?

But don’t let them see you scream, if you can. I wore a mask in every house for the prevention of Covid-19 and also to scare the actors so they wouldn’t see my hurt and petrified expression. I also wore all black like that maybe I would go with the low light sets. This was semi-successful, as there is nowhere to hide in these haunted mazes.

However, you can rest easy because at Halloween Horror Nights and many other haunted house events, the monsters can’t touch you. They’ll certainly get close, and the light and sound effects certainly make it seem like they’re inches from your nose, but they’ll never get close enough for contact. Try not to attack them — there are people under those masks!

The mummies "Universal Monsters: Legend Talk" the house awoke from their sarcophagi just in time for the mortals to join them.  How polite!

The mummies in “Universal Monsters: Legend Collide” woke up from their sarcophagi just in time for the mortals to meet them. How polite!

Roberto Gonzalez/Universal Orlando Resort

Know where to look

Carefully look into dark corners and approach every wall or curtain assuming there is a scary monster behind it. Evil lurks everywhere, but those are the favorite spots in a haunted house.

At my first house of the night, whose atmosphere can only be described as “cannibalistic nuclear apocalypse survivors living in the New York subway system,” we were tiptoed into a long-abandoned subway car. There were the familiar orange seats, now covered in dirt and the blood of dismembered passengers. I approached a false wall – meters don’t have that! — and I knew I was going to be scared. I shielded myself, even looked away, and yet a moss-covered woman with black paint around her eyes caught me anyway, rolling with glee. I yelled, and he seemed proud of himself for scaring me so much. I swear we almost shared a laugh together.

Look the monsters in the face

You know they are there. They know they will scare you. Why not look your monster attacker in the eye to show your dominance?

This was my strategy in a kitsch 1950s maze where giant, evil bugs took over a mid-century house. When I ran into a person wearing a giant cockroach costume with front antennae, I looked into his car “eyes”. Then I realized how silly they really were, and if I had seen them walking down the street, I would have laughed sooner than screamed. Then again, bugs aren’t one of my biggest fears — some of my friends were so terrified they swore they felt spiders crawling over them as they made their way.

On either side of the terrified guests, these friendly friends live inside The Weeknd's haunted house.  Here's one trying to give a guest a hug.

On either side of the terrified guests, these friendly friends live inside The Weeknd’s haunted house. Here’s one trying to give a guest a hug.

Roberto Gonzalez/Universal Orlando Resort

Find humor wherever you can

Enjoy the laughs when you find them, or better yet, when you feel a scream coming on, try to laugh. Fake it till you make it!

At one point, we walked through a “scare zone” — that is, a themed section of the park where scarecrows roam the crowd to scare you when you’re in a house — that took place in a cornfield. These were the living scarecrows again, only this time they were staring at you from fake exteriors or on hay bales.

There was one creature, however, instead of finding hedge trimmers or a chainsaw, he hilariously threatened passers-by with an ear of corn, and not particularly a spike. He was throwing his corn at us as if it were as dangerous a weapon as his neighbour’s pitchfork. Apparently, killer scarecrows are also on TikTok, and this one wanted to capitalize on the corn trend – and provide some welcome comic relief.

try to enjoy

I went into the park prepared to make chicken, as I usually do at haunted house events. But here, I saw him laughing after every scare… and loving it! Was I really enjoying myself, even though Michael Myers came with a knife and dead sailors tried to take me to their undersea lair?

At one of the last houses, I came within literal walking distance of a chupacabra puppet so terrifying — think Jim Henson meets “An American Werewolf in London” — that it made me dizzy. A smile spread across my masked face, even as I jumped into the air and ran away.

Another house set the theme and soundtrack to The Weeknd’s disturbing album “After Hours.” It was cool to dance next to the victims of plastic surgery gone horribly wrong and next to a demonic Abel Tesfaye while “Blinding Lights” and “Save Your Tears” blared. I carefully danced my way through it, which made it feel like a horror show and a sleazy club with good music that catered to some bloodthirsty people.

When the night was over, and the various monsters left after a hard day’s torment, I wanted to do it again. I’m not ready to see what the next demon child or weird exorcism movie will come out, but maybe I could tackle a haunted house inspired by them. outstanding maybe.

Halloween Horror Nights are being held at Universal Orlando Resort on select nights through October 31st.