As haunted house competition heats up, Universal looks to grow Halloween Horror Nights


Jack the Clown will return to Halloween Horror Nights - PHOTO VIA UNIVERSAL
  • Photo via Universal
  • Jack the Clown will return to Halloween Horror Nights

Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights has made the region one of the biggest spots worldwide for fans of spooky season. Now in its thirtieth year, the event has grown from a small weekend affair to a massive spectacular that lasts multiple months. As crowds grow ever larger, Universal has looked at ways to expand the event into a multi-day experience, but a new offering this year may be their biggest addition yet.

For years, the park has added  unique upcharge events for superfans of the haunted house attraction. In 2019, they took this a step further with a small pop-up Stranger Things experience only available to guests at Cabana Bay.

After taking 2020 off, Halloween Horror Nights is returning and, with it, a brand-new pop-up experience for the resort. This one is themed to Jack “The Clown” Schmidt, the crazed clown figure who is among the best known of Halloween Horror Nights’ original creations.

Jack has been featured as an icon for numerous years, but this is the first time he will have a stand-alone experience outside of the event itself. Like the Stranger Things attraction, this will remain exclusive to on-site guests.
Halloween Horror Nights has pulled off these pop-ups before, including an upcharge V.R. experience in 2016 that is still viewed as one of the best V.R. attractions ever to be seen in a theme park.

Known as the “Jack’d Up” experience, the Cabana Bay pop-up  will include numerous made for social media vignettes celebrating Jack’s history at HHN, including an opportunity to experience firsthand Jack’s human-sized blender, featured in a popular stage show in 2015. It was one of the multiple murder weapons that Jack used during the show, with most of the performances featuring heavy amounts of gore, a popular theme for the crazed clown.

Like the Stranger Things pop-up, Jack'd will also include a bar open to all guests. It will be themed to Universal’s Classic Monsters.

Other studios, including Netflix, have tried getting into the scare industry. A Stranger Things drive-in haunt experience was offered last year and Warner Bros. horror films could be seen in a temporary selfie-style museum created by artist Maximillian with Warner Bros. involvement.

Universal does have a large stable of in-house properties it can build from, and event-specific icons, such as Jack, help keep the event relevant. Universal’s use of film and pop culture franchises have proven successful, including fueling fanbases for the original properties found within the event.Universal has already confirmed this year's event will include a house based onTim Burton’s Beetlejuice. That house saw a short preview for day guests last year.

The same can’t be said for Howl-O-Scream, a similar event seen at Busch Gardens Tampa. Despite working with people such as the horror film legend Robin Cowie and celebrities like Butch Patrick from the T.V. show “The Munsters,” Howl-O-Scream has yet to find the fervent fanbase that Halloween Horror Nights enjoys. That’s unlikely to change even as Howl-O-Scream comes to SeaWorld Orlando.

After thirty years, Universal has seemingly found the secret sauce of what makes a successful Halloween event, and if the Jack’d Up pop-up is any indication, there’s still plenty of ways for the event to grow.
  • Photo via Universal Orlando

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