Photo / Violet Chace
Halloween Horror Nights has returned for the 30th year of fears. Fans were deprived of the event due to the pandemic and the anniversary was pushed back to this September through October. Excitement over the return of the event is coupled with nervousness over the number of visitors in the park for senior Madison Mills.
“The amount of people was terrifying.” Mills said. “I thought it wouldn’t have that many people since it’s not October and I even commented that in October it’s going to get even worse. A lot of people had no care for their safety.”
Frequent theme park goer and IT specialist, Anthony Albert, says that the pandemic made him and his family hesitate to return to large scale events.
“We had canceled our passes to Disney and Universal after the COVID outbreak,” Albert said. “First of all we didnt think it was a good idea to stand with a billion other people in close proximity because we had no idea what this thing was going to be.”
Mills says that returning to crowded areas after a long period of isolation is anxiety inducing especially because of how few of the guests wear masks.
“I knew there were going to be a lot of people,” Mills said. “And I did [wear a mask] for the scare actors’ safety. Some of the scare actors in the scare zones weren’t wearing masks which was probably regulated, but it just felt odd. I only saw a couple people wearing masks which made me uncomfortable.”
Halloween Horror Nights employee, John Rochat, says that many guests have brought up grievances about the negative effects that COVID-19 precautions have on the scariness of the haunted houses compared to past years.
“I am a huge fan of the event and have been going every year since 2011,” Rochat said. “I have yet to go casually this year so I cannot speak for myself, but I get frequent remarks from guests about the quality of the event. They mention such statements as, ‘the plexiglass makes the houses less scary and immersive’ and, ‘two houses are artistically driven as opposed to being focused on scaring you, such as the Beetlejuice house and Haunting of Hill House.'”
Although rules for safety may hinder the full experience, senior Grace Peters says they are necessary to help guests and team members feel safer since the pandemic is not over yet.
“It did feel just a little bit more comfortable because I knew the actors could not get very close to me,” Grace Peters said. “However, that does take out some of the fun of being scared.”
Albert says that despite the somewhat distracting protocols, the haunted houses did not disappoint.
“My favorite house is a toss up between Hillhouse and Wicked Growth,” Albert said. “Then there’s the HP Lovecraft one, Case Files. It’s like you’re walking through one of those Eldritch board games. We go in like twice a night just so that we can get the whole story.”
Halloween Horror Nights is not only fun for guests. Rochat says that working for Universal studios at night is an entirely different experience than what he is used to.
“I am genuinely excited to go to work for the first time’” Rochat said. “I am a fan of the event, and it is relieving to see most guests having a good time and in a good mood. I am thankful for the opportunity.”
Albert says that Halloween Horror Nights is absolutely worth the money if you are comfortable encountering the unavoidable crowds at the event.
“My wife and I have been vaccinated and my overall outlook on it is, especially after all this time, if you don’t feel safe being out with people then you shouldn’t be in that environment,” Albert said. “Instead of the mindset of ‘I need to make sure everyone around me is wearing a mask’ especially with leisure things like going to the theme parks. It is different here at school because we have to be here and when you’re forced into environments with people you should give common courtesy, so I haven’t felt unsafe at all.”