Ohio gets its fair share of snide comments and unglamorous depictions in movies, but the state is getting its revenge on tourists at “Halloween Horror Nights XX” at Universal Studios — in a haunted house.
The attraction, “Legendary Truth: The Wyandot Estate,” is named after a property in Carey, Ohio, located outside of Sandusky. Universal’s scary story about the house goes like this: Estate owner Malcolm Wyandot killed his wife and 13 guests before committing suicide in 1929. Now the spirits of the house are out to spook Halloween thrill-seekers.
The house was envisioned by Halloween Horror Nights show director Lora Wallace, who grew up in Ohio. “Legendary Truth” is Universal’s first true haunted house, she said.
“In the past two decades, we have never done a haunted house,” said Patrick Braillard, another show director, at a press conference for Horror Nights. “We’ve done haunted mazes and we’ve done a lot of different things with ghosts … but we’ve never actually done ghosts.”
The Ohio-inspired house is one of eight haunted attractions at Universal’s Horror Nights. The park also features six “scare zones,” where visitors encounter chain saw drill teams, Mardi Gras-clad zombies and wrinkled witches on their way to the haunted mazes.
“You are technically safe if you walk on the sidewalks,” Wallace said, “technically.”
This year marks two decades of Universal’s Halloween event, which has attracted a following of loyal Florida residents. In the past, the show directors created “icons,” such as Jack the Clown and Bloody Mary, to serve as figureheads for the event. But they wanted to theme Horror Nights differently for the anniversary, Braillard said.
“We knew that if we were going to use the icons this year, we didn’t want to have a reunion party,” he said. “We weren’t going to get them together and sing ‘Kumbaya’ and kill somebody. They serve a bigger purpose.”
Instead, the icons represent chaos, death, sacrifice, legend and vengeance, six variables that induce fear. And fear, personified in a stilted, devil-like character who roams in one of the scare zones, is the theme of this year’s Horror Nights, which has the moniker “Twenty Years of Fear.” Braillard said Fear “sent this entire event in motion 20 years ago. And now Fear is out and he is not happy.”
The other icons still get some limelight in the haunted house “Horror Nights: The Hallow’d Past,” which features disturbing scenes, including a Wonderland-gone-wrong where the White Rabbit’s intestines are being eaten by one of the house’s aggressors.
White Rabbit aside, Braillard said this year’s Horror Nights does not have any victims.
“You look over there and you see someone going, ‘Oh, help me,” and that’s not scary,” he said about victims at past Horror Nights events. “This year, every single person … is an aggressor. All of them want your blood — they want to hurt you, they want to kill you.”
Aggressors vary with the theme of each house, from a creepy little girl named Cindy who haunts a burning orphanage to testosterone-filled super soldiers who create havoc in a laboratory.
In the house “Catacombs: Black Death Rising,” plague doctors donning beaked gas masks and black overcoats were sealed into France’s catacombs along with those who died from the plague. Horror Nights visitors enter those catacombs.
“These guys have been down there for almost 500 years and they are pissed,” Braillard said. “You walk through this maze, and there’s blind corner after blind corner.”
The elaborate themes and sets of the houses have earned Halloween Horror Nights the title of Best Halloween Event in Amusement Today, a theme park trade magazine, for three years in a row (2008-10).
This year’s Horror Nights are on weekends through Halloween. For descriptions of featured attractions and tickets and vacation package information, visit HalloweenHorrorNights.com.
The Lantern copy chief Leah Wynalek attended Halloween Horror Nights as part of a college media trip paid for by Universal Studios.