How to Survive Any Haunted House, According to the Experts

How to Survive Any Haunted House, According to the Experts

    Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida is one of America’s premier Halloween events.
    The haunted houses and scare zones are designed to make you jump, but they’re also incredible to look at.
    The team behind Halloween Horror Nights told Insider their tips for surviving the event — and others like it.

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Like many scary stories, this one started on a dark and stormy night. The lights inside the house were flickering and I could hear glass shattering as the windows broke one by one. Suddenly, the interior of the home glowed an ominous red and I jumped as a man shone his flashlight in my face. I was beginning my walk through the haunted house inspired by Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House” at Universal Studios Florida’s Halloween Horror Nights, and there was no turning back. 

I navigated all 10 haunted houses and five outdoor scare zones at Universal that night, and save for a scratchy throat from screaming, I survived — dare I say, I actually enjoyed myself enough to go back for a second go-around a couple weeks later. 

My success in overcoming my scaredy-cat ways was thanks, in part, to two Universal Orlando creatives whose job it is to impart this torment on unsuspecting guests like me: Lora Sauls and Charles Gray. Sauls and Gray lead Universal Orlando’s entertainment creative-development team in bringing the park’s marquee events like Halloween Horror Nights to life.

I turned to them for some tips on how to survive Halloween Horror Nights — and other haunted houses.

Walk confidently through haunted houses and other scare zones

“You have to walk with confidence,” Sauls told me. “Not overly confident, but you can’t walk scared and timid and shy, because that’s a clue to them that they’ll get a really good scare out of you.”

Scareactors in the scare zones are always waiting for an opportunity to make you scream.

Tarah Chieffi

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easier said than done when you’re being chased by a chainsaw-wielding killer. Based on anecdotal evidence I gathered during my visits, when I was screaming and showing fear in the houses, I seemed to get more monsters in my face than others who were able to temper their reactions. When I was constantly looking over my shoulders in the scare zones, I could sense the scareactors watching me and waiting for the right moment to pounce. 

An important final note on this from Sauls: “Stay off your cell phone in the scare zones.” She let me know the scareactors are always looking for people who aren’t paying attention to what’s going on around them. They’re easy targets.

Take a daytime tour of the haunted houses

On select days during HHN, guests can take a lights-on daytime tour of three or six haunted houses with not a scareactor in sight. During the tour, a guide takes small groups through the houses, pointing out props and minor details they may not notice during a regular walkthrough. 

The haunted houses are less scary when you take a daytime tour.

Tarah Chieffi

“The daytime tour guides are so knowledgeable about the houses and you can ask them as many questions as you want along the way,” Gray told Insider.

But, Gray said, taking the daytime tour may not erase all your screams.

“Depending on where you are in the line, you may hit the beginning of a show moment (or scare) one time or the end of it next time,” Gray said. “You could have a different experience each time you walk through the house.”

Still, learning more about the houses and getting familiar with the layout may help prepare you for the scares to come when you visit at night. 

Wear earplugs

This one was my own personal experiment, and it’s one I highly recommend. One of the reasons the haunted houses are so scary is that you are walking in the near dark and, bam, lights flash and loud noises blare as a scareactor pops out at you. 

My ear plugs didn’t take away from the experience, but it wasn’t as loud.

Courtesy of Tarah Chieffi

I have a pair of Earpeace Earplugs that are designed to allow sound through, but at a lower volume. I tried them in a couple of houses to test the difference and I could still hear every sound, but it wasn’t quite as startling. 

Try a dose of liquid courage

In my experience, a drink or two can act as a nerve-calming buffer in social situations.

A beer float (or other adult beverage) may help calm your fears.

Courtesy of Tarah Chieffi

Your mileage may vary, but this peanut butter chocolate milk stout beer float alleviated the nervousness I felt before navigating the houses. 

Do something else to get a break from being scared

Even though I was enjoying myself, I still found I needed a few moments to recover after some of the houses (specifically the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” one). Luckily, Universal built in some ways to take a break and still take part in the event.

“In addition to our haunted houses and scare zones, we have two all-new live shows,” Gray said. “If you’re somebody who wants to chill out and watch a show, you can go do that.” 

The Halloween Nightmare Fuel show is too sexy to be scary.

Tarah Chieffi

And chill out, I did. “Marathon of Mayhem: Carnage Factory” uses lights, music, and video projections to highlight some of the spooky stars of HHN, and “Halloween Nightmare Fuel” is a sexy stage show featuring aerial performers, dancers, fire dancers, and pyrotechnics. They weren’t at all scary, but kept me in the spirit of the event.

Some of Universal’s thrill rides also stay open during the event. Because most people are there for the haunted houses, you can hop on the rides with only a very short wait.

Overall, I still screamed my head off — but I had a great time doing it

Of all these tips, I think the most important one is to just go for it. After the tall ghost in the bowler hat from “The Haunting of Hill House” lunged at me one final time just before I exited my first haunted house of the night, a sense of relief washed over me that assured me I could survive the rest of them. 

I’m no longer afraid of the fog.

Courtesy of Tarah Chieffi

And if I can do it, anyone can.

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