Stranger Things come to life at Halloween Horror Nights

Darren Scott
Photo credit: Netflix

From Digital Spy

Welcome to your waking nightmare...

Running for 28 years, Halloween Horror Nights has grown to become the world's premier event for fans of things that go bump in the night. Starting life as a small-scale event in 1991, it now takes place annually at Universal Studios in Orlando, Hollywood, Singapore and Japan.

The theme parks are transformed every night, with themed 'Scare Zones' between specially constructed haunted houses – each filled with 'Scare-actors' determined to give you the fright of your life... Don't worry, they can't touch you!

With original content and licensed properties based on some of the biggest movies and TV shows, the event has grown and grown – with this year boasting more haunted houses than ever before.

A super fan and guest at the event before working on it, Michael Aiello is a horror buff of the highest level. Now Senior Director of Entertainment and Creative Development for Universal Orlando and Halloween Horror Nights – hey, not bad going – we sat down with Michael Aiello to geek out.

Photo credit: Universal Studios

[Michael Aiello]

"The event opened in 1991, it was a three-night event and it had one maze," Aiello told us. "It existed in that manner, building on mazes every year. In 2007, that was the first year we branded the event with IP [Intellectual Properties].

"That was when we did the event with Freddy, Jason and Leatherface. Our Carnival of Carnage year. That was a major milestone. We were using brands to affect the awareness of our event. Most recently we had a huge major uptake in our attendance when we announced The Walking Dead, which became a four-year relationship with that brand and AMC.

"Walking Dead, I believe, garnered at its peak, 18 million viewers a week. I can not name a prior show that was-horror related that had the population of people watching in that capacity. We're talking 18 million people a week watched a show about zombies. As a long-time horror fan, that's crazy. Because we were the weird ones!

Photo credit: Universal Studios

"Then you get a show like American Horror Story, another brand we worked with [in 2016 and 2017]. So here's two shows deeply rooted in the horror genre that are creating an audience that would never say they were a horror fan. My mother watches Walking Dead. My mother has never seen a horror film."

This year's Halloween Horror Nights features a Stranger Things maze that faithfully follows the storyline of the Netflix series, starting off on Mirkwood and then quickly moving to inside Hawkins National Laboratory where things have gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Photo credit: Universal Studios

From there, you will experience all the most memorable moments and environments from the show while being hunted at every turn by the Demogorgon.

Aiello describes the maze as "a massive undertaking, as far as the characters and the environments go" and hopes it will serve as an entry point into horror for younger fans.

"Stranger Things – take that and make it a little bit younger, 15-17-year-olds that are deeply invested in Stranger Things, that may not consider themselves a horror fan. But they're getting tricked, because they're watching a show that's deeply rooted in the textures. It's brilliant."

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 runs until November 3. For details and tickets visit

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