Halloween Horror Nights celebrates sweet 16

As the sound of screams and rusty chainsaws resonate through the streets at Universal Studios indicating that Halloween Horror Nights is back and scarier than ever, it’s easy to tell there is nothing “sweet” about this 16th birthday.

This year Halloween Horror Nights is celebrating its past 15 years. The annual event debuted in 1991 as Fright Night, a three-night event that displayed a haunted house.

“We want to take this year to do a tribute to the fans,” said T.J. Mannarino, director of entertainment for Universal Studios. “We have robbed the graves of Halloween Horror Nights past to create a new, more terrifying monster,” Mannarino said.

In celebration of Halloween Horror Nights Sweet 16, four popular “scareactors” who have hosted a previous Horror Night will come together to “wreak havoc” on guests. Guests may also recognize the rat lady, who debuted in 1991, being escorted throughout the park grounds.

Sweet 16 brings back Jack from Horror Night 2000, the psychotic circus clown; The Caretaker from 2002’s event, a mortician whose clients will not stay dead; The Storyteller from 2005’s celebration, an old lady who puts her own demented spin on bedtime stories; and The Director from Horror Night 2003, who brings the characters in his movies from the big screen to life.

This year’s event will feature seven classic haunted houses from the past 15 years with new elements added to further scare its guests. The four main attractions will be those dedicated to the hosts of Sweet 16.

“All Nite Die-In – Take 2,” The Director’s haunted house, takes you through classic horror cinema from “The Grudge” and “Hellraiser” to “Silence of the Lambs” and “Scream.”

“Psychoscareapy-Maximum Madness” takes you through Shady Brook Hospital, where Jack takes you through his “insane-o-sylum.” In this hospital, you weave your way through mattress pads while checking out the residents housed there.

“Dungeon of Terror-Retold,” The Storyteller’s house, gives a different spin on the three little pigs. It takes you through different fairy tale settings with Universal’s own twisted spin.

In “Scream House – The Resurrection,” The Caretaker does his best to catch individuals off guard while walking through his mortuary. His victims tend to jump out of caskets and around corners to get the jump on guests walking through.

Along with the previous haunted houses mentioned, Horror Nights includes the attractions “Psycho Path – The Return of Norman Bates,” “People Under The Stairs: Under Construction,” and “Run: Hostile Territory.”

The seven haunted houses aren’t the only places where Universal tries to scare visitors. Individuals will be warned before entering three distinct scare zones “Harvest of the Souls,” “Deadtropolis: Zombie Siege” and “Blood Masquerade.” Be careful – “Scareactors” who blend in with the crowds roam these zones trying to catch those who enter off guard.

Universal plans to outdo its previous 15 Halloween Horror Nights with the inclusion of three shows, “The Arrival,” “Sweet 16: The Director’s Cut” and “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure.”

Mannarino said this year’s Sweet 16 is a coming of age. Each haunted house is designed differently so “everyone can have a different scare,” Mannarino said. And instead of having people trying to scare you throughout the entire park, the scare zones will give guests time to prepare themselves for the next scare.

The Halloween celebration will be playing 19 select nights at Universal Studios in Orlando. The events started Sept. 29 and 30 and will continue Oct. 6-8, 11-15, 19-22, 26-29 and 31 from 6:30 p.m.-midnight.

For information on college discounts and travel packages or to purchase tickets, visit the Web site at www.halloweenhorrornights.com.