Friday, October 4, 2019

A Panicky Scaredy-Cat Goes To Halloween Horror Nights 2019: A Ghostbusters Love Story

The second the Ghostbusters teaser dropped for this year's Halloween Horror Nights, I knew I was in trouble.

See, I love Ghostbusters. LOVE IT. The original film is one of those classics I could watch every day. I quote it too much, collect Stay Puft figures, and generally geek out at any reference to the franchise I can find.

I'm also a scaredy cat who can't handle horror, never watches scary movies, and who has often said you couldn't drag me kicking and screaming into any kind of haunted house, much less the dreaded Halloween Horror Nights at Universal. I've seen the commercials, k? That stuff is SCARY.

I thought I had a solution with Universal's "Behind the Screams" Tour, which takes you through their Haunted Houses with the lights on. Perfect! No scares! But then after purchasing tickets I learned the GB house wasn't included in our tour - and besides, with no "scare actors" in the house, it was really just a lifeless shell of backdrops. 


(Another thing you should know about me: I have generalized anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. I think I'm managing them well, but they make theme park rides and new experiences a challenge.)

So when HHN opened for media previews I was online eagerly waiting for every scrap of information, every photo, every shaky walk-through video. Everything I saw filled me with such intense delight that I knew.

I knew I had to try.

So I told John to buy tickets, and began my preparations.

First, I went on FB and asked our local friends to join us. The biggest challenge with my anxiety is long queues, so I need lots of distractions to get me through the wait. Talking with friends is amazing for this.

Next I watched walk-through videos of every Scare Zone in the park, as well as the two houses I wanted to visit: Ghostbusters (my main goal) & Stranger Things in case I was feeling extra brave.

I had about 10 days to prep, so every night I began practicing Exposure Therapy by imagining myself in each Scare Zone and House: walking through, being startled, but remaining calm and confident at every turn. Exposure Therapy is usually done by actually placing yourself IN a situation, little by little, but you'd be amazed how well it can work by simply imagining it. Especially since those of us with anxiety tend to have unusually vivid imaginations. 

For the day of, I packed ear plugs and Xanax, to keep my stimulus level down.

My final step that day was to wear the clothing that makes me feel the most confident: my convention gear. GB tee, jeans, a low hat, my holster bag, and even my DSLR slung over my shoulder. I told myself I was just going to another convention, and geared up like this, I almost believed it.

Well, gang, it all went down Wednesday night. I went to my first ever Halloween Horror Nights.

Doctor Evil voice: "La-ZERS!"

And I had SO. MUCH. FUN.

The first queue was the hardest, but I had my friend Traci there to talk to, plus I took a precautionary Xanax to keep the panic down. After an hour of shuffling through the long queue we turned a corner and heard the Ghostbusters theme song playing, and this huge grin split my face. Vibrating with excitement and nerves, it was all I could do to shakily shove some earplugs in my ears before we were ushered though an unassuming door into the Ghostbusters House.

It was... AMAZING. Hang on, more details on that in a sec.

My original plan was to see the Ghostbuster house, MAYBE Stranger Things, and then leave while it was still light out.

After our first Ghostbusters run several more friends arrived to keep us company, though, and with their help John and I wandered through all the scare zones - often with me leading the pack - saw the themed shops, went back for MORE Ghostbusters, did the Strangers Things House, saw the Lagoon Show, and finally closed out the whole event at 1AM with one final tour of Ghostbusters.
Look at all the Stay Pufts!


I never panicked once, though I was definitely startled 4 or 5 times. In the Scare Zones I kept my head up and a grin on my face, knowing that even if someone did manage to startle me, they would immediately move on. There are no lingering creepy types, it's all very much a "hit-and-run" sort of scare. Plus the two front Scare Zones are actually quite pretty! One is Arcade themed with lots of neon and black light:

 ... and the other is the "Vanity Ball" where models in creepy couture walk the runway.

 The MC will joke around with you from the stage, and has a definite Hunger Games Panem aesthetic.

The models are more grisly, but they're more likely to dance or twirl for you than anything else:

 The scares here come from the surgical patients running around; like all the scare actors, they'll try to startle you if you're not paying attention.

The long wait times for the Houses meant we spent nearly 5 hours in line that night (oof), which usually would send my panic into overdrive, but having friends to talk to meant it was just uncomfortable, not panicky and torturous. (Even on a Wednesday the GB house averaged an hour wait, Stranger Things 85 minutes. All the other houses were much less, though.)


John and I got to tour the House three times, and every time I spotted new amazing details. Words cannot express how much I love this House. The walk-through videos on YouTube don't do it justice, though of course you should watch them! In fact, here, I'll embed one for you:

There are a few minor differences now, as they've tweaked some things. Dana in her chair looks better now, for example; she doesn't wear the monster arm, and there are more coming from the chair.

This is my one terrible photo from the house, before I was told both photos *and* video are not allowed. (Oops.)  I have to assume all the videos on YouTube are from the media preview nights 3 weeks ago, which would explain why a few things are slightly different now.

So here, let me list some of the less obvious things to look for if you DO get to visit HHN this year.

- In the library, watch the books on the top shelves. It took me 3 visits before I realized some of them were sliding around, as if by an unseen hand. If the timing is right, you'll also see the lovely library ghost shush you!

- The firehouse is packed with so many amazing details, but the best part - like so much of the entire House - is the live actor, Janine. Here in Orlando Janine is on a mic, and WILL ad lib and interact with you, whereas in CA she's lip-synching to a recording. So LOOK AT JANINE! Talk to her! My first visit she offered me some coffee, my second she was telling us we needed a warrant to go in there, and my third she lowered her voice a bit conspiratorially and told me they were SO kind to be taking care of "that man." (Meaning Tully.) Every time Janine made eye contact with me, and it felt like we had our own private moment. Most folks aren't looking at her, whereas I would yell her name every time with a giant smile on my face, so I think that made the difference.

In retrospect I wish I'd asked Janine how her racquetball game was going, so someone do that for me, k?

- In front of Slimer's hallway run is the flaming maid's cart, and you can hear her asking "...the hell are you doing?" from behind it, which makes me laugh every time.

- Though the Venkman trapping Slimer is a dummy, sometimes there's a live-action Egon beside him. Don't look TOO long, though, or you'll miss Ray stepping out behind you! Ray will tell you about the Class 5 Roaming Vapor before stepping behind the wall again, but it's a long spiel, so he's usually out. And if you're VERY lucky, he might even give you a high-five.

- As you walk towards the bursting containment unit, you'll hear Walter Peck's voice through the alarms yelling, "SHUT IT DOWN!"

- The room after that represents being inside the containment unit... with the ghosts. The second ghost on the left (which is missing from several walk-through videos) is one of the famous Scoleri brothers from GB2! It's easy to miss both ghosts in this room if you walk too fast, so try to pace yourself to get a glimpse.

- In the alley way (after a startle from Winston) you'll hear and feel a loud BANG to your left. Look very fast, and you'll see the Taxi Driver ghost leering out of a small hidey hole in the wall.

- Dana's burnt out apartment smells like ash - a great touch - and if you listen, you might hear Ray asking where the stairs go. 

- In Dana's apartment you get the famous rubber door scene AND a hairy arm swiping at you - but it's easy to miss the arm.

- Everyone gets to witness Tully's pitch-perfect "I AM THE KEYMASTER," but only a few get to hear Dana behind him say, "There is no Dana, only Zuul." (Her lines are recorded, where Tully actually speaks.) I had no idea Dana spoke, so was delighted we caught this on our 3rd walk-through! Also this scene is so incredibly gorgeous. I love how you peer out at them through a burned out wall.

- Cross your fingers you'll be timed right for Gozer, too, because not only does she ask, "Are you a god?" but if you can stick around long enough, you'll see Ray answer "No" and get blasted back against the wall! There are light and smoke effects for this, super cool. Again, if you walk fast you'll only see Gozer standing there, and miss the fact that Ray's off to the left a bit.

- Now fill your lungs with the sweet marshmallow-y smell of success as you watch my beloved Stay Puft go from an evil smile to an outraged firey demise. 

Final Fun Story: After hearing from one of my friends that she got a high-five from Ray after our second walk-through, my entire goal in life became to get a high-five from a Ghostbuster. This had to happen. "WE'RE GOING AGAIN!" I told John. We lined up just before the park closed, so it was my last chance. But no! Ray was distracted by someone else, then stepped away before I could reach him! FOILED! 

Next I watched for Winston, but he leapt out with both hands holding his proton wand - no opening there. Arg! Finally, in the very last scene, we see Venkman covered in marshmallow goo saying, "We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!" This was my chance.  I yelled out, "YASSS!" held my hand up, and held my breath. 

His head cocked to the side, and I swear he gave a little shrug before VENKMAN GAVE ME A HIGH FIVE, Y'ALL. I left the house whooping, and I'm sure he thought I was drunk, but dang, that was the best way to end an amazing night.

But wait, I have more pictures!

The HHN Tribute Store is a walk-through attraction by itself, with separate adjoining rooms for Ghostbusters, Stranger Things, and the Classic Universal Monsters.

This shop is open during the day, too, so you don't have to go to HHN to see it!

You're first greeted by Slimer raiding the fridge:
 Shout-out to the lighting designers in these shops, btw, because photos in here turn out great with zero editing.

 The 8th wonder of the world: The back side of Slimer!

Every extra minute you spend in this shop will be rewarded, as there are SO MANY EASTER EGGS.

 In the back corner on Jeanine's desk is a ledger book you can flip through, and every page has an entry! There's also the famous button you can press if you want to recreate her "WE GOT ONE!!" moment.

 At the back of the shop you'll find this cork board, and it is the jackpot of GB Easter Eggs.

 Venkman's cards & a flyer for Vigo's painting:

Here's an obscure one, see if you can connect the dots:
That librarian newspaper clipping is dated 1954; she's the library ghost! I zoomed in to read the entire article, but sadly it doesn't appear related; I think just the headline & photo are meant to be seen.

And of course next to it is the menu for Tavern on the Green, the restaurant where Tully bangs on the glass.

Some funny extras:

Be sure to read the "Other Information" on the parking ticket, haha.

 Next is the Strangers Things shop, which has another gorgeous photo opp:

The air has floating bits in it from the Upside Down, which is such a great touch.

Creepy vines and webbing everywhere.

Quick note on the Stranger Things house: I loved it, but it's MUCH more intense than GB, and features the longest and most blinding section of strobe lighting I've ever experienced. So if you're sensitive at all to strobes, best skip it.

The final shop is a mix of mad scientist laboratory and classic monster style, and is simply gorgeous.

I forgot to take a picture, but don't miss the Swamp Thing tank just inside the door!

I want to decorate my house with all these things.

 Lastly I'll leave you with a few photos from the PHENOMENAL lagoon show, "Marathon of Mayhem." Seriously, why aren't more people talking about this show?

 Imagine Disneyland's World of Color meets an 80s rave. Just like the Tribute Shop, it has sections for Ghostbusters, Stranger Things, and classic Monsters, where scenes are projected on water screens and the buildings behind the lagoon. The music and effects are like a dance party, so I was bopping around for most of the 10 minute show. SO GOOD.

There are even 3D projections on the background building! And the water jets went up like a hundred feet, plus the fog effects, the intense rainbow colors... I know it's treasonous to say, but there's no way the new Epcot Forever can compete with this. My only regret of the night is that we only saw it once!

Here, I filmed the best part for you - sorry for the swaying camera and my little bit of yelling, ha:

 Well, gang, I think that's everything. I hope you had fun on this virtual journey with me, and I hope this inspires some of my fellow Ghostheads out there to take the chance and go to HHN, even if it's only to see the house! It's so worth it! (Plus you only have to go through the Arcade Scare Zone to reach it, which is the least scary of them all.)

If you have any questions, hit me up in the comments. And if any of you locals need the moral support I did to go see everything, let me know; you MIGHT be able to convince me to go again. 

Oh, and fellow GB fans, stay tuned! All of our Halloween projects this year are Ghostbusters themed - and my first one is coming up next. Here's a sneak peek at a different build still in progress:



I forgot to mention that the Stay Puft & Slimer plushes at HHN are both *still* sold out, but never fear: I found them on Amazon, where they're cheaper anyway!

 You can buy the set for $20 prime.

I've been resisting on those, but I DID just buy this key chain for my bag about five minutes ago:

Stay Puft Keychain

Technically I already have a Funko Stay Puft key chain, but he looks slightly different than this one, and it's only $6, so this is TOTALLY JUSTIFIED, right?


  1. I have a similar dilemma with HHN. I've got some anxiety, but my main problem is that my startle reflex is very strong - and instead of bolting, I tend to punch whatever scares me. So other than one visit, I've never gone to HHN.

    I looooooove spooky stuff and horror movies, and I badly want to see all the houses. I just don't want to accidentally deck a scare actor! Maybe, if we went in a big enough group and I borrowed your earplugs-and-Xanax stratagem... Hmmm.

    1. That's much closer to what my reaction would be too. I do not like being startled. I went to one haunted house where I had two tricks to keep me (and everyone else) safe - we followed closely behind a group of teenage girls who were screamers (much bigger target for the actors than a middle-aged couple), and I used my phone screen as a light to go around the corners, which gave me a pretty defensive position too since my hands were up. My husband thought I was ridiculous, but it worked.

  2. I'm both super happy for you and just a wee bit jealous. Both my wife and i read the title and were subconciously holding our breaths till we got to the "I had so much fun" line, then it was all smiles.

  3. This was my 1st HHN too & it was amazing! I did the daytime Behind the Screams tour & would recommended it. The guide gives you all kinds of neat info on the house you're touring, the event itself, & what all goes into bringing these wonderful houses to fruition. The 6 house tour does include GB & you're able to grab some neat empty scene pics. Our guide said scareactors are coached to "boo & skadoo" which made me giggle. :D The guide also told us about being able to high-five Venkman & I couldn't wait to go through the house again to try it out. Apparently, this is the 1st time you've ever been able to purposefully touch a scareactor. EVER! So of course I totally high-fived him! It was the greatest feeling! Glad you guys had fun. I'm hooked & will definitely be back next year for the 30th anniversary!

  4. To quote my mom and Grover from Sesame Street, I'm so proud of you Froggie!! This was a big step for you and I'm so glad you had fun.

  5. Congratulations! I'm glad you got to go and have so much fun!!!

  6. LOL - next to the menu and Librarian story is Luther's article from the Ghost and Mr. Chicken starring Don Knotts :D

  7. This is phenomanal! I'm so happy and proud of you!!

  8. I love the nod to The Ghost and Mr. Chicken on the Ghostbusters cork board!

  9. Well done! So glad to hear you had a great time!

  10. How awesome!! I'm so excited you were able to go and not get freaked out. This was MADE for you!

  11. I've eaten at Tavern on the Green on both of my trips to NYC. Once in the eighties(prior to GB release) in the glass enclosed garden room(which is now gone sad to say) and once a few years later...when I first saw GB I screamed out loud at the scene where Tully bangs on the glass... saying "I've been there!!!"

  12. I'm so proud of you! That must have been such a rush. Using visualisation as exposure therapy is a brilliant idea. So far I've just used my imagintaion to think of all the ways in which something could go wrong. Not very helpful at all.

  13. Maybe you can come to Pittsburgh area again -

  14. Thought this would be right up your alley. Long time lurker here and at CakeWrecks.


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