August 29, 2014 – In just a few days, Universal Studios Hollywood will close the gates on its year-round haunted walkthrough attraction, Universal’s House of Horrors. The attraction had a seven year run, replacing Van Helsing: Fortress Dracula, The Mummy: Chamber of Doom, Chicken Run, and even a special seasonal Grinch walkthrough. Before being a walkthrough, it was home to a restaurant, Marvel Mania – a Marvel themed sit-down style restaurant and prior to that, Victoria Station.
The attraction was a horror fan’s dream, and a living-nightmare for those easily spooked. In House of Horrors, guests walked through some of Universal’s classic Horror characters, featuring The Phantom of the Opera, Nosferatu, Dracula’s brides, The Mummy, Chucky, Mother from Psycho, The Wolfman, Frankenstein and Igor, and even a chainsaw wielding maniac. For fans such as myself, this was a small way of living Halloween Horror Nights all year long! In honor of the attraction, we are going to give you an overview of the experience of House of Horrors.
Shortly after entering the park, guests see an ominous old fortress entrance to their left. A rusted drawbridge is down which leads to a cryptic entrance – Universal’s House of Horrors hangs over the entry way.
Once inside, guests wait in line surrounded by posters of classic Universal Horror Films, some of which include the classic Universal Monster films, Jaws (yes, it is a horror movie), Psycho, Halloween II, Dawn of the Dead, The Thing and others that have been cycled out.
Heading through the bend, props and artifacts from Universal’s Horror history are on display – including photos of Jack Pierce, the man responsible for creating Universals iconic monsters that are on display, Chucky and Tiffany puppets from Bride of Chucky, makeup pieces from The Thing, Frankenstein and the Phantom of the Opera. Face molds from notable figures in horror hang on the wall above storyboards and concept art from various films, and a scaled miniature of The Munsters home on 1313 Mockingbird Lane is also on display right before you enter the walkthrough.
House of Horror’s initial queue filled with horror-related props and memorabilia.
Classic – and not so classic – Universal movie posters.
House of Horror’s child switch area, featuring coloring books, a monitor and a small table and chairs.
The miniature from the Munsters.
As soon as you enter the maze, you are transported into an old Transylvanian graveyard which then leads you into dark catacombs. Occasionally, the Phantom would be the first scare guests encounter in the graveyard, and recently two “marble” statues were placed next to the crypt (of course, one statue was actually a scare actor).
Inside the catacombs, guests see skulls and skeletons embodied into the walls. Sections of the walls light up with animated figures that pop up to scare guests, and string is hung from the ceiling to simulate the feeling of cobwebs.
Around one corner, you come face to face with Nosferatu, cinema’s first vampire. After the Nosferatu scare, guests enter a hallway with slayed bodies of Dracula’s brides in bunks – complete with stakes through their hearts. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Dracula’s undead bride pops out from near the bunks for a great scare.
Alternatively, two brides may also be working: one at the beginning and one at the end of the hall. Once away from the brides, an organ is on display and a staircase is ahead with Phantom is seen hanging a man over the walkway.
While this may appear to be a normal tomb stone, a simple flash of light reveals a frightening feature behind the wall. It’s also not uncommon for an actor to stand alongside the stone sculpture. It’s up to you to figure out what’s real and what’s fake.
A special trigger button for scare actors to activate sound and lighting effects – not viewable from the traditional guest area.
After passing through the catacombs, guests are then ushered into Ancient Egypt where decayed mummy bodies surround you on both sides. The sets for this area are actually from House of Horror’s predecessor The Mummy: Chamber of Doom. One of the mummy’s are an animatronic whose upper half lowers down towards guests, while on the other side, a scare actor is waiting to jump out at guests.
From Ancient Egypt, we proceed to an old Toy Shop where Chucky is waiting to terrorize guests.
Boxes of Goodguy Dolls cover one wall of the room, while puppets and other dolls line the walls and work benches of the toy shop.
Hidden Chucky’s also pop up out of crates and boxes with compressed air blown through their mouths with the occasionally live Chucky hiding around to jump out at guests. Immediately after the toy shop we see a hole in the wall with a Chucky doll surrounded by a bunch of stuffed animals. Chucky then lunges out at guests with a knife, just missing his victims.
A live actor portraying Chucky usually resides here – ready to pounce at his unsuspecting victims.
Notice the scratch marks on the wall to your left?
After the encounter with Chucky, guests walk past a rear-projection window and over a bridge that over looks a huge laboratory. Dr. Frankenstein’s is hard at work on different experiments.
Discerning fans might notice several props from Van Helsing: Fortress Dracula with a few hidden props hidden here and there.
A flash of light reveals a host of infrared sensors, lighting equipment, speakers and more. If you look close enough, you can even see traces of blue paint – remnants of past attractions.
As we cross the bridge we then enter an old brick room filled with taxidermy and the shriveled body of an old woman sitting in a rocking chair.
We are now in the Psycho portion of the walkthrough. The Bernard Herrmann soundtrack for Psycho plays loudly as you encounter a walkway full of mirrors. One mirror lights up revealing a figure of Norman dressed as mother behind the two-way mirror, and around the corner we see a figure holding a knife being a curtain. The curtain is suddenly pulled back and Mother pops out lashing at the guests.
Fittingly, guests then walk through morgue complete with the scent of decaying bodies and the sounds of flesh-hungry zombies. Initially, this section of the maze was supposed to represent the 2004 film Dawn of the Dead, but the association has not been obvious.
Body bags hang from the ceiling, forcing guests to move through them to continue. When the walkthrough first opened, the hanging bodies were actually wrapped in clear plastic so you could see the bodies, but they were later changed to black body bags to match the new theme. After the morgue, we go back downstairs – passing through a projection of classic scenes from The Wolfman.
Surprisingly enough, mother is the only scare zone with a camera – allowing the scare actor to see their victims with unparalleled clarity.
Years and years of scratch marks line the wall.
Once down the stairs, guests are in the forest inhabited by a creature that is half man and half wolf…The Wolfman!
Using leftover trees and shrubbery from the long faded E.T. attraction, the Wolfman’s walktrhough is one of the more open spaces in the attraction so it’s unnerving not being able to pin point where the scare may come from. There is a werewolf figure holding a female victim as well as a werewolf hunter figure holding a rifle. As guests make their way over a small walk way, The Wolfman comes out of one of two holes in the wall, which are disguised by darkness and trees – creating a very effective scare. There is also a small slot after the main scare where the actor can get guests one more time before they enter into the spinning hallway.
This hallway is essentially a walking version of the now demolished Mummy’s Curse Tomb on the Studio Tour. You walk as the walls spin around you, covered with Gypsy and Werewolf imagery.
Trees from Universal’s classic attraction E.T. compose a sizable portion of Universal’s House of Horrors.
After the dizziness, you enter Dr. Frankensteins lab where you can’t help but let your eyes wander over all the sights and sounds of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.
Machinery, lab equipment, skulls, skeletons, Igor and of course, the Frankenstein Monster are all waiting inside to scare the pants off of you. The majority of these sets were used in the film Van Helsing and were also used in the Van Helsing: Curse of Dracula walkthrough. While you walk through the lab, Igor is swinging a sledge hammer at guests while working on the lab equipment in between his swings. On the right side, there is an elevated brick platform with a large wooden chair where Frankenstein would sometimes sit in, pretend to be jolted to life and then come after the guests. Other times the chair and area would appear to be empty and Frankenstein would come lurching out from a hidden area.
After the encounter with Frankenstein, guests are lead to the final area of the walkthrough.
Recognize this gem?
Just in case guests are hungry, the final stop in the walkthrough is a meat butchering factory.
Here, bloody pigs and other assorted meats hang from the ceiling which are conveniently hiding the monstrous maniac swaying a chainsaw around at guests. This is another effective scare and a great way to chase people out of the maze. As guests pass the chainsaw maniac, they see a decapitated body in a chair which is actually a clever costume which allows an actor to reach out towards the guest while appearing to have no head.
This attraction was an excellent way to honor Universal’s Horror history. What better way to educate guests on their horror, than to plunge them directly into it. The attraction will be missed by horror fans, fans of haunted houses and anybody looking for a little scare in their visit.
Bruce Babcock is a contributing editor for Inside Universal, specializing in Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights event in Hollywood.
Bruce is currently living in Southern California pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Cinema/Television Arts. He is a film fanatic with a specific interest in Universal classics and horror movies, and often attends local L.A. conventions looking for movie memorabilia and autographs. Bruce has been visiting Universal Studios Hollywood since he was merely 3 months old. A surprise VIP tour for his 15th birthday made him realize that movies are what he wanted his career to be in.
You may contact Bruce at firstname.lastname@example.org