What’s it like working as a haunted house attendant at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights? In this Throwback Thursday, I elaborate upon I spent my haunt season rubbing shoulders with Michael Myers and working at the nation’s premier Halloween event.
If you’ve read my HHN 26 posts, you’ll know that I worked as a haunted house attendant (or Ops) at Halloween Horror Nights 26. Specifically, I worked at the Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield house, and I did two days as ‘rescue’ at The Exorcist. I’m writing this post to shed light upon a role that most Halloween Horror Nights fans despise (because we “ruin the experience”, as a frequent visitor to the house once said) and how a huge fan of Halloween Horror Nights learned to see the event in a whole new way.
Your first task of the day depended on when your shift started. For instance, if your shift was scheduled to begin anytime between 4pm and 5:30pm, you would help set up the queue by bringing out the poles and barricades, as well as taking out the hubcaps in practically the entirety of the KidZone area. Our queue went from the entrance to the E.T. Adventure attraction, past Fievel’s Playland, the Nuthouse Coaster, and Curious George Goes to Town, and into a backstage service road leading to B79, the parade warehouse. We had quite a bit of work setting up the queue everyday, and building it took about an hour and a half to two hours. But it wasn’t that bad of an experience when you had a bottle of water and your work buddies around.
Then, you’d find out what your rotation schedule would be like for the night. I’ll explain the different roles I had throughout the event.
- Greeter: There are two different greeter spots. One stood by the standby entrance and assisted with wheelchairs and answered any guest questions (“Where is the Krampus house?” is a question I received everyday), while another stood by the Express entrance and checked people’s Express passes. If the line was above a thirty minute wait, we would give out return times for anyone who had Attraction Assistance Passes (AAP).
I didn’t mind either Greeter position. I liked talking to guests and helping them whenever I could. I especially liked when I was able to thoroughly talk about houses and scarezones whenever I was asked about my favorites.
(Pictured: A wild Katy in her natural habitat.)
- Queue Patrol: There were four different queue patrol spots. The first was by the entrance to E.T. Adventure, and whenever the line was backed up, we would give out these little orange tickets to catch any line jumpers. The second was by the Nuthouse Coaster, the third in Curious George Goes to Town (and we would stop anyone from entering the playground), and the fourth was in the backstage service road near B79.
One of my favorite parts of working QP1 (the ticket spot) was watching the classic HHN videos on the E.T. Adventure queue screens. Although one could get tired of hearing ‘O mio babbino caro’ often.Qp2 and Qp3 were… not fun. This is where I had to deal with the rowdiest and drunkest of guests, especially the ones who tried sneaking off in the various areas of Curious George to do whatever. But the nicer guests were fun to be around. I loved seeing my favorite vloggers and I even met the actor who portrayed H.R. Bloodengutz while he stood in line one day.
- QP4: QP4 is special in which you get to do a little more than just stand around and yell at drunk people. Whenever there is a cast change, we would notify a lead through the radio with the ‘in-character’ phrase, “Michael Myers is heading to Haddonfield.” Then we let the cast (dressed in Sith dark robes) past the barricades and into the house, and vice versa.
- Merge: This is where the standby lines and Express lines merge as they get closer to the house. On peak nights, Merge is not an easy task to accomplish. You have to be on your toes and be very patient with very impatient guests.
- Redemption: This is where you scan Express passes into the system and catch anyone with fake Express passes or people who got in the wrong line.
- DIS/VIP: If you went through Halloween II, you’d see a person standing on a grassy area yelling at you to finish your alcohol and put away all electronic devices. This is the role of DIS/VIP (and I still don’t know what that stands for). Sometimes, the security guards standing nearby help out. To make this spot less boring I’d throw in some theming.
“Make sure your cell phones are off and away! Michael hates phones and bright lights!” was my frequent phrase.
- Surface: This is where you scan VIP groups, guests with Guest Assistance Passes, and entertainment staff such as makeup artists and the like into the system and allow them front-of-the-line access. I’ve encountered quite a few people through this spot, such as Mike Aiello and J. Michael Roddy and even celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson.
Onto the inside roles!
- Entrance: Exactly what it says on the tin, this is where you stand right by the entrance of the house (in this case, a closet in the Myers household) and click in guests as they come in.
Our spotter roles changed consistently throughout the event. Such spots included:
- Bedroom; the scene when Dr. Loomis shoots Michael.
- Chaos Door; this is where we would stand by a door and warn guests to “keep to the left” as they enter the ‘Chaos’ scene.
- Chaos Entrance; this is where we had to warn guests to “keep up with the party (in front of you)”, as many, many guests got lost in this scene and wandered into scareactors’ booholes.
- Chaos Exit; this is where we’d stand right by the end of the ‘Chaos’ scene and help direct guests further through the house.
- Dumpster Mike. I’m pretty sure it was called something else, but hell, I called the spot ‘Dumpster Mike’, because I got to watch the HHN 26 legend #DumpsterMike do what he does best! Dumpster Mike even rewarded me with an empty Chance cup once. He’s such a nice guy!
- Hospital; a spot that only lasted a week. Right before the infamous scene where Michael drowns a lady in a tub of scalding water. Sometimes, when there weren’t any guests, I’d peek my head out of the curtains and say hi to the scareactors.
- Elevator; the scene where Laurie and a nurse appear. I once had to lead Steven Tyler from Aerosmith and his family (dressed like Gone with the Wind characters) out of an emergency exit in this scene. Fun times.
- Gas; another spot that only lasted a week. Thanks to Laurie’s nice shot, Michael has been blinded and blood is coming out of his eyes. That is, until (when there’s no guests around) he uncovers his eyes and dabs, dances, or pretends to slice off his balls. I was once in this room for a solid hour and a half on a dead night, and me and the Michaels literally had a pantomime battle. It was glorious.
- Hell; the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital is now burning and Michael comes in for one last scare. It smells like Spaceship Earth and gets to your head quickly. Oh, and Michael can spin around his knife like it’s a baton.
Exit: This is where we clicked how many guests were coming out of the house and thanked them for “visiting Haddonfield.”
Ultimately, I found working inside the house to be a more fun experience instead of working outside. I loved being around the scareactors and occasionally goofing off when there wasn’t anyone around. It kind of lifted my spirits a bit. I auditioned for HHN 26 and didn’t get cast, so being among the scareactors while doing my job felt like the real deal to me, almost. It never got that old to me, either… maybe hearing the theme from the movie two thousand times a night got old, but the atmosphere you get while being in a haunted house is something that, to me, was very calming.
…man that sounded weird and didn’t convey what i’m trying to say
I’ll briefly touch upon my time at The Exorcist. I was a ‘rescue’. This means that if there are too many call-ins, employees from other houses are brought in to substitute. I was at Exorcist for two nights, and the two busiest nights of the event, at that. My first night I did queue patrol, and it was a nightmare. People tried cutting through the line to use the (now) Jimmy Fallon restrooms and it was a huge, unorganized mess. So much that they put up a black wall blocking the bathrooms the next night I went in and continued using it for the rest of the event.
On the busiest night of the event – and the coldest – my role was to collect the queue tickets, all while being forced to inhale the sickly vomit scent in the house. While this spot was better than the queue patrol one, I had to deal with a lot more guests talking about how they waited two-hundred minutes in line and that the house better be good. Oh, and the occasional fight and someone who exited the American Horror Story house trying to cut into Exorcist’s line. But at least I got to scare the shit out of my Father Karras friend while retrieving cleaning supplies one night!
Is being a haunted house attendant fun? Well, in some ways, yes. I made quite a few friends (both fellow Ops and scareactors) and after a while I got used to setting up the queue everyday. I did lose a few pounds as well. But you have to realize that there are many difficult things about the job. For instance, you have to deal with drunk guests almost every night who think they’re better than you. You also have to deal with guests who scream in your face saying you’ve ruined their night because you made them go to the back of the line for line-jumping (this has happened several times, including one time so horrible I had to go backstage because I had an anxiety attack). And that’s barely scratching the surface.
It’s interesting to work the event while also being a Halloween Horror Nights mega-fan. I’ve gained two perspectives of the event as well as more of a respect for Ops. While in the past I’ve complained about Ops being scattered through houses and not making the lines quicker to get through, I’ve learned that Ops are there for a reason. By keeping scareactors and guests safe, Ops can make one’s Halloween Horror Nights experience a good one. I’m glad I got to be involved with HHN 26, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.