Home » 4 Halloween Horror Nights Concepts That Were Delayed or Drastically Altered

    4 Halloween Horror Nights Concepts That Were Delayed or Drastically Altered

    Jack Schmidt

    Jack. The Caretaker. The Director. The Usher. When Universal Orlando debuted its 3-night Halloween party, then called Fright Nights, in 1991, nobody could have predicted that the event would morph into a 28-night extravaganza, nor that its icons would achieve nearly rock star status among fans.

    Yet Halloween Horror Nights history is also shrouded in myths and legends, concepts that never were and those that were radically changed. In 2010, the Art and Design team responsible for creating each year’s event gave a series of talks, and those lucky few who were there got to hear the truths behind some of HHN’s greatest legends. Here is an insider look at 4 HHN concepts that were delayed or drastically altered.

    1. HHN XI: 2001

    Jack Schmidt

    The first major sideways shift for Halloween Horror Nights occurred in 2001. The entire event was already planned and under construction when the terrorist attacks of September 11 rocked the nation. With HHN scheduled to open on October 5, Art and Design had to scramble to change what was designed as a gore-fest into something that showed sensitivity to a reeling public. All blood and gore was removed, as was anything graphic or violent. Even some titles were changed, with Bloodbath Underground transforming into the Ooze Zone, Slasher Alley being renamed Nightmare Alley, and the long-running Festival of the Dead parade becoming Nightmares on Parade. The event was a success, and proved to be an escapist antidote for those who needed a break from the ongoing media coverage of the September 11 aftermath.

    2. Eddie

    Eddie Concept Art

    One of the most dramatic changes in 2001 was the removal of the event’s intended icon. In the original back story, Edgar Sawyer was a teenager from a run-down trailer park with a nightmarish home life who grew ever more obsessed with slasher movies. When he turned 18, he opened his own haunted house in hopes of sharing his obsession with the world. But a group of mischievous teens set a small fire to his work, unaware that Eddie was home. He was trapped in the blaze, which quickly raged out of control. Although he lived, Eddie was horribly disfigured. When he recovered, he donned a metal mask and retreated inside the world of his obsession. Seeking ever more realistic scares, he takes over Universal with the help of a chainsaw and a few friends. And he will stop at nothing to get the screams he craves. The tag line, a reference to the previous event’s icon, Jack the Clown, was, “No More Clowning Around.” In another direct reference, Eddie would have carried a decapitated clown head.

    Of all the icons, Eddie was arguably the worst possible face for HHN XI after the September 11 attacks. Without a supernatural element or any humor to tone him down, Eddie was designed to feel a bit more human and a bit more real than previous icons—putting guests in touch with the darkest side of humanity. But the real-life tragedy brought horror to the home front, and Eddie was quickly shelved. Instead, Jack was quickly resurrected as a somewhat light-hearted face for the toned down event. Interestingly, this turn of events may have fueled Jack’s meteoric rise to become arguably the most beloved icon of all time. Eddie’s picture was still featured in a few marketing spots, but he morphed into Jack’s relatively harmless kid brother, Eddie Schmidt, and his scars were tinted to feature green rather than blood-red markings.

    Eddie eventually became part of the event in 2004, when he joined Jack and other icons in the Horror Nights Nightmares house. In 2006, he got his own house, RUN: Hostile Territory. He also appeared in the Shadows From the Past scare zone, which ran for the last week of HHN XIX, before making a triumphant return to HHN XX alongside other icons in Horror Nights: The Hallow’d Past and HHN: 20 Years of Fear.

    3. Sindy

    Sindy Concept Art

    In 2002, just one year after the massive changes to Halloween Horror Nights XI, the Art and Design department was ready to return to what it does best—creating an event packed with psychological horror supplemented by more than a little gore. The event moved to Islands of Adventure that year, where it would remain until its 2006 Sweet Sixteen homecoming. HHN XII was carefully designed to take maximum advantage of Islands of Adventure’s layout, and tying it all together was one little girl.

    Sindy Bearer grew up in a funeral home run by her highly disturbed parents, Paul and Kara. Feeling overwhelmed by their workload, the older couple began hiding corpses rather than cremating them, which proved convenient when they needed to supplement their income. Paul acquired a white panel van and began selling his own brand of cured meat. As they descended further into madness, they started turning the corpses into a gruesome extended family. Sindy’s nights were often filled with elaborate dinner parties and balls, with long-dead bodies serving as the honored guests. Her only friend was an oversized porcelain doll, who Sindy treated as her sister.

    When the local community caught wind of what was happening, an angry mob formed. They set fire to the funeral parlor, and the flames soon engulfed the family home. Sindy fled to the cemetery, her face ablaze. The next day, police found Sindy’s beloved doll, its porcelain face completely gone. Investigators found an elaborate underground tunnel system leading to more than 1,000 desecrated graves, but believed that the entire Bearer family had perished in the fire. They sealed the cemetery gates and closed the investigation. Yet Sindy’s essence lived on. Now purely evil, she learned to manifest malice through her twisted playthings. The Port of Entry would serve as the gateway into Sindy’s world, and every experience was another manifestation of her disturbed reality.

    Unfortunately, a string of child abductions made national news shortly before HHN XII was to open. Due to the publicity and the need for sensitivity, the Art and Design team once again found itself making huge last-minute changes. They quickly swapped out Sindy for Albert Caine, AKA the Caretaker. He was largely a substitute for Paul Bearer, keeping the main back story in place. In this variation, Universal park guests were to serve as a research team investigating strange phenomena inside the sealed cemetery. However, some elements of the Sindy storyline remained, including the Treaks and Foons scare zone, which was supposed to have been her twisted variation on cartoon characters.

    Sindy’s last name was changed to Caine, and she was recast as Albert’s daughter, for Scream House: Resurrection in 2006. That house featured several photos of her, as well as her appearance inside a casket. But Sindy did not truly come into her own until 2009, when she joined other icons in the Shadows From the Past scare zone. In 2010, she finally got her own house, The Orfanage: Ashes to Ashes. She also appeared alongside other icons in the HHN: 20 Years of Fear scare zone.

    4. Extreme House

    Extreme House Teaser

    Howl-O-Scream, Busch Gardens Tampa’s contribution to the Central Florida horror map and arguably HHN’s biggest local competitor, has run an extra-charge extreme haunted house for years. Yet Halloween Horror Nights has never tried this option. As it turns out, that decision stems from somewhere other than the Art and Design department, as members of that team revealed plans that have been on the back burner for a long time.

    Without spoiling what might yet come to fruition someday, it is safe to say that HHN’s extreme house would be aptly named. Guests would have to sign a waiver before entering, and would be taken in very small groups. Physical manhandling, yelled insults, separating individuals from their group, and even simulated electrocution are all strong possibilities. No one has been clear on exactly why it has never happened, but speculation continues to run rampant. If it ever does happen, however, the design team’s two decades of experience can virtually guarantee that their take on an extreme house would be able to compete with the best-known extreme houses across the nation.