5 Ways Universal’s ‘Stranger Things’ Haunted House Immerses Fans in Hawkins

Matt Cabral
TV Stranger Things
TV Stranger Things Horror Netflix

Universal Studios’ annual scare-fest, Halloween Horror Nights, returns bigger, better, and bloodier than ever this year. Featuring 10 haunted houses – based on popular properties such as Poltergeist, The First Purge, and Halloween 4 – as well as five scare zones unleashing the likes of Chucky and Killer Klowns into the theme park’s streets, the event’s not messing around for its 28th outing.

While fright-loving fans will no doubt line up at the Orlando and Hollywood destinations to see their favorite silver screen creeps come to life, it might be a little television series called Stranger Things that brings in the biggest crowds. That’s right, the Netflix hit is making its Halloween Horror Nights debut, and fans itching for an upside-down fix won’t be disappointed in the treatment it’s received.

The Stranger Things haunted house/maze, which recounts – in chilling detail – the show’s first season, features all the Eggo waffles and Demogorgon scares you might expect. But during our behind-the-scenes tour of the attraction, we also spotted a number of other goosebump-inducing touches. Here are five fun facts, cool call-outs, and fan-servicing Easter Eggs from our time in the Upside-Down.


Stranger Things-Halloween-Horror-Nights
You can't see the wood for the trees (and mirrors).

The creative minds behind the Stranger Things maze incorporated a ton of effects and trickery to cram all of Hawkins, Indiana into a sound-stage. Fans will walk through recreations of the Byers’ home, the secret laboratory, and the kids’ middle school, among other iconic locations. The creepy forest where Will initially goes missing though, uses an especially clever, if lo-fi, trick to terrify those brave enough to explore it. Detailed prop trees line a path in the foreground, but thanks to a number of carefully positioned mirrors in the background, it appears the forest stretches as far as the eye can see. You probably won’t notice though, as your attention will likely be focused on the disemboweled deer at your feet. Now there’s a Halloween horror you won’t easily forget.


Stranger Things Halloween Horror Nights
The Byers living room lighting the way.

Much of the appeal of Netflix’s blockbuster series comes from its mid-1980s setting. The haunted house hits this same nostalgia-loving nerve by recreating every last detail with amazing authenticity. In fact, every atmosphere-building prop placed in the maze is an actual vintage item from the year 1984 or earlier. It’ll be hard to take your eyes off the blinking Christmas lights in the Byers’ living room, but you should scan the coffee table and bookcases for everything from old-school technology to newspapers with 30-year-old headlines.


Stranger Things-Halloween-Horror-Nights
One of a bunch of demogorgons to make sure you're feeling well and truly hunted, and scared.

While exploring some of Hawkins’ most memorable locales, fans will encounter a number of live actor lookalikes portraying characters such as Sheriff Jim Hopper, Joyce Byers, Eleven, and the boys. The most impressive – and terrifying – costumed characters, however, are the demogorgons. As the series’ rabid followers are well aware, there’s only one of the Upside-Down uglies in Season 1, but the single creature is portrayed by 10 actors (and some puppets) in the haunted house. The reason for using multiple monsters is so the seemingly lone antagonist can be everywhere at once, able to spring from the shadows to scare your pants off.


Stranger Things bookshelf-ET

Stranger Things has never shied away from showing its appreciation — dare we say, adoration — for ’80s pop-culture. Half the fun of watching the series is seeing how many film, TV, video game, and toy references you can spy – or hear – in a single episode. The haunted house continues this tradition, sporting everything from a Jaws movie poster to a boombox blaring The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Eagle-eyed fans will also discover the Byers were apparently big fans of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, as both a VHS copy of the film and a plush toy of the alien appear in their home.


Stranger Things Halloween Horror Nights
The stuff of nightmares.

You might find it difficult to pay attention to the lines being delivered by the experience’s live actors, especially when being relentlessly hunted by the Demogorgon. If you’re able to tune out the sound of your friends’ screams, however, you’ll hear a number of dialog exchanges ripped right from the show. Early in the haunted house, for example, a walkie-talkie-wielding Dustin tries to draw out his lost friend Will with a spot-on, “I’ve got your X-Men 134.” Of course, little does Dustin know, it’ll take more than a coveted comic book to bring his buddy back from the Upside-Down.

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 runs from September 14 to November 2 at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Matt Cabral
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