Evening HHN fans! We’re glad you all survived Friday 13th as we have a wonderfully sad tale we wanted to share with you all. It’s the story of the Halloween Horror Nights Museum that never was…
Fans of the event haven’t just been calling for a year-round HHN house in recent times; they’ve actually been calling for one for years! The first time that Universal gave true credence to the concept of a year round house was back in the late 1990s. The problem with considering such a project was the fact that the resort was going through a massive transformation, from singular theme park to resort destination and for want of a better reason, the idea fell off the table.
After Islands of Adventure opened in 1999 and the newly created resort was in full swing, the idea to take Halloween Horror Nights into a different direction was finally agreed but it wouldn’t be until 2000, read more about that HERE. The event would be completely revised with the introduction of new characters, new worlds with a better emphasis on the overall event narrative. The personification of this step change came in the form of Jack the Clown.
Jack would usher in a new era for the event, taking it in a fresh but distinctively familiar direction. It was now that the idea to create a new chapter for the event would also require some kind of physical keynote to what had been in the past. It was true that many of the older props and sets had been stored in one of Universal’s massive off-site hangers, so they had plenty of physical heritage that they would call upon.
Not wanting to forget the event’s rich history combined with a desire from the Marketing Department to install an attraction that could act as a year-round commercial for the autumnal event (they needed to fill them newly built hotel rooms somehow!), the decision was taken to present a small museum that would tick all the boxes. Initially a year-round haunt was considered, but as the newly founded resort was trying to aim for a more family-orientated audience the thought of irate parents clogging Guest Services to complain about what little jimmy saw was just a step too far.
The first idea that nearly came to fruition was ‘Dr. Oddfellow’s Carnival Exhibition’. Dr. Oddfellow being Jack’s former employer and ringmaster of the ‘Carnival Of Thrills’, a backstory that was eventually told on the official HHN website. The idea had been drafted up to coincide with the introduction of Jack and would show how the commination of the event’s past had come together to create the evil clown with all know and love. The Brown Derby, which had only been seasonally used up until this point, was the proposed location. Whether it was budgetary issues or timings we don’t know, but for whatever reason the idea was shelved, though as their mousey neighbor would contest, good ideas never quite die!
Skip forward a few years and the new chapter of HHN could not be more popular. It was then the Art and Design Department decided that after each of the new icons had received each of their respective introductory years (Jack in 2000, Eddie Jack again in 2001, Caretaker in 2002, the Director in 2003 and the Storyteller in 2005), that a retrospective celebratory homecoming year would be undertaken in 2006, this would become ‘Sweet Sixteen’. The year would combine old favorite houses (including a rehash of the very original house from 1991 ‘The Dungeon of Terror’, though it was not anywhere like the original) with new houses all under the banner of it being the event’s first anniversary year. This gave the designers the chance to again relook at their 1999 plans and see whether a museum could be viable again…
The plan this time would be to convert the ‘Lucy: A Tribute’ building into a year round museum of the weird and wonderful from the past years of HHN, with construction commencing shortly after the event had wrapped. Plans and mockups were soon drafted and presented to management. The concept was simple, careful removal of the Lucy props and sets with a light, almost reversible layover of HHN props and sets from years gone by. The concept included an audio tour where interactive voices would guide guests around the exhibits would be offered based on the era. This would conclude on a year-round chance to get your photo with whichever icon was on duty that day and a small gift shop selling HHN merchandise.
The Lucy Tribute, which was not an opening day attraction (though it did open just 2 years after the park opened), was seen as “tired” and in need of something more “relevant” with the park goers of the day. It’s park gates proximity made it an unhelpful local for park executives wishing to not terrify guests as they entered, however the size and layout would be perfect for the proposed museum.
A number of small factors fell together to ensure the 2006 idea would not takeoff. As mentioned above, the park’s executives were not comfortable with the location and proximity to the park gates; nobody wanted a family’s first impression of the new family orientated resort to be that of a kid-murdering clown. The next factor was news from the west coast that the Lucy Tribute there was already scheduled for removal, something that the fan community of Lucille Ball spoke out strongly against. Whether it be the same rumblings from the west coast or not, the Marketing Department were keen to remind everyone that the attraction, though modest in execution, did attract a number of die-hard Lucy fans to the resort every year and well the ‘haunt-freaks’ would come every year come what may. The project was officially shelved, though one remnant of the proposed museum did survive and that was a waxwork of Jack, as seen below. Lucy would now be safe until 2015 when she was packed away to make way for Hello Kitty in 2016.
The following year the idea was redesigned but to a much lesser degree when the Brown Derby was converted into a small museum for guests taking the Behind-the Screams tours. The small space housed all the main costumes and props from the 2007 commercial, featuring Freddy, Jason and Leatherface. It also included the gypsy’s tent and the waxwork as mentioned above. Below is a photo of the small tribute built inside this small closed merchandise location.
It was then decided around this time to start ramping us the collection of props and sets inside the lobby of Universal’s Horror Make-Up Show. It is here where you will find the Jack waxwork. In 2015’s event the decision to convert the now redundant Twister merchandise store into a HHN themed store for the event was wildly popular. It is said that the layout and theming of this former store are the closest representation of how the museum, if built, would have looked inside the Lucy building. The public have also been able to see many of the past props and sets in a number of exhibits, including small fan gatherings at the park during the event or at Orange County Regional History Center.
Whether Universal Orlando will ever get its museum or year-round haunt is uncertain. What with Hollywood having their year-round haunt for many years and soon to be opening The Walking Dead attraction, it is unclear whether this will make its way to Orlando. Whatever the outcome, as the event continues to grow and grow and Universal is buying up plenty of potential future building plots, the chance to have such an attraction has never looked so promising…
I guess for the meantime you’ll just have to read our new edition of the Unofficial HHN book if you want to know what happened in the past, present and for the future of HHN. The new edition will be released very soon, keep your eyes peeled…