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30 Years of Fear – A History of Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights: 1998 (Primal Scream Brings Upgrades Galore)

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Welcome back to 30 Years of Fear – A History of Halloween Horror Nights. 1998 was a good year for horror fans because the event began to grow once again. This year, there were five houses — but with a twist.

1998 – Halloween Horror Nights VIII: Primal Scream

To fit the “Primal Scream” subtitle, much of the marketing and merchandise pictured a haunting face caught mid-scream. The event expanded to 19 nights and drew crowds from all around the country. The Rutland Daily Herald (out of Vermont) reported “bumper-to-bumper traffic for miles on nearby Interstate 4,” though to be fair, that’s kind of a normal day on I-4.

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Image source: Universal Orlando

Tickets this year bumped up to $42, an increase of about $2.25. And while discounted tickets were still available for children, Universal finally added a parental discretion advisory for children ages 3 to 9. Not quite the 13+ recommendation we have now (or Hollywood had then), but it’s a step in that direction.

The Houses

Hell’s High

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Image source: Universal Orlando

Guests who entered Hell’s High stumbled onto the set of a horror film. The high school was playing host to a slasher movie set gone awry — one of the actors was out for blood.

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Image source: Universal Orlando

Guests would have to make their way through the villain’s kill scenes and try to avoid a similarly gruesome fate.

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Image source: Orlando Sentinel

Throughout the house, scenes for the fictional film were in progress. Scareactors played actors playing movie villains such as the mad science teacher and an evil lunch lady (pictured above) or a bully (pictured below).

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Image source: Universal Orlando

S.S. Frightanic: Carnage Crew & Fear in First Class

Here comes the aforementioned twist: there were five houses, but not in the traditional sense. Two of the houses were dual-path houses, meaning that one façade hosted two different experiences under the same story. One of these houses was S.S. Frightanic, split into Carnage Crew and Fear in First Class.

After a multidimensional accident left the S.S. Frightanic in perpetual decay, the ship docked in San Francisco (in the queue for Earthquake: The Big One!, to be exact).

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Image source: Universal Orlando

Guests entered either house through the same façade — the eerie bow of the S.S. Frightanic. In the concept art above, you can see the entrances on opposite sides.

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Image source: Tampa Tribune

A photo of the façade appeared in the Tampa Tribune. Two skeletons were posed on the bow in a very familiar pose.

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Image source: Universal Orlando

In Carnage Crew, the unfortunate sailors have met gruesome fates. Guests encountered both the dead and undead crew as they made their way through the bowels of the ship.

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Image source: Universal Orlando

Fear in First Class featured the fancier side of Frightanic, including a ballroom full of mannequin dancers propelled by fans (with scareactors hidden within to catch guests off guard) as seen in the concept art below.

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Another scene featured a gruesome elevator accident and brought guests face to face with danger.

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Image source: Universal Orlando

Pictured above is concept art for a safe room full of riches, guarded by spooky security.

Universal’s Museum of Horror: Chamber of Horrors & Unnatural History

Universal’s Museum of Horror, the second dual house, was split into Chambers of Horror and Unnatural History.

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Image source: Universal Orlando

Both houses entered into the museum façade before the lines separated. Pictured above is a dilapidated old desk within the front room of the museum.

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Image source: Bradenton Herald

The Chamber of Horrors featured the classics: Frankenstein (or his monster, if you prefer), Dracula, Norman Bates, and more.

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Image source: Tampa Tribune

A fun gag in Dr. Frankenstein’s lab is the whiteboard that reads “pay electric bill.”

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Image source: Universal Orlando

One of the houses also included “Night of the Living Dead,” but it’s unclear which one. The concept art above is labeled for both paths. Given that there is a classic 1968 film and the 1990 reboot, it could have fit into either.

Unnatural History featured modern movie monsters like Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and Ghostface.

The Shows

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure VII: Dial “E” for Excellent!

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Image source: HHN Wiki

Scully and Mulder return and meet up with Bill and Ted at the Magic Kingdom. Yes, really.

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Image source: BillandTed.org

The theme park was now under the management of Robert DiNiro and Joe Pesci from “Goodfellas,” as pictured below.

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Image source: BillandTed.org

In typical Excellent Halloween Adventure fashion, the heroes and villains scrounge up backup and brawl, interspersed with pop culture zings and musical numbers, including a rendition of “You’re the One That I Want” by Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski.

Festival of the Dead Parade

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Image source: Universal Orlando

The Festival of the Dead Parade returns with a new float starring the Bride of Chucky.

Horrorpalooza

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Image source: Universal Orlando

Horrorpalooza was the rock ‘n’ roll show of the year, but with a much more impressive set than previous years. The primal scream imagery served as a spooky backdrop for the show.

Inferno

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Image source: Universal Orlando

Inferno was another improved staple. The Animal Actor’s stage often hosted “tame” performers like horror-themed magicians and illusionists. In 1998, it hosted an acrobatics show, and from the concept art, we can see it was really a full-stage production with theming.

The Scare Zones

Midway of the Bizarre

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Image source: Tampa Tribune

The Midway of the Bizarre also received some upgrades, expanding in size and getting a new entrance. In the photo above, two scareactors stand in front of the new marquee in the shape of the screaming face from the promotional material.

Honorable Mention: King Kong Float

The Festival of the Dead Parade was supposed to include another new float in 1998: a 40-foot float featuring King Kong. Unfortunately, an accident involving welding torches set the float ablaze. One of the workers suffered minor smoke inhalation, but thankfully, no serious injuries occurred. However, the outside of a soundstage and five cars were damaged.

When operational, the floats are coated with flame retardant. Because King Kong was not complete, it had yet to receive this protection. According to the Orlando Sentinel, “Only Kong’s gigantic hand, lying nearby, was recognizable.”

Honorable Mention: Lynyrd Skynyrd and Peter Frampton

On October 18, Halloween Horror Nights hosted a one-night concert featuring rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd and Peter Frampton. While Horrorpalooza played tributes to the musicians nightly, that night, they took to the stage themselves.

We’ll see you next time when we take a look back at Halloween Horror Nights IX: Last Gasp.

For more Halloween Horror Nights history, check out the rest of the series below.

1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999

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