30 Years of Fear – A History of Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights: 1999 (Imhotep Becomes an Icon, The First 3-D House, and More)
Welcome back to 30 Years of Fear – A History of Halloween Horror Nights. We’re starting to get into the real core of the event, where it really began to have an identity. This year brought back an Icon and set the stage for the underlying story of Halloween Horror Nights.
1999 – Halloween Horror Nights IX: Last Gasp
What do Imhotep and Norman Bates have in common? According to Halloween Horror Nights lore, they were both working under Adaru, the fictional Sumerian god of Fear (remember him? It’s been a while).
Pictured above is a map of Halloween Horror Nights IX. The park (and event) certainly look a lot different now. The event held steady at 19 nights and approximately $42 per ticket.
Imhotep expanded on the idea of an Icon beyond what had begun with the Cryptkeeper. Not only was he featured heavily in all marketing and displayed on the arch medallion (pictured above), a story was created to tie Imhotep in beyond his own house.
As the legends go, Imhotep was resurrected by Adaru and then wreaked havoc at Halloween Horror Nights. He drew guests into the mind of Norman Bates and revitalized the Classic Monsters to new horrific heights.
Even back in the ’90s, people loved a good zombie apocalypse. Doomsday brought this concept to the underground. Playing on the fear of the general public, this house was set post-Y2K.
In the abandoned subway, zombies thrived, searching for their next victim.
A sanctuary held a cult formed by the collapse of society as we know it. Those who survived passing by the hooded demons would bear witness to their sacrifice.
Guests entered the fictitious Fairvale Sanitarium hidden within Soundstage 22. This is also the Sanitarium where Norman Bates is held for the neighboring maze, Psycho: Through the Mind of Norman Bates (and Fairvale being the fictional Californian town where “Psycho” takes place).
Inside, guests for both mazes would enter into the lobby of the sanitarium but took separate doors from there. The idea was to immerse guests in the concept of insanity, highlighting the unpredictable nature of the mind.
Through the facilities, guests encountered inmates as well as figments of their imagination, such as the larger-than-life Tarot cards seen in the concept art above.
Psycho: Through the Mind of Norman Bates
“Psycho” has made appearances at the event throughout the years, and 1999’s version of the house took you into the mind of Norman Bates himself. Once you entered the sanitarium, you entered through Imhotep’s portal into the mind of Norman Bates. Disorienting effects such as spinning walls were used to emphasize Norman’s instability.
A room full of giant knives, wittily named “Sharp Memories,” gave a glimpse into the psyche of the psycho. Scareactors in all black lurked within the mirrored blades to jump out and spook guests.
The finale featured the famous shower scene. Scareactors, including Norman Bates, hid amid the various bloodied curtains for a final fright.
For a fun behind-the-scenes look, these blueprints show the construction plans for the maze before it was built.
This house took guests into the tomb of Imhotep to face curses and otherworldly terrors. Housed in the extended queue for Earthquake: The Big One, guests entered through a temple into the depths.
Guests came face to face with many mummies within The Mummy, including the eponymous Imhotep.
In the Embalming Room, a figure dressed with the mask of Anubis performed a twisted version of the removal of organs typically done before mummification.
Universal’s Creature Features in 3-D
Universal’s Creature Features was the first 3-D house to come to Halloween Horror Nights! Using special paint and 3-D glasses, designers added a whole new dimension to the house experience.
The use of 3-D isn’t scary in itself, but it is often disorienting, allowing scareactors to get the jump on distracted victims. As a bonus, the paint was also used around the park to add 3-D effects for those who hung onto the paper glasses.
The 3-D glasses resembled Frankenstein’s Monster, complete with stitching.
The concept art above shows the façade for Universal’s Creature Features, located in Sting Alley. The house itself starred Universal’s Classic Monsters and newer horror characters like Michael Myers in rooms designed to model scenes from the respective films.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure
Bill and Ted face off against Dr. Evil after he stole the phone booth and left them stranded in time. Dr. Evil arrives at the Wild Wild West set to… film a movie. An evil movie, of course. Luckily, Austin Powers arrives with Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan in tow.
This year’s show features two versions of Keanu Reeves — Ted and himself. Keanu is on a mission to use the phone booth to prevent “Speed 2.” It also features timely digs at “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.”
In what may be the most succinct summary of the late ’90s, Will Smith and Michael Jackson had a dance-off, Buffy defeated a vampire Marilyn Manson, and Jerry Springer revealed that Dr. Evil is Bill’s father.
As was typical back then, Deadly D’Illusions was a stunt show at the Animal Actor’s stage. Unlike 1998’s Cirque du Soleil-esque production, Deadly D’Illusions was unremarkable.
Festival of the Dead Parade: Season of the Witch
While the event map refers simply to the Festival of the Dead Parade, the marketing for the event, including newspaper advertisements, referred to it as “Season of the Witch Parade.”
Imhotep had his own float in the parade as well.
Tricks or Treats: Dead Man’s Party
Dead Man’s Party was the signature rock ‘n’ roll show for Halloween Horror Nights IX.
The stage design was similar to 1998’s, with the screaming face replaced by Imhotep.
The Scare Zones
Midway of the Bizarre
Midway of the Bizarre returns (again!) as the solitary scare zone. The parade route interfered with many scare zone locations, leaving many consecutive years with only one zone.
The entrance returned to a carnivalesque banner with themed planters.
Honorable Mention: Boo-ring?
A review from The Orlando Sentinel from 1999 posed a critique of Halloween Horror Nights with a line that many fans may find sacrilegious.
I think it’s safe to say that most of us would like to respectfully disagree with Mr. Thomas; it just isn’t Horror Nights without the chainsaws! (Though we do love lots of fog.)
We’ll see you next time when we take a look back at a year I’ve been looking forward to since the first article: Halloween Horror Nights X, featuring the introduction of Jack Schmidt.
For more Halloween Horror Nights history, check out the rest of the series below.