This haunted house infested my nightmares long before I ever entered it. The night after Charles Gray, Senior Show Director for Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) gleefully described the horrific, many-legged storyline, I dreamt that I walked into my kitchen and couldn’t see the walls, because every single inch was crawling with insects.
It’s every Floridian’s worst nightmare (much like Descendants of Destruction is for New Yorkers, as it’s set in a post-apocalyptic subway station inhabited by mutants). And it’s a testament to the visceral storytelling that makes HHN a world-renowned event, whether we’re bringing an iconic horror movie to life or tapping into our primordial fear of bugs.
Speaking of which, whatever creepy-crawly creeps you out, there will be hordes of them in this haunted house. Roaches. Maggots. Millipedes. Bees. Ants. Flies. Spiders. And more. This isn’t just a house you see but also feel, hear and <gulp> smell. Plus, if you’re freaked out by groups of holes (yes, that’s a thing), I’ve got some bad news for you: they’re all over this house!
If your skin isn’t crawling yet, keep reading.
Welcome to 1950s America, where you’re about to enter a tech tent at the World’s Fair and get a tour of the new home of the future. Before you go in, you’ll be serenaded by the sounds of bubblegum radio and see ads for Bzzzcon Industries’ amazing Extermin-air Program featuring B-Cide, the company’s perky bee icon. The ads assure you that, “it kills pests safely, cools your home, purifies your air.” Not so sure about that first bit.
Once you enter, a smiling spokeswoman starts telling you about the wonders of the new “bug-free home of the future” thanks to the company’s amazing new formula. Naturally, something goes horribly wrong mid-tour. Alarms start blaring and lights flicker. Soon fog and screams fill the air.
The bugs burst out of containment areas en masse and begin laying eggs in the unfortunate scientists and technicians working there. Squirming insect larvae start hatching from the bodies of the ill-fated human hosts. The pesticide meant to eliminate the bugs gets released into the air, causing them to grow and mutate into monstrous hybrids.
Soon the pests are out of control, scurrying everywhere. Ants invade the living room. Roaches, I mean palmetto bugs, overrun the kitchen. Spiders shroud the attic with inescapable webs. Bees and flies swarm all over.
The spokeswoman from the beginning then reappears, laughing maniacally and swinging an ax wildly as bugs crawl out of her face (rather unsettling).
Finally, a military official with a walkie talkie radios for help, calling in the calvary to “Fire at will, boys!” But it just may be too late as you encounter the most gigantic and terrifying bug of all…
Oh, to be a fly on the wall when this idea was first hatched!
“We knew we wanted to do an insect house for some time,” Charles Gray shares, “but being able to bring it to the guest and have it be so well-received, it’s a very difficult thing to accomplish.”
There are 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 insects aka 10 quintillion insects in the world. That’s 1.4 billion per person. Yikes! According to my R.I.P. Tour guide Sam, there are 37,591 bugs in this house (I’ll have to take his word for it on that; no way I’m counting them.) “Bugs are inherently invaders of whatever kind of domicile we’re in,” says Charles. “They’re small. They’re quick. They’re very alien-looking. And you put all those things together, and it’s almost like an alien invasion in your house.”
Speaking of insectoid invasions, an ant colony tried to take over my house the day after I first learned about this haunted house (I wish I were making that up). While I appreciate the value of insects as pollinators, food for other animals, etc., none of them are welcome in my house. And definitely not as many as are in this haunted house! “They don’t look cuddly,” says Charles. “They don’t look nice. They pretty much rule the world. No matter what happens, there’s always going to be insects. And I think knowing that and knowing that we’re gonna eventually end up their food is pretty horrific.”
But it’s not just about the bugs. The 1950s era is key to this haunted house. You’ll be completely immersed in that time period, from the music and ads in the queue, to the design and décor in the showrooms, to the attire of the people throughout the house. Unfortunately, you may be too busy howling with fear and looking for the nearest exit to appreciate all the midcentury modern touches.
“It’s kind of an homage to the 1950s creature features…the age of the atomic bomb,” Charles says. This house checks all the boxes of those cult sci-fi horror movies:
- Giant bugs of sinister origins
- Hero scientists trying to save the day
- A problem we created, typically through atomic radiation, playing on the fears of the day (though in this case it’s pesticides)
Listen to Charles Grey as he tell the tale of this haunted house on this Discover Universal Podcast episode!
Assuming you don’t make a beeline for the nearest exit or spend the whole time with your eyes closed clinging the friend in front of you, here’s the buzz on some insect (easter) eggs you can see throughout the house:
Smell is linked to memory, and one of my favorite things about HHN houses are the distinct aromas. Even the nauseating ones a la Dollhouse of the Damned from HHN24. This house has a fake pine scent, a nod to the 1950s when fresh pine was a big seller. The vaguely pleasant smell belies the true horror before your eyes.
It turns out my dream of walls crawling with bugs wasn’t too far off. If you look at the wallpaper in the first room, you’ll see the dots are in fact spiders. And by the end of the house, arachnids won’t just be on the walls.
Between the shrieks and the scuttles, see if you can spot the signs in each room about different pests, e.g. “No more ants in your living room.”
What freaked you out the most about Bugs: Eaten Alive? Let us know in the comments below or by tagging us on Twitter or Instagram!