While preparing for my first-ever Halloween Horror Nights, I got lots of tips and suggestions from the horror fanatics in my life who were willing to teach this wuss a thing or two about the World’s Premier Halloween Event in Universal Studios Florida.
Some tips were obvious (never go alone), some were helpful (walk with a purpose through the scarezones), and some, methinks, were meant in jest and/or malice (be at the front of your group in houses so you can always see what’s coming next).
…yeah, I definitely didn’t fall for that one.
But the one tip I heard over and over again was to pay close attention to the details and narratives of the houses. And I’m so glad that through my shrieks and covered eyes I was able to do exactly that in each house, but especially in Wicked Growth: Realm of the Pumpkin.
From the phenomenon (no I do not think this is hyperbole) that is Lil’ Boo to the outpouring of dedication to the Pumpkin Lord, it is apparent that this house is a standout from this year’s lineup. But as with all things, this horrific hero has an origin story worth taking a closer look at.
“This is the first house we created for this year’s event, “Charles Gray, Show Director for HHN says. “It flowed out of us because we just listed all the things about Halloween that we love and that we would want to see, with the binding agent behind the whole thing being the Pumpkin Lord, who gets his power by tricking and enticing people to celebrate Halloween.”
Charles and the team started imagining the popularity of Halloween spreading throughout the world as vines — vines that keep growing and growing and taking over — much like the vines you’ll see throughout the Wicked Growth house.
But haven’t we, collectively as a globe, reached a point of enough vines? Surely Halloween is popular enough and the Pumpkin Lord is satisfied, right?
“Oh no, he has a very insatiable appetite,” Charles says.
This all being the inner musings of a team as talented as the creatives that work on HHN, it was only a matter of time until this abstract idea of a Pumpkin Lord and his growing vines became a tangible representation like the one at HHN30.
“The way the guests will encounter it is, you are seeing the end of his tendrils throughout the house,” Charles says. “So the vines you see at the beginning of the experience are thinner, and it kind of wrapped around things a little bit more. But as you go deeper into the experience the vines grow bigger and bigger until they reach the source — the Pumpkin Lord.”
Along the way we encounter several different denizens of Halloween, though the team was focused on keeping these representations traditional (think Twisted Traditions meets Scarecrow: The Reaping). Of course even these items are wet and seeping with pumpkin innards, showing that all things Halloween are only brought to life by the Pumpkin Lord.
This includes Grimalkin, the summoner working on behalf of the Pumpkin Lord. She is very talented and skilled in spellwork and you’ll see her throughout the house gathering all the ingredients so her spell will effectively work. I have no doubt I have some loyal Wicked Growth fans reading this, so for your own spellwork purposes, here’s the spell Grimalkin mutters, in case you didn’t catch the full text written in blood throughout the house…
Summon the Pumpkin Lord
Fear opens the door
Blood is gathered
Screams carry on the night wind
Souls are taken
Bones to bind
Roots dig deep and take hold
Here is the Pumpkin Lord He grows Halloween
Before you go off trying to create your own Lil’ Boo, let’s get back to the house, shall we?
“When we go into the graveyard,” Charles starts, “ there’s a head Grim Reaper sort of announcing that the souls are being taken for the Pumpkin Lord — that’s why all the jack o’lanterns are blown out, because all the spirits are being taken.”
From there it’s onto the forest with plenty of goblins and eventually Grimalkin’s hut, where she is summoning the Pumpkin Lord.
BONUS: You’ll also meet Locasta here, Grimalkin’s sister. Locasta is very jealous her sister gets all the attention and is the primary summoner of souls for the Pumpkin Lord to ingest. Just, typical sibling stuff.
“And then we exit Grimalkin’s hut and go into the final scene,” Charles says. “We enter the cave where the Pumpkin Lord is holding court with all of these little pumpkin creatures that we’ve seen in years past, all attacking us from all sides. It’s a very traditional, almost comfort-food-of-Halloween feeling. I think it’s going to be a surprise hit because people are going to want to go through it multiple times to really enjoy the pumpkin-y goodness.”
If you have your finger even slightly grazing the pulse of HHN fans this year, you know that Charles was very right — people have definitely been going through this house multiple times and enjoying the pumpkin-y goodness. The Pumpkin Lord himself has garnered quite a following throughout the event and we even got Charles to hint that those loyal followers could hold onto hope for future appearances.
“It’s always different each year and we always try to inject a new spin but still hold onto traditional Halloween stuff,” Charles says. “So coming up with the Pumpkin Lord was a lot of fun. He’s not an icon per se, but he is an alpha predator that’s a new way to enter traditional Halloween. Who knows, in years to come we could find him again and see what he and Grimalkin are up to.”
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that fans of Wicked Growth would be more than OK with a return visit from the Pumpkin Lord someday. In the meantime, they’re certain to be found posing with Lil’ Boo, shrieking in the graveyard, and doing just another walkthrough (or 2 or 3 or 666) just to bask in the story of the Pumpkin Lord. After all, as Charles puts it…
“It’s the storytelling at HHN that will always bring us back to our roots.”