The Halloween Horror Nights Fan Guide to Universal Classic Monsters

October 31, 2023

Universal Monsters return to this year’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN), in the brand-new haunted house “Universal Monsters: Unmasked”. Sure to terrify us, this house leans on Universal’s legacy of horror films by bringing some rare classic monsters to life. Shortly after this haunted house was announced, I was on a quest to study these characters and reminisce about other Universal Monster appearances at Halloween Horror Nights, so I created this guide to help you discover more about them along with me. Are you ready to go down under the streets of Paris with me and learn more?

Universal Monsters in Theme Park History

A man is seen speaking with Universal classic monsters behind him

The legacy of Universal horror films, which started with co-founder of Universal Pictures, Carl Laemmle Sr., has left a lasting impression in cinematic history and the history of Universal Destinations and Experiences. Universal’s classic monsters have been featured in our theme parks since Opening Day — July 15th, 1964 for Universal Studios Hollywood, and June 7th, 1990 for Universal Studios Florida.

Some of our favorites are Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The Invisible Man (click on each name to learn more about the history of the character!) With this slate of iconic characters, it’s no wonder that the Universal theme parks decided to create a horror-based annual experience!

Universal’s classic Monster films have served as inspiration for Halloween Horror Nights even since the event started back in 1991 as Universal Studios Fright Nights. Longtime HHN fans have seen these popular characters appear in a variety of settings and experiences over the years. In some haunted house and scare zone appearances, the characters closely stuck to the original look and storyline (more on this below!) from their first Universal Pictures appearances, letting guests walk right into the classic films they love. In later years, though, the creative approach to using these characters has moved outside the bounds of their original film storylines and into unique stories created for HHN. “More recently we’ve been leaning into creating new stories within this universe”, says Charles Gray, senior show director for Universal Orlando Resort’s Art and Design department. These days at Halloween Horror Nights, he says, “we’re creating our own stories that still live in this universe of the Universal Monsters and having the freedom to do that has been wonderful.”

“Universal Monsters: Unmasked” — Rare Characters and a New Setting

The attraction poster for "Universal Monsters: Unmasked"

Descend into the Paris Catacombs, where you and your squad will face a new horde of Monsters: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Phantom of the Opera, the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Invisible Man.

When the all-new haunted house “Universal Monsters: Unmasked” was announced for HHN 2023, the first thing I noticed was the unique cast of characters. Fans that attended last year’s event will remember that the phenomenal Universal “Monsters: Legends Collide” house featured three monsters: The Mummy, The Wolfman, and Dracula. This year, featuring Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the Invisible Man, already sets this house apart. The Art and Design team wanted to use the Monsters haunted house as “an opportunity to take these monsters who have been ‘in the shadows’ of the ones we see all the time and bring them to the forefront — put them in the spotlight!” Charles explains.

The designs for these characters were inspired by their first Universal film appearances and, as Charles describes, “each of these characters are true to the base material, but we’ve updated the look just a little bit.” Guests can expect creative changes to the characters, like a unique new mask for the Phantom of the Opera, or an intimidating new style for Dr. Jekyll’s nefarious alter-ego, Mr. Hyde. “It’s a little more modern-horror overlay,” Charles says of the changes, “so we’ve really beefed up the horror factor in this house.”

A scene from the "Universal Monsters: Unmasked" haunted house.

This brings me to the second thing I noticed about this house when it was announced: the setting. Paris, France, has only been used as a setting for a handful of scare zones and houses over the life of Halloween Horror Nights — “Dead Exposure: Patient Zero” is a recent example from 2018, and another is “Catacombs: Black Death Rising”, one of my personal favorites from 2010. But having such a historic, beautiful city house these grotesque classic monsters is an interesting juxtaposition.

I ask Charles why the Art and Design team chose Paris as the location for this haunted house, and he explains that the conversation started with the fact that two of the featured characters are from Paris: The Phantom of the Opera and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Although the other two, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the Invisible Man are from England, the team felt like it would be more interesting to bring the English characters to Paris for this story. Both characters were “run out of town,” in a way, for their crimes. “It just so happened that they both landed in Paris and they’re in hiding and starting to attack on the same night that all the other things are happening, so we have all four out on the same night,” Charles continues.

Collaboration Brings the Experience to Life on Both Coasts

People are seen screaming as a character scares them

Universal’s Art and Design teams in Orlando and Hollywood worked together this year to create an aligned story and design for “Universal Monsters: Unmasked.” Charles explains that this cross-country collaboration deeply impacts the result: “I think that kind of creative united-front only makes it better in the sense of both of [our teams] being passionate about it.” Partnering on new experiences featuring such beloved horror icons makes it even sweeter, he adds. “It’s just part of our DNA, you know? So we all want to take care of them and put them in the best light we can.”

Based on what I learned about the character inspiration and story, “Universal Monsters: Unmasked,” I have no doubt that it will be a frightfully delightful experience for horror fans at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood this year.

Inside “Universal Monsters: Unmasked”

This is the pandemonium that guests will encounter when they enter “Universal Monsters: Unmasked”: Paris in chaos with four monsters wreaking havoc, while we try to navigate our way through the city — both above ground and below — to find safety. Charles describes the opening scene as “whoa, we’re in the middle of the city and how do we get out of here? Where is safety?” which will lead us right under the Paris Opera House, home to the Phantom of the Opera.

Our 1st Encounter: Phantom of the Opera

People are seen screaming as a character attacks them in "Universal Monsters: Unmasked"

In “Universal Monsters: Unmasked,” we get to experience the Paris Opera House like the Phantom does — visiting all of his favorite “haunts,” including the underground caverns that hold his lair and the theater’s dressing rooms where he secretly attempted to woo Christine. Taking place years after the events in the 1925 film, this reimaging occurs at the end of Christine’s singing career. We’ll see the Phantom’s horrific reaction as the Opera attempts to replace her with a new performer, unleashing his rage on patrons and performers alike.

A scene from the "Universal Monsters: Unmasked" haunted house.

After narrowly escaping his retribution, we end up running into The Invisible Man.

Our 2nd Encounter: Invisible Man

As we are introduced to The Invisible Man in this year’s haunted house, we learn that the personality of his character aligns closely with his appearance in the 1933 film “The Invisible Man.” The Invisible Man in the film is emotionally volatile — sometimes playful, gleefully teasing and toying with his victims, and sometimes angry, vengeful, and murderous toward anyone getting in the way of his plans. The villain we “see” in the haunted house really emphasizes this dichotomy — you can hear his teasing, taunts, and anger from the moment you lay eyes on the opening façade!

After fleeing from The Invisible Man, we stumble upon another experiment gone wrong by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Our 3rd Encounter: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

A character from the "Universal Monsters: Unmasked" haunted house.

As we pass through a Parisian square, we discover that Dr. Jekyll is attempting to sell the drug he invented that releases his rowdier half. By the time we stumble into his scene, the villainous Mr. Hyde is running the show — and running wild! No one is safe from his aggression and impulsivity, but can Dr. Jekyll regain control before the massacre begins?

We may not find out before we make our way to Notre Dame Cathedral to find the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Our 4th Encounter: Hunchback of Notre Dame

A character from the "Universal Monsters: Unmasked" haunted house.

When we approach Notre Dame Cathedral, Quasimodo oversees our arrival. He  discovered that harm has come to his only friends, Dom Claude and Esmerelda, who were characterized so kindly in the 1923 film “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” He enshrines his companions and their loss causes him to lash out in anger at anyone that disturbs him. Unfortunately, in our quest to get to safety on this chaotic night in Paris, we stumble into this sacred scene and receive the Hunchback’s wrath.

A scene from the "Universal Monsters: Unmasked" haunted house.

Universal Monsters Index

If you’re new to the classic Universal Monsters and want to learn their stories and their history with Halloween Horror Nights, read on! These monsters have appeared in numerous haunted houses and scare zones, sharing their tales with generations of HHN fans.

Who is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde first appeared in the 1913 film “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” based on the 1886 novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. In the film, we are first introduced to intrepid and benevolent Dr. Jekyll, a medical doctor who volunteers his time treating underserved patients at his clinic in England. After patient hours, however, he conducts questionable experiments in a quest to set free his “evil self”: he creates a drug that transforms him into Mr. Hyde, an animalistic, instinctive, violent man completely lacking the kindness of his alter-ego.

Records indicate that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was last featured at Universal Orlando Resort’s Halloween Horror Nights in the 1990s, and he has never appeared at Universal Studios Hollywood’s event.

Who is The Hunchback of Notre Dame?

The Hunchback of Notre Dame first appeared in the 1923 film “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” based on the 1831 book “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” by Victor Hugo. In the film, the Hunchback, named Quasimodo, lives in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and acts as the cathedral’s bell ringer. Although kindhearted, Quasimodo is mistreated by most due to his physical deformities. He considers only Notre Dame’s archbishop, Dom Claude, and kindhearted dancer Esmerelda to be his friends. In the film, he will do whatever it takes to protect his home and his friends.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame has most recently appeared at Halloween Horror Nights in the 2019 “Universal Monsters” haunted house. You may also remember him from the 2015 scare zone “All Nite Die-In: Double-Feature”, or in the “Monsters Masquerade” 2018 scare zone at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Who is the Phantom of the Opera?

The Phantom of the Opera first appeared in the 1925 film “The Phantom of the Opera,” based on the 1910 novel “The Phantom of the Opera” by Gaston Leroux. In the film, we learn that the Phantom, also called Erik, is an obsessive and manipulative patron of the Paris Opera House that hides his disfigured face behind a mask. He is enamored with understudy performer Christine Daae and resorts to destruction and even murder to ensure she becomes the lead performer at the opera.

Phantom of the Opera has a long history of appearances at Halloween Horror Nights, materializing frequently since the event’s inception in 1991. He was last seen at Halloween Horror Nights in the “Universal Monsters” haunted house in 2019 at Universal Orlando Resort and 2018 at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Who is Dracula?

Dracula first appeared in the 1931 film “Dracula, based on the 1897 novel by Bram Stoker. In the film, Count Dracula moves from Transylvania to London with his devoted servant, Renfield, and his beautiful vampire brides. Known to attack his victims in the night by drinking their blood, the only way to stop the ravenous Count is by enlisting Professor Van Helsing and his knowledge of vampires.

Dracula has most recently appeared at Halloween Horror Nights in the 2022 haunted house “Universal Monsters: Legends Collide” at both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood. Although Dracula has made many appearances at HHN over the years, he has notably had two haunted houses devoted solely to his story: 2009’s “Dracula: Legacy in Blood” (Orlando), which took place in Dracula’s Transylvanian castle and put a spotlight on his brides, and 2014’s “Dracula Untold: Reign of Blood” (Orlando and Hollywood), based on the film of the same name that focused on Dracula’s origin story.

Who is Frankenstein’s Monster?

Frankenstein’s Monster first appeared in the 1931 film “Frankenstein,” based on the book by Mary Shelley, originally published anonymously in 1818. In the film, Dr. Henry Frankenstein and his assistant, Fritz, rob graves to assemble a human body and bring it to life. The resulting Monster (often referenced informally as “Frankenstein”), stitched and bolted together from various corpses and a stolen brain labeled as “abnormal,” is enormous, frightening, and tragic. He escapes the lab where he was created and terrifies the countryside in search of genuine human connection while Dr. Frankenstein struggles to regain control over his invention.

Frankenstein’s Monster has most recently appeared at Halloween Horror Nights in the 2021 “Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein” haunted house. The Monster has also appeared frequently in past haunted houses and scare zones. Some of his most notable appearances at the event were 2019’s “Universal Monsters: Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman” at Universal Studios Hollywood, and 2009’s “Frankenstein: Creation of the Damned”, a steampunk-inspired extension of the original story, at Universal Studios Florida.

Who is The Mummy?

The Mummy first appeared in the 1932 film “The Mummy.” In the film, archaeologists open an ancient Egyptian tomb and unwittingly resurrect the mummy of high priest Imhotep. Mummy Imhotep escapes the tomb and disappears, resurfacing years later disguised as a human to search for and reincarnate his lover, Princess Anck-es-en-Amon. He will let nothing — and no one — stand in the way of his quest. Following the success of the original film, several additional Mummy films were produced, such as “The Mummy’s Hand” in 1940 and “The Mummy’s Tomb” in 1942. In these subsequent films, The Mummy is a prince named Kharis searching for his lover Ananka. Then in 1999, The Mummy storyline from the original film was rebooted into a new series that became the basis for the Revenge of the Mummy attraction at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Both Imhotep and Kharis have appeared as The Mummy at Halloween Horror Nights. Most recently, The (Kharis) Mummy was seen in “Universal Monsters: Legends Collide” at both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood. One of Imhotep’s most notable appearances at HHN was in 1999, when both coasts had haunted houses based on the 1999 film “The Mummy.” In fact, Orlando’s 1999 event featured The Mummy as the icon for the year and also followed up with a sequel house, “The Mummy Returns: The Curse Continues” in 2001.

Who is the Invisible Man?

The Invisible Man first appeared in the 1933 film “The Invisible Man”, based on the book “The Invisible Man” by H.G. Wells published in 1897. In the film, Dr. Jack Griffin is experimenting with a new drug that results in turning him invisible. Once he realizes the effect the drug has, he searches for a way to reverse the effects and plans to sell his new discovery to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, he doesn’t realize that a side effect of the drug has compromised his sanity, turning him more ferocious and power-hungry as he attempts to evade capture.

The Invisible Man last appeared at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights event in 2015’s “All Nite Die-In: Double Feature” scare zone, and at Universal Studios Hollywood’s 2018 haunted house, “Universal Monsters”. He has only appeared a handful of other times at Halloween Horror Nights, mainly in Universal Studios Hollywood starting in 2012 with the “Universal Monsters Remix” house.

Who is The Bride of Frankenstein?

The Bride of Frankenstein first appeared in the 1935 film “The Bride of Frankenstein”, following the success of the 1931 film “Frankenstein”. In this film, Dr. Frankenstein is blackmailed by his colleague, Dr. Pretorius, to create a mate for his Monster, also made of assembled corpse parts. Although she is successfully brought to life, what will she think of her intended partner?

The Bride of Frankenstein has most recently appeared at Halloween Horror Nights in the 2021 “Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein” haunted house. This bi-coastal original house, which took place immediately after the events of the film, was the first to exclusively feature a story from the Bride’s perspective. She also had notable cameos in the Orlando house “Frankenstein: Creation of the Damned” in 2009 and the Hollywood house “Universal Monsters: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” in 2019.

Who is The Wolf Man?

The Wolf Man first appeared in the 1941 film “The Wolf Man.” In the film, main character Larry Talbot is visiting Wales when he ends up attacked and bitten by a werewolf, therefore turning him into a werewolf as well. Upon moon rise each night, Larry transforms into a murderous wolf terrorizing the Welsh town. In the morning, however, he has no memory of his crimes. Only silver can be used to stop a raging werewolf, but Larry is hesitant to believe that he is the monster roaming the night.

The Wolf Man has made numerous appearances at Halloween Horror Nights, most recently in 2022’s “Universal Monsters: Legends Collide” haunted houses in Orlando and Hollywood. He made memorable appearances in the Universal Studios Florida “Museum of Horror” houses in 1997 and 1998 in the Universal Studios Hollywood “Universal Monsters Remix” houses in 2012 and 2013, but his headlining houses — 2009’s “The Wolfman” in Orlando and 2011’s “The Wolfman: The Curse of Talbot Hall” in Hollywood — really allowed the character to shine (under the light of the moon, of course).

Who is the Gill-Man (Creature from the Black Lagoon)?

The Gill-Man first appeared in the 1954 film “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” In the film, a crew of marine biologists travels to the Amazon rainforest to gather information on an ancient species of amphibious humans. They are surprised to discover that one living descendent of this species still remains, who they name the Gill-Man. Unfortunately, the Gill-Man is only interested in the female member of the expedition, doing everything it takes in its quest to capture her.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon has most recently appeared at Halloween Horror Nights in the 2019 “Universal Monsters” haunted house. After his appearance at the inaugural Fright Nights event in 1991, the Gill-Man has made only a few additional appearances at the Orlando event, including “Universal Classic Monster Mania” in 2000 and “Universal’s House of Horrors,” a house designed to look like stepping into the original black-and-white classic monster films, in 2012.

Are you ready to face these monsters in the dark streets of Paris? Let us know on social media or in the comments below! You can also learn all about the HHN Lore in our A Beginner’s Guide to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights Lore.

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