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Around this time of year we get a lot of questions about Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando and Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens. Many of you want to know which attraction is the most terrifying and horrific and a few of you even want to know if you can bring someone else’s kids along to scare. There is no simple answer to the first question and as to the second we do not recommend bringing children under the ages of 13. When choosing the right Halloween attraction for you we think it all comes down to what theme park you like better and what hotel and tickets deals are most suitable to your party.

Below: Teaser video of the terrors you can expect to find lurking behind every dark corner at Halloween Horror Nights and Howl-O-Scream, released June 19.

Halloween Horror Nights (a.k.a HHN) at Universal Orlando

Universal Studios is known for bringing many of its most popular big screen films to life on their theme park rides and attractions, and Halloween Horror Nights is no exception. What makes HHN unique is its cinematic theme which gives horror film fans and thrill seekers the opportunity to experience firsthand what it’s like to be on set in today’s most terrifying movies. Although HHN was not originally based on an overarching theme or single icon it has over the past few years relied heavily on the cinematic quality of its haunted houses to distinguish itself from other Halloween attractions.

Universal launched the unofficial blog EvilTakesRoot.com to keep horror fans guessing at what surprises they have in store for us. For now it appears HHN will continue to use the bloodthirsty zombie theme from last year under the guise “What evil has taken root?”. The first haunted attractions announced were “The Cabin in the Woods” and “Evil Dead” which is the first haunted maze that will be featured at both Universal Orlando and Universal Hollywood. Among other things we know that HHN fans can expect to see the tribute to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” return but we have no word yet on Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. You can expect more nighttime rides to be open at Halloween Horror Nights than at Howl-O-Scream.

Below: Teaser video for the “Evil Dead” haunted house coming to Halloween Horror Nights, released July 16.

We have also confirmed that scare zones will be back in full force at this year’s HHN since last year’s roaming scare-actors were not as scary as most of us would have liked them to be. What gives it away to us every year is the generic scare tactics from snarls, barks and growls to coin shakers and other noise makers. In reality HHN’s scare tactics make it impossible for scare-actors to sneak up and really get a good scare out of you. What do you think?

Howl-O-Scream (a.k.a HOS) at Busch Gardens

As for Howl-O-Scream we expect them to continue to use scare zones in conjunction with roaming scare-actors like they did last year but do not expect to see any generic decorations or noise makers here. At HOS the scare-actors are totally immersed in the storyline and they are trained to use dialogue that draws your further into the theme. Although HOS has smaller scare zones they are scarier because they are more intimate plus we usually see more scare-actors in each scare zone at HOS than we do at HHN.

What makes Howl-O-Scream so different from Halloween Horror Nights is that it’s not based on horror movies, shows or games. Instead HOS is carefully planned around one realistic theme that typically has a few different variations. This year being the 13th year of the 21st century HOS has appropriately chosen the theme “Who are the 13?” in reference to the 13 evil spirits unleashed from Pandora’s Black Box so to speak on the 13th year every century. So far HOS has revealed #4 The Butcher, #6 Voodo Queen and #10 The Cannibal. While we can only guess what’s behind the remaining doors on their website, recent clues have been left at doors #3 and #7 indicating these names will be revealed soon. Of course we will keep you updated as they are all revealed!

New Update Just Announced! Door #7 The Surgeon.

Below: Teaser video for Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens, released July 12.

So What’s The Big Difference?

The major difference between Howl-O-Scream and Halloween Horror Nights is the reappearance of fans favorite haunted houses and mazes from year to year at HOS. What attractions make a comeback is determined by their overall popularity and by guest reactions. The haunted house “Alone” was rated the 5th best haunted houses worldwide and it was the only United States maze to make the list. Rumor has it that some version of Alone will return this year and like the name implies you (and your friends) will have the opportunity to navigate its mazes in complete solitude. What we like best about this attraction at HOS is that you can actually reserve your spot so you don’t have to wait in line meaning you have more time for other haunted houses as well as their staple Halloween show “Fiends”.

HowlOScream 2013

Alone is the ranked no. 5 best haunted house worldwide and the only maze in the United States to make the list.

What About Wait Times and Prices?

We generally find that the wait times are shorter at Howl-O-Scream than they are at Halloween Horror Nights plus ticket prices tend to be a bit cheaper. If you choose to go to HHN we recommend buying a Fastpass early before they sell out or not going at all. Wait times for haunted houses at HHN can sometimes exceed 2 hours, however with a Fastpass you’re looking at only a 15-20 minute wait. At HOS the wait times are usually less than an hour and because less people go to this event you generally have more time to work your way through the haunted houses and mazes while at HHN you are syphoned through.