Halloween Horror Nights: My Journey to Scareactor Auditions

Halloween Horror Nights is the pinnacle of scare-tastic Halloween extravaganzas!! I’ve lived in the Orlando area for 12 years, with a 4 year hiatus to the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area. Each year I was away, Halloween season was a depressing and exhausting time for me. No matter how I tried, I could find nothing that compared to HHN. Don’t get me wrong – corn mazes, forests, caverns, mountains – they were all enjoyable to visit, but… do you see a pattern in these photos? (Click to view full size)

Where’s the scare? My Halloweens had become sanitized! To prove my point, this was my first Halloween costume upon my return to Orlando…

Haunted houses and autumnal events are cute, and they certainly have a place and purpose. But, the fact of the matter is… if you want a true “to your core”, spine-tingling scare, Halloween Horror Nights is THE event of the season, hands-down. 

Last year, I finally decided to go for it! I had the guts to try, and by golly, I was going to! Except… there was one little problem. I mustered my nerve a wee bit too late. They were already done recruiting for 2013. Who knew they started this process in July? I diligently took note of this for future reference, and hoped I could work up the courage to try again in 2014.

Audition day rolls around. Apparently, they are doing them every Tuesday night for the month of July. The appointment times available when I scheduled appeared to range from 7-ish until around midnight. Not the usual hours for a job interview, but it makes perfect sense when you consider the work schedule! My appointment time was for the third week of auditions, at 8:24PM. 

*Lesson #1 learned while at audition: The later you audition, the fewer roles remain and the more particular the “types” they seek. Schedule early!!*

Applicants are ushered into a room full of long tables and chairs. Comfortable enough, but I have to admit… I was hoping they were going to utilize those screens at the front of the room for a film or two while we waited. Wouldn’t be inappropriate to expect an episode of “The Walking Dead” at least, would it? 

Alas, no cinematic entertainment for us. Rather than losing myself in a digital device, I decided to make a few observations about the room full of intimidating competitors. I was so very relieved to notice that I was not the oldest one there… nor the biggest, shortest, sloppiest, strangest, female-est, smartest, dumbest, tallest, silliest… you get the point. They say it takes all kinds, and judging by hopefuls alone, HHN auditions perfectly demonstrate that point. I felt so much more comfortable as I took notice of those around me. I might not be selected for a role, but I realized that it was not at all ridiculous for me to have tried. 

After a waiting period, an announcement is made to come locate the photo that was taken when you arrived. It’s been printed on a sticker, and you’re to affix it to your application. I’m not often the most photogenic, but this one came out okay. I’m starting to think I’m on a roll tonight. Back to the waiting room we all go, after clamoring for our photos in the main hall. 

Not that I’m the type to eavesdrop, but it was hard not to hone in on some of the louder conversations of the groups of applicants around the room during waiting round #2. I was surprised that many had little to no familiarity with the event. There were a few that were very obviously fans – much like me. A few of those types were practically in Halloween attire already, and still other hopefuls looked like they just left a rough day at the gym. All of this quelled my petty concern that I had “tried too hard” by purchasing a new shirt from Hot Topic – complete with a crocheted skull across the front. It takes all kinds, indeed!

After this productive round of waiting, my number is called as part of the next batch to audition! By now, I’ve waited just over an hour since I arrived, but I get the impression that this is not common – our group received an apology for the wait, along with an explanation that we were scheduled in conjunction with a dinner break for the panel of audition judges. 

We’re all led into a warehouse-esque studio room. Three people – two male, one female – are seated behind a long table. (Of course, I did not choose to photograph the audition experience. That would be ridiculous. I’ve also opted to eliminate the names and roles of the judges, as I feel that wouldn’t be appropriate either.) We had been counted off in rows of five before entering, and we smoothly fell into place upon arrival. The jovial judges greeted us, and announced the task to complete the audition process – when it came to your place in line, you’re to step forward, announce your name, and make the sound of your favorite animal.

Did I hear that right? Yes… yes, I did. He repeated these instructions to confirm, with the explanation that we were being tested on our ability to come out of our comfort zones. Well, that’ll do it alright! I had heard that the judges tend to ask your favorite scary movie. I was prepared for that. Simple as my favorite animal may seem, it was a moment of instant panic. Thankfully, I was in the third row, and I had a few moments to contemplate my options here. 

My scrambling thoughts were frequently derailed by the many varied dogs, wolves and cats in the first two rows. 

My favorite animal is a penguin, but does a penguin sound like a bird? How am I drawing a blank on this all of a sudden? (Three cats in a row. Maybe one was a lion?) Meerkats are cool. I like meerkats, but what do they sound like? (Whoa, that guy did an impressive howl. Maybe he really is a werewolf!) I like cows – maybe I should let out a mighty “moo”? (This poor woman’s favorite animal is a giraffe, and she is as lost as I was with meerkats!)

Waiting, waiting… maybe 15 minutes or so, even though it felt like an hour. A woman emerges, finally… calling a list of numbers to join her outside. I took notice of those she called as she continued – they included the people the judges had requested to speak to. When she skipped over my number, I felt my heart sink a bit. The selected group went outside, and we all strained to hear what news they received. When we heard cheers and applause, someone in the room said, “That’s it – we’re done, guys”. In a flash, that was confirmed. Though we were told that there is the potential for call-backs if needs arise up until the event, it was essentially over. It was a long walk of shame through the parking lot.

Okay, that may be a bit harsh. Although I am extremely disappointed in not being selected for an HHN role, I am actually very proud of myself for even going in to try. I sometimes restrict myself from things based solely on my own perceived limitations, shortcomings, etc. – even when I should know better. I am a harsh self-critic! I do hold out a bit of hope that I’ll hear from the powers that be at HHN before the 2014 event begins, but I’m not going to allow myself to be too disappointed if it remains as-is. Let’s be honest… it’s not like it’s too much punishment being forced to attend on the visitor side of things! Even if I can’t be a part of the hired entertainment, I’ve been told that I’m entertainment of my own sort for those who attend with me. AND… there’s always next year, right? This one remains on the bucket list, for now!

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#Halloween #UniversalStudios #HalloweenHorrorNights #reviews #events

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