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Theme park won't tone down Halloween spookery

Universal Orlando believes escapism is the key.

Associated Press

October 22, 2001

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Universal Orlando officials say they won't tone down the scares their Halloween Horror Nights will give tourists despite fears caused by the recent terror attacks.

"While we're extremely sensitive to the events of Sept. 11 and their impact on people, we also know that escapism can alleviate a lot of tension," said Adrian LePeltier, Universal's director of show development and one of Horror Nights' creators.

Universal is bucking a trend toward a less fearful Halloween in the United States this year. Many retailers and those organizing hundreds of seasonal "haunted houses" are rethinking their approach to the first major holiday since the attacks in New York and Washington.

Halloween has become a $4 billion annual commercial event as well as a bonanza for Universal and a number of other theme parks.

Universal is right to avoid toning down its activities, insists Leonard Pickel, editor of Haunted Attractions magazine in Charlotte, N.C., and owner of a seasonal haunted house called "Mayhem Manor."

The tradition of giving people good scares amid real national fears was firmly established during the 1950s, he says.

"That was the heyday of science fiction, with the giant spiders and other monsters that were based on people's fear of nuclear power's dangers," Pickel said. "You can't stop Halloween because of [Osama] bin Laden."

Universal has shown some sensitivity regarding the attacks. The decor in some haunts is being combed to eliminate the usually obligatory occasional body part or severed head.

But Horror Nights doesn't rely on fake gore anyway; its mainstays are shadows, sounds, strobe lights and the like.

Horror Nights runs through Nov. 3.