In the first year of Halloween Horror Nights an incident occurred which caused the structure of the entire event to be altered and for the name to be changed from Fright Nights to Halloween Horror Nights and I was there the night that it happened.
It was turning out to be a fairly empty night at the park. If you have ever been to Halloween Horror Nights nowadays you know that it is incredibly packed and that there are organized scare zones. However, that’s not how it used to be. In its first years it was not all that popular of an event yet and there were no designated scare zones throughout the park. That meant that anywhere you were a scaractor could be there, hiding behind a push or popping out from behind a tree. It was a truly terrifying experience.
It was the first year of the event and I had been dragged in by my sister and mom, who were much bigger horror fans than me at the time. They were excited that I had just barely reached the age limit of 13 and could actually go into this event with them. I had done spook houses and stuff before but never anything quite to this magnitude. They kept warning me to stay by their side because no one really was sure what this event was going to be like. They teased me that they didn’t want me to get eaten by a ghoul or something stupid like that, which actually just annoyed me.
I remember when we were walking around the park before the event had started I saw this creepy marionette puppet in some bushes by the main lake in broad daylight, an hour before the Scaractors were even supposed to start coming out. This was weird because I didn’t think that was allowed even back in those early days. However, I just thought maybe he was heading to a break room or something. Then he turned and stared at me. He used one hand to pick the other one up, like he was using a marionette string and pointed his finger at my shirt. I didn’t know what this was about, but I thought it was probably because I had a fozzy the bear shirt on. Either way we kept walking toward the other side of the park.
We decided to go on the Kong ride first, which I loved. I remember I had been afraid of it on previous visits but now I was taking it like a champ. And once I was done with that it really got me ready to go out into the park and see how much more I could handle.
As we stepped out of the building and into the eerily dark, empty streets of New York area, the fear finally settled in. I could hear the grungy voice of Beetlejuice laughing manically from a graveyard in the distance as we made our way toward a haunted house called The Dungeon of Terror. It was in the old Jaws cue and I remember there was this part with a creepy Mannequin lady trapped inside a little cage up hanging above us. She screamed and shook the cage and I just remember it really disturbed me.
Then as we turned a corner I noticed out over a pond inside the cue a glimpse of someone standing in a non-decorated area of the line. It didn’t really seem like the figure was part of the décor of the attraction. It just seemed to be standing over there on its own. As we approached closer I realized it was that same marionette puppet that I had seen near the lake earlier. I guess it noticed me too at that point because it started pretending to open and close its mouth with its hand, like it would a puppets mouth. Then he pulled up his index finger brought it across his throat, like he was slitting it. That was pretty much it for me.
Terrified, I turned back and told my mom but when she looked over the man had already vanished into the darkness. I said I wanted to leave and that I was too scared, but she said it was just an employee getting a little too into his character, and that making kids afraid was the whole point of this thing. Feeling a little better I forgot about it and kept walking through the rest of the house.
After that house we stopped to get some pizza from one of the outdoor carts in at the park. That was when things started to get really weird. I got my pizza and when I bit into the cheese I noticed there was a little piece of paper underneath it. Totally freaked out I pulled the paper out and to my horror it was a childlike doodle of a boy. There were x’s over his eyes and his arms were lifted above his head with marionette strings attached to his hands. Then I noticed there was a small sketch of Fozzy the Bear’s face on the shirt and I realized it was me. I don’t remember ever being that frightened before. I showed it to my mom and she was very unhappy. She thought it was still just another employee playing a trick on me. So we immediately walked back to the cart but there was no one at it. The employee had just gotten up and left all the food behind.
My sister then went on to tell us that she had heard about people working at these parks picking on young kids to mess with throughout the night and that this was really not that out of the ordinary. My mom didn’t care about this though she wanted to put in a real complaint at the main guest service window at the front.
So we made the epic walk back to the front of the park and over to the guest service window. But oddly enough there was no one to be seen anywhere. At that point she was furious so she sat on the curb for a bit, while she cooled down. I got up for a second and looked around just to see if I could help out and I noticed that one of the ticket booths still had its lights on. This was definitely weird because no one had been buying tickets for a while. But I didn’t say anything to my mom about it because I just had a weird feeling.
Then we contemplated leaving the park but had already paid for the tickets and since it didn’t look like we were going to get a refund we figured we could just stay for one of the shows maybe before we headed out. We ended up going to the psycho show, which I actually didn’t have a problem because there were other people in the show so at least made us feel a little less alone.
Once we got halfway through the show though one of the stage managers came out on stage and whispered something into Norman Bates’ ear. He looked at the manager like he had seen a ghost and immediately walked back stage. Then the stage manager looked out at the audience came back out on the stage and told everyone that the park would be closing and that everyone needed to leave immediately. After that announcement I could tell that my mom was finally shaken up. But at least at that point we were guided out by security and there was a large group of people around us.
However, no matter how many employees we asked what was going none of them would tell us anything except that the park was just closing, and that they could not give any more information. We finally got out to the car and started heading back home. But as we were pulling out of the parking lot I saw the marionette puppet again walking down one of the rows of cars. Just staring at us.
I awoke the next day to my mom telling me that the park was on the news. Apparently there had been 5 park employees murdered that night and 4 children had gone missing. Bodies had been found in bushes, the guest service office, one of the pizza carts, and in one of the ticket booths at the front of the park. The police had no leads as to who the killer was but had one piece of evidence that they had found inside the ticket booth at the end of the night. It was a marionette puppet with a childlike sketch of Fozzy the bear rubber banded to its chest.
CREDIT : Antonio Caos
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