Universal Orlando celebrates a quarter of a century of scary goings-on with its biggest and best ever Halloween Horror Nights, writes Ruth Brindle.

Be scared, be very, very scared - Universal Orlando plans to pile on the fear factor this autumn in celebration of 25 years of its Halloween Horror Nights by bringing together two of cinema’s most feared horror icons - A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger™ and Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees™.

The new Freddy vs Jason-themed haunted house will make your blood run cold, but that’s just what the millions of fans have been thirsting for over all these years. They just love to be frightened out of their wits!

We all know that nobody does it better when it comes to Halloween than the Americans, but these scarelebrations are without doubt the most elaborate, amazing and imaginative anywhere in the world. In fact planning for the mammoth, night-time event goes on all year and has an entire team dedicated to its thrills, spills and scream factor.

Heading up that 1,000-strong team is Michael Aiello, 37, director of entertainment and creative development, a self-confessed horror film nut from an early age.

He’s worked at Universal for 20 years and is justly proud of the movie-quality standards of Halloween Horror Nights where a dedicated, full-time group of make-up artists bring even the Walking Dead to life.

Michael says: “I grew up watching the early horror movies such as Frankenstein and I loved the Ray Harryhausen films. Universal started the horror genre with the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Stephen King is a hero of mine too.”

Michael says two years ago he worked with director John Landis on a themed house for American Werewolf in London. A lot of work went into making the sights and sounds of the wolf authentic. Michael wears the Landis approval as a badge of honour.

But is there anything that makes even him feel scared? “Only not being ready on time!”

he laughs.

As well as double the number of scareactors as usual, another creepy icon of the Horror Nights will return – Jack The Clown, promising to be more evil and malevolent than ever.

Just looking at his face on screen sends a shiver down the spine.

So while the two parks – Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios are friendly, happy non-threatening places by day, the Studios are transformed at night into your worst nightmare with nine themed haunted houses and scare zones where the faint-hearted, nor the under-14s should tread.

I’ve experienced Halloween Horror Nights once and can still recall its spine-tingling excellence in my nightmares. As I crept through the pitch black corridors of each ‘house’, hanging on to my friend’s cardigan with a vice-like grip, white-faced demons and would- be murderers jumped out of the gloom at us at every turn as we screamed and ran on to the next heart-pounding fright.

Phew, you escape at last, only to walk into a misty scare zone outside where strange creatures run at you with chainsaws and zombies stumble across your path. It’s fun though….really!

This is an excellent time of year to visit Orlando for all its theme parks and excellent shopping as there’s a lot going on and it’s not as hot and humid as summertime. But be prepared for long queues at the haunted houses, so it’s worth buying a Universal Express pass to jump ahead and save time.

One of my new favourite places to stay is the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, the latest addition to the portfolio of hotels at Universal.

Not only does it look brilliant in a retro-fabulous way, with the building’s design and its vintage cars parked outside, it provides a much-needed moderate/value offering for families with a 50s and 60s vibe that works really well and adds to the laid-back holiday feeling. There are 1,800 rooms, but it is the 900 family suites that sleep up to six that will particularly interest Brits I’m sure.

With kitsch touches such as retro furniture and furnishings and even miniature bottles of VO5 shampoo, popular in the 60s, it is sheer fun, but, more importantly convenient fun.

The suite I was lucky enough to stay in was just a few steps from one of the two huge pools, so it was easy to pop back to the apartment to rest or refresh. There’s a lazy river and a bowling alley and even ‘dive-in’ movies. The attention to detail is astonishing – even the signs for the loos look like characters from TV’s Mad Men.

It has a real buzz about the place with everything on tap that your heart desires, or indeed your youngsters will want. I spotted toddlers making sandcastles in the ‘beach’ area, teenagers playing table tennis and dads at the pool bar ordering a beer. There were plenty of loungers and umbrellas to go round and when hunger strikes, there’s a varied food court.

But you could easily prepare some simple breakfasts or lunches in your room. Top marks to Universal, as this is how families can enjoy themselves without overspending on meals. The free bus service to Universal’s two theme parks is frequent and convenient and we enjoyed a couple of nights strolling along Universal’s City Walk exploring its shops and restaurants. We ate out at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville one evening and then the newer Cowfish the next, which has dishes with the interesting fusion of sushi and burgers. Healthy options with a bit of naughtiness on the side.

But it’s the launch of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that has sent Universal’s attendance figures soaring since 2010. Hogsmeade with its big attraction Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is in Islands of Adventure, but the exciting news is that you can now travel between the parks (if you have tickets for both) on the Hogwarts Express, trailed by dementors and in the company of Harry and crew. Step in or out at Kings Cross station, London in Universal Studios and through the brick wall to wizard central - Diagon Alley.

To name just a few of the eye-popping features here, there’s a 60ft-fire-breathing dragon, a 3-D thrill ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, which for someone like me who doesn’t like big rollercoaster-type rides was a bumpy but hilarious treat as you can relive the moment when Harry, Ron and Hermione break into Gringotts bank. Buy jokes and tricks at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, dine on good old English grub at the Leaky Cauldron pub, such as bangers and mash or toad- in-the-hole, savour a cup of butterbeer ice-cream at Florean Fortescue’s ice-cream parlour and watch exciting live performances in Carkitt Market, including The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Even taking a wrong turn down the dark Knockturn Alley is an unexpected adventure.

And while I hesitate to use the word awesome, all these experiences really are just that.

Get a Frequent Fear Pass until November 1, £66 per person at www.halloweenhorrornights.com

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort, www.universalorlando.co.uk

British Airways Holidays offers seven nights at the 3.5* Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, from £799 per person. Includes World Traveller return flights from London Gatwick and accommodation. For reservations visit www.ba.com/Orlando or call 0844 493 0758.