The iconic alphabet wall from season one of Stranger Things flashes brightly when maze-goers run by. (Brian Sease | The Poly Post)

Universal Studios ‘Stranger Things’ maze: A behind-the-scenes look

Universal Studios unveiled its new Horror Nights attractions this month which includes new “Stranger Things,” “Poltergeist” and “The First Purge”-themed mazes, among various others.

One of Universal Studios most popular seasonal attractions, thousands of people flock to Hollywood every year to get terrorized by their favorite franchises in person.

But what people don’t know is just how much work goes in to these mazes to make them as immersive and terrifying as they are.

John Murdy, the mastermind behind Halloween Horror Nights looked through over 40,000 pictures with the art department to painstakingly recreate the set of “Stranger Things” season one.

The amount of detail and care put in creating an immersive maze, faithful to the popular series pays off.

The Demogorgon, the terrifying creature and antagonist of the show, is the main scare of the maze.

To create the Demogorgon costume for the actors to wear, the Horror Nights makeup department took a positive of the face mold used in the show and added details to make it more practical, as the show used special effects to help create the monster.

“All of our makeup is incredibly detailed,” Murdy said. “When you’re making a mask or prosthetic makeup, it’s like baking a cake, because you have to make a sculpture of it, then cast that and make it into a mold and then it comes out of the mold and you have to clean it all up. But when you’re cooking it in the mold its very much like baking a cake, and we’re making thousands of cakes.”

From start to finish the Demogorgon costume took over five months to complete.

The maze follows character Will Byers journey through season one of the show, first starting off with his disappearance in the woods of Hawkins, Indiana, where the Demogorgon is teased.

Next, the maze enters the Byers household, where Horror-Nights-goers will see a recreation of the living room where the iconic alphabet wall from the show is displayed. Attendees will also see Will’s bedroom.

The iconic alphabet wall from season one of Stranger Things flashes brightly when maze-goers run by. (Brian Sease | The Poly Post)

The house in the maze is an almost identical replica of the house from the show, down to the props.

“Our prop master works for us, but a lot of people he hires work in movies in tv shows,” Murdy said. “We have a huge, massive warehouse where we’ve got all the things we’ve produced over the years. It’s like a prop warehouse, we have all of this furniture and every kind of conceivable thing you can imagine, but you can’t always find everything, so [the prop team] might go out to swap meets and yard sales and Craigslist, and eBay, if they’re trying to find a specific thing.”

Many of the props on the set of the maze, like the wallpaper in Will Byers room, were copied directly from the show. (Brian Sease | The Poly Post)

After leaving the house maze-goers go to the shed in the Byers’ backyard where Will is abducted by the Demogorgon and “Castle Byers” which is Will Byers clubhouse.

Next is the portal to the “Upside-Down” the sinister alternate-world from where the Demogorgon emerged.

This includes the woods that the characters Nancy Wheeler and Jonathan Byers visit while looking for Nancy’s missing friend Barb.

The entrance to the “Upside Down,” the dangerous and mysterious alternate dimension in the “Stranger Things” universe. (Brian Sease | The Poly Post)

Since the maze is unable to use the same special effect techniques used in the show, alternate practical effects need to be utilized to create the same effect.

For example, fiber-optic lights wrapped in cotton and blown by fans are used to recreate the soft, ambient glow of the Upside-Down.

Next is the outside of Hawkins Laboratory, the insidious laboratory where the Demogorgon escaped from.

Here, maze-goers enter the lab and are chased to “the Gate” the original portal to the upside down.

The organic elements of the portals and the upside down are created using similar techniques to the show.

“Spray foam, a foam product that we spray on the wall and carve it, and then there’s a whole ‘nother layer that goes over the foam which is a weird material called Kaos, it’s like a fabric with all these weird little holes shredded in it,” Murdy said of creating the Gate.

“And then you stretch it kind of like you do cobwebs, like you do for Halloween, then it gets dipped in silicone that gets painted and aged and then all together it creates all those weird little, shiny vines and tendrils that you see all over the upside down.”

After going through the Gate, maze-goers will find themselves in “the Void” the empty black environment that the character Elven enters when undergoing sensory deprivation.

And last is Hawkins Middle School, ending in the science classroom where the climax of the season takes place.

Cal Poly Pomona students can find discounted tickets to Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights on select dates from September to November, at

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