SINGAPORE - Every October, blogger Nicholas Yau psyches himself up to be scared silly by ghosts, demons, clowns and whatever else that goes bump in the night.
The 25-year-old is a fan of Universal Studios Singapore's annual Halloween Horror Nights and forks out around $80 every year to attend the fright fest with his friends. The event started in 2011.
"Some people think it's a waste of money. I always get the 'You're paying to scare yourself!' remark.
To me, it's a form of experiential entertainment that you can't get elsewhere, short of having a true paranormal encounter," he says.
Halloween, which falls on Oct 31, has its origins in Celtic and Christian traditions, and is mostly celebrated in Western cultures.
Mr Yau is one of a growing number of Halloween buffs here whom businesses try to woo every year, pulling out all the stops to create an unearthly experience with fresh scare antics, extravagant decorations and attractive giveaways for the best dressed customers.
From theme parks to nightclubs to restaurants, many establishments are jumping on the Halloween bandwagon. For instance, Halloween Horror Nights is going bigger this year.
"Compared with when we launched the event, this year's event has more than doubled in scale, considering the number of event nights, scare zones and haunted houses," says Ms Andrea Teo, vice-president of entertainment at Resorts World Sentosa.
The integrated resort would say only that the event has seen double-digit growth in visitor numbers each year. Opening today, the fourth instalment of Halloween Horror Nights will have its first 3-D haunted house as well as a new stage show featuring a famous character from Universal Studios Florida.
More scares can be found on Sentosa Island with the other major Halloween fest, Sentosa Spooktacular.
Organised by Sentosa Leisure Management, the event has renewed a three-year partnership with renowned Thai movie production studio GMM Tai Hub.
Last year, Sentosa Spooktacular raised its horror quotient by recreating key scenes from five well-known Thai films, including Shutter (2004), and drew a record high of 15,000 visitors.
The event attracted 3,000 visitors in its first year in 2009.
This Halloween, the entire Fort Siloso will be transformed into a haunted village inspired by Thai horror film Laddaland (2011), complete with longer walkthroughs within three houses.
Over at Downtown East, NTUC Club has collaborated with escape-room operator Lockdown Singapore to create a new crime scene investigation game.
"This year, our Halloween events are going to be held over five days and they will be new and bigger. We expect to attract more participants of all age groups to take part," says Mr Ronnie Tan, NTUC Club's director of group integrated sales and marketing.
For those who prefer to play dress up, several nightspots have plans up their sleeves for Halloween.
Old-timer Zouk has been celebrating Halloween since it opened its doors in 1991.
Work on the major annual event on the nightspot's party calendar begins close to two months before and up to $100,000 is spent on production and marketing, Zouk's head of marketing and events, Ms Sofie Chandra, says.
The club's investment in the event has grown by between 20 and 25 per cent in the past five years.
"This year, we have also extended our Halloween celebrations to a Halloween Weekender with three event nights," Ms Chandra adds.
At The White Rabbit restaurant and its bar, The Rabbit Hole, in Dempsey, Halloween parties have "been somewhat of a tradition" in the past five years, says Mr Andrew Ing, chief operating officer of The Lo & Behold Group, which owns the two establishments.
Both spaces are decorated to reflect the yearly theme and the best dressed patrons can win prizes, including a stay at a villa in Bali. Mr Ing notes that attendance has grown by 50 per cent each year and more partygoers have been dressing up in costumes.
Naturally, more Halloween events spell fiercer competition among businesses.
Sentosa Leisure Management's events director, Mr Jimmy Wong, says: "Keeping it fresh each year is one of our biggest challenges.
To meet the market's expectations, we have to continuously challenge ourselves to look at the demand and what patrons want."
He adds that 50 per cent more funds have been pumped into producing the event this year.
Mr Ing agrees that the Halloween scene is getting more competitive. He says that investments into the parties have increased by between 15 and 20 per cent annually.
Despite the competition, the seven-month-old And So Forth, which does pop-up, immersive- themed dinners, is giving the Halloween theme a whirl this year.
It will hold a ghost wedding themed dinner called Marriage Of The Spirits at a secret location on Halloween. Diners are invited to dress as the characters assigned to them when they sign up and partake of an eight-course Chinese feast.
Says And So Forth's co-founder, Ms Emily Png: "I think some of us love an excuse to not be ourselves and just have fun. Halloween provides that perfect opportunity."
Whodunit? at The Rabbit Hole
The White Rabbit and The Rabbit Hole will be decorated to resemble a crime scene while channelling a film noir mood.
Dress as your favourite mystery solver as the venue lauds the great spy, criminal and investigator characters of all time.
Where: The White Rabbit and The Rabbit Hole, 39C Harding Road
When: Oct 25, 9pm till late
Marriage Of The Spirits by And So Forth
Witness an out-of-this-world wedding, more specifically, a ghost wedding ceremony.
It is a pop-up event, so details are scant and the location is kept under wraps until diners sign up.
Where: Secret location (diners will find out where after buying tickets)
When: Oct 31, 7.30 to 10pm
Admission: $125 a person
FOR SCARE FANATICS
Sentosa Spooktacular 2014
All 40,000 sq m of Fort Siloso will be converted into Laddaland, a haunted village (below) based on the 2011 film of the same name.
There are three houses based on scenes from Thai horror flicks Alone (2007), Countdown (2012) and The Swimmers (2014), where blood, gore and ghouls are just a smattering of the horrors that await visitors.
Where: Fort Siloso, Sentosa Island
When: Oct 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31 and Nov 1, 7pm to midnight (last entry at 9.30pm)
Admission: Standard tickets at $66.60 each
Halloween Horror Nights 4
In this edition, the horror factor is brought closer to home with a haunted military camp and school (above) to, perhaps, remind visitors of the spooky tales they might have heard before.
There will also be a new stage show, Jack's Nightmare Circus (right), that will feature Jack The Killer clown, an iconic character from Universal Studios Florida, putting on a freak show with his captives, who include aerial acrobats and contortionists.
Where: Universal Studios Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa
When: Today to Sunday, Oct 10 and 11, Oct 17 and 18, Oct 22 to 25, Oct 31 to Nov 1, 7.30pm to 1.30am
Admission: From $68 for a single night ticket
Safari Boo at River Safari
If you have to make your Halloween child-friendly, River Safari's first Halloween event should be safe.
Little tots can dress up in their favourite costumes and meet mythical creatures such as unicorns and mermaids, uncover animal bones and learn about the myths and legends of creatures of the night from a friendly witch and Frankenstein.
Where: 80 Mandai Lake Road
When: Oct 22, 25 and 26 and Nov 1 and 2, 6 to 9pm (last entry at 8pm)
Admission: Free for children aged 12 and below after 6pm, $15 for adults; visitors with River Safari admission tickets enter Safari Boo for free
I Know Who You Killed This Halloween at Downtown East
For those who have always harboured dreams of solving gruesome crimes akin to those featured in the hit television series CSI, round up family and friends for the Crime Scene Investigation Challenge at Downtown East.
Groups of between six and eight will have to investigate and identify the murderers before they can escape from the crime room.
Where: Begonia Pavilion, Downtown East
When: Oct 31 to Nov 2, 4 to 11pm
Admission: $22 a person (recommended for ages 12 and above)
FO REVELLERS WHO WANT TO PLAY DRESS-UP
Creepy clowns, cotton candy and side show freaks will be some of the features at this Halloween carnival, combined with the elements of a meat market.
The party is one of three events Zouk will be holding this Halloween.
Where: 17 Jiak Kim Street
When: Oct 25, 29 and 31, 9pm till late on Oct 25 and 11pm till late on Oct 29 and 31
Admission: $33 for women and $38 for men on Oct 25 (includes two standard drinks); $28 for men (includes two standard drinks) and free for women on Oct 29; $28 for women and $33 for men on Oct 31 (includes two standard drinks); free entry for those in full costume on Oct 25 and 31
Hollywood Horror Night at 1-Altitude
There will be double the horror at this rooftop hot spot as it will hold two parties at 1-Altitude Gallery & Bar and premium lounge Altimate, as well as a week-long Halloween-themed bonanza.
Patrons can expect to be spooked by infamous Hollywood villains such as The Mummy and Freddy Krueger within the 1-Altitude asylum.
Where: 1-Altitude, Levels 61 to 63 at One Raffles Place
When: Oct 25 and 31, from 5.30pm till late at 1-Altitude bar and 10pm till late at Altimate
Admission: $33 entry to either Altimate or 1-Altitude rooftop or $45 entry to both clubs on Oct 25 (includes one Halloween cocktail and one house pour); $30 entry to either Altimate or 1-Altitude rooftop (includes one house pour) or $45 entry to both clubs on Oct 31 (includes two house pours)
This article was first published on Oct 9, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.