UNIVERSAL CITY — A shadowy figure dressed in black walks slowly down a deserted New York street. Warm summer winds whip around strands of his long hair and the tails of his ankle-length black coat like tentacles of the dead reaching out for any unseen survivors.
The ominous man is rock legend Ozzy Osbourne and the street he's walking on is on the Universals Studios Hollywood back lot. Through Halloween, Osbourne and the band Black Sabbath are a huge part of the park's annual "Halloween Horror Nights."
Black Sabbath's latest album, "13," serves as the theme for the "Black Sabbath: 13 3D" maze, one of the many scary attractions based on movies, TV shows and music that opened Friday and will run until early November. Along with the Black Sabbath-inspired maze, this year's "Horror Nights" includes stops at "The Walking Dead: No Safe Haven," "Evil Dead: Book of the Dead" and "Insidious: Into The Further."
Osbourne and fellow bandmate Geezer Butler, the Black Sabbath musicians who issued in the age of heavy metal music, are at the park to see how their album has been brought to life. What they see is a living black-light poster world that starts at a Gothic church and winds through a cemetery, insane asylum (named in honor of Osbourne), World War I trench and other horror spots inspired by the band's music, such as "Iron Man," "War Pigs" and "Electric Funeral."
As for seeing their work turned into a theme park attraction, Butler says, "It seems fitting. It's great that after all these years we've got new things to do. This was unexpected."
Osbourne adds, "This whole year's been amazing to me. I am still amazed that people still find us relevant. I don't know what the reason is. I don't want to know."
All he knows is the band, which exploded onto the music world in 1968 with their dark and driving sound, is showing more relevance this year than ever. The album "13" is the 19th from Black Sabbath, but it is the first to give the group a No. 1 hit in the United States. Osbourne's always tried to avoid the number 13, but the success of this album has him rethinking his triskaidekaphobia.
Asked why they would name the album after a number that at one time scared his band mate, Geezer says the title came from Osbourne. Osbourne smiles and says, "They tell me that's the case, but I don't recall it."
Both Osbourne and Butler recall how they made a couple of attempts to record the new album, which was stalled in 2012 when guitarist Tony Iommi was diagnosed with lymphoma. Finally, everything came together. Butler wrote 16 songs in three weeks and penned two more the day of the recording session. He says this prolific writing is just something he does.
"The thing is with me, if you give me a year to write something, I'll wait until the 364th day to do it," Butler says. "Writing is like a force that drives you to it. If you try to force it like we did a few years ago, it doesn't happen. This time it felt right."
The idea for using "13" as the theme in "Horror Nights" came from John Murdy, creative director for Universal Studios Hollywood, who's been a Black Sabbath fan since he was in high school and once heard a lecture on the evils of rock 'n' roll, particularly the music of Black Sabbath.
"Ozzy Osbourne's haunting vocals and Geezer Butler's foreboding lyrics provide the perfect soundtrack for 'Halloween Horror Nights' and endless inspiration for our new haunted attraction," Murdy says.
He originally pitched the idea to Osbourne's wife, Sharon, and then showed detailed drawings of the maze to the musicians. All were impressed with the drawings, but Osbourne wasn't completely clear on what the maze would look like when finished.
"It's like talking to someone who has written music and they know what it sounds like in their head," Osbourne says. "I didn't know what to expect because I thought Universal was just roller coaster rides. I came today thinking I would be on a roller coaster ride. We walked through the maze today and all I can say is I hope it's not too frightening for some people."
Other Halloween theme park events include:
Disneyland, Anaheim: Halloween means it's time for Disney villains, Mickey Mouse and his friends in costumes and special after-hours "Mickey's Halloween Party," through Oct. 31.
Look for a makeover of the Haunted Mansion (inspired by "Tim Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas"), the transformation of Main Street, U.S.A., into a pumpkin festival and the arrival of a carnival at Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland. There's also a new feature, the "Monsters U Dance Party."
"Mickey's Halloween Party," a separate-ticket event for trick-or-treating families, will be held 13 nights starting Friday.
Tickets are available at Disneyland.com/Halloween.
Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park: The 41st annual "Knott's Scary Farm Halloween Haunt" features 12 scary attractions, including five new mazes and six new shows. The park will be overrun with more than 1,000 monsters.
Knott's Berry Farm park closes at 5: 30 p.m. each evening and reopens at 7 p.m. as Knott's Scary Farm. The scares start Thursday and will continue Friday through Sunday, Oct. 3-6, 10-13, 17-20, 24-27, 30-31 and Nov 1-2.
You can get tickets by going to knotts.com/scaryfarm or by calling (714) 220-5200.
"Halloween Horror Nights" dates are this Friday and Saturday, Oct. 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 31; and Nov. 1, 2. The scares will go on from 7 p.m.-2 a.m. For more information or to buy tickets — which are separate from the park admission — go to HalloweenHorrorNights.com/hollywood.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.