I’ve just returned from St. Louis, Missouri where I attended my first TransWorld convention. It was a remarkable experience I had a lot of fun. I feel reinvigorated with new ideas and prospects for my future as a haunter.
The Secret Handshake
Unlike some trade shows, not just anyone can get a ticket to the Halloween & Attractions Show. The organizers have carefully designed this event to promote big business transactions. Attendees are attracted to the event because its a gathering of elite vendors within the industry. The elite vendors are lured in by the promise that most of the attendees are serious buyers. Many attendees are owners, operators, and managers of haunted house attractions. They come to St. Louis with 4-6 figure budgets and many of the higher end animatronics cost as much as a small car.
As I’ve been given to understand, Terror on the Fox actors believed that they could only get credentialed to attend TransWorld if the owners / management invited them along as their guests. Fortunately (for me, anyway), I debunked that myth by accident. While neurotically waiting for registration to open up for Midwest Haunters Convention, I stumbled upon the fact that an employee of any haunted house attraction – including its actors – could register for the show if they provided proof of employment. Apparently, I was the first actor in 20 years to figure that out on his own.
In retrospect, that might have gotten me in trouble. But the sale of Terror on the Fox coincided with TransWorld by about a week. So I don’t think my old boss gave a shit.
Kid in a Candy Store
TransWorld’s Halloween & Attractions Show is how I imagine Christmas morning should be for people like me. Everywhere I looked, there were props and corpses and costumes and equipment to drool over like a St. Bernard in heat. I’ll paraphrase John de Lancie. “Here there are wonders more incredible than you can possibly imagine and terrors to freeze your soul. It’s not safe in here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it’s not for the timid.”
Networking Goals Thwarted by Introversion
My primary goal at TransWorld was to “get to know” the haunt entertainment industry. Given my relative experience, I knew I wasn’t competitive enough to really break through. But I wanted to learn, to see who’s who within the industry, and sow some networking seeds.
Unfortunately, my introversion thwarted pretty much every single networking event I attended. I’m lousy at estimating numbers, but if I had to guess, there might have been upwards of 10,000 people on the trade show floor. I could be way off in either direction. Suffice to say, it was crowded. And I hate crowds. I could cope with being on the trade show floor, because there were things for me to do and things for me to look at. I could ignore the people.
But the social events were another story. To my credit, I successfully forced myself to go to almost every event. I went to the opening night party at the Holiday Inn, the Gantom Party at the City Museum, and hung out with hundreds of haunters in the lobby of the Marriott. But just to put myself in those situations meant getting stoned first. And I was only able to tolerate being amidst the horde for a few minutes before I wanted to retreat to my room.
I accomplished absolutely no networking.
My secondary goal was to procure equipment that I needed to complete Dad’s Cabin. This consisted mostly of LED spotlights and some mechanical tech. Also, I’ve built two corpses, so far, and have come to learn just how much I enjoy that particular craft. So I made a point to visit a skeleton vendor in anticipation of ordering a large quantity of frames with which to build my own zombie army.
Favorite Items and Vendors
To wrap up this post, I thought I’d share some of my favorite vendors, props, and other intriguing things I encountered at TransWorld.
- Vault of Souls – a haunted attraction in Tampa Bay, Florida
- Dark Hour – a haunted house in Plano, Texas
- FrightProps / FrightIdeas – electronics, controllers, and other devices
- Immortal Masks – silicone masks
- CFX Composite Effects – silicone masks
- Grim Stitch Factory – burlap scarecrow masks
- Skeletons and More – sells fishing tackle 😉
- Poison Props – animatronics
- Ghost Ride Productions – corpses
- Pale Night Productions – animated props, make-up, and blood