What a week! I just returned last Sunday from TransWorld’s 2017 Halloween & Attractions Show in St. Louis.
TransWorld’s HAAS (known colloquially just as “TransWorld” is an annual trade show convention held in St. Louis in mid-to-late March. Objectively, it’s the largest trade show of its kind in the United States, and arguably, it is “the event” that all haunters foam at the mouth to attend. It is not open to the public. Rather, attendees must meet certain criteria to get credentialed.
I refer to TransWorld as “Christmastime for Haunters”. This was my second year in attendance.
It’s hard to express the same novelty, wonder, and amazement I felt the first time I attended last year. Perhaps I would have been amazed if the convention had stepped up its game over last year. It didn’t, and I know most attendees would agree with that assessment. This year’s show felt a bit more subdued. Nowhere was that more evident than in the Dark Zone, and ScareFactory’s pathetic display (compared to what they brought last year). Again, I wasn’t the only person who noticed or complained about it. The sad thing is, ScareFactory buys up prime real estate on the convention floor, along with Poison Props. If they were going to phone it in this year, they should have given up their space to a more worthy vendor.
Don’t get me wrong, the 2017 HAAS wasn’t nearly as big a letdown as Midwest Haunter’s Convention. If this had been my first year attending TransWorld, I’m sure I would have been as impressed this year as I was last year. But this was my second outing, and instead of improving, the show took a small step backward.
Last year, my laser focus goal was to get all of the equipment and tools I would need to complete Dad’s Cabin. I spent nearly $1,100 on two pieces of mech, a prop controller, a storm system, and a bunch of lights. My broader goal was to learn about as many aspects of the haunt entertainment industry as I could. I attended 4 or 5 seminars and attended every single social event they had planned.
This year, I spent only $250 on an airbrush system and a bunch of LEDs. I wanted a pair of black-out sclera contact lenses, but at $100, I figured it was a risky purchase. I struggle getting normal-sized contacts in my eyeballs. Sclera lenses – bad-ass as they may be – would have been tougher to wear.
I only attended one seminar this year. My main goal for this year was to look at new materials and techniques for the corpse and prop crafting I like to do; to network; and to seek out new employment or business ideas. In essence, it was a soft focus. I was no longer interested in all of the different industry niches, but also not concentrated on a single project. This year was about learning as much as possible about the niche I wanted to be in.
I Can Sell That. Wait… I Can Sell That?!
On at least four separate occasions on the trade show floor, I saw products that were VERY similar to props I had built last year for Dad’s Cabin. In fact, some of the products were so similar, it was uncanny. Ironically, I trashed most of the props I built – I didn’t think they were worth anything. Come to find out that their counterparts on the trade show floor had price tags ranging from $50 – $200! In some instances, my props were better quality than those being sold at TransWorld.
I don’t have a huge ego about the quality of my work. I know I’m a haunt novice and that I’ve got a lot to learn and practice. But seriously – if these other folks can sell their comparable or inferior props for that much money… FUCK! I’m sitting on a gold mine!
But then, these other people have one thing I do not have. A will to sell things. I am not a salesman. I don’t have the social drive to go out there and shill for my wares. Nor do I want to deal with customer complaints, haggle over prices, or have my work undervalued.
I’m not really sure what to make of these revelations…
I did virtually no socializing this year. I planned to network while on the trade show floor. But I forgot just how fucking crowded TransWorld is. It makes stopping at one booth and trying to have a conversation damn near impossible.
I did not attend any of the special events this year. In my defense, I had a very good excuse for being reclusive. Since the beginning of March, I have been battling an obnoxiously stubborn throat infection that has made it difficult (and at times downright painful) for me to speak out loud. The more I talk, the more my throat constricts.
But since I was just talking about my introversion in my last blog post, let’s be perfectly honest here… I made the decision to not register for any of the events long before I developed this infection. I still would have cowered in my hotel room even if I had been healthy. My throat just gave me a convenient and socially-acceptable excuse to avoid talking to people.
That cost me. Just like last year, I traveled down to St. Louis and shared my hotel room with my Terror on the Fox friends Cole and Macy. Saturday night, Cole and Macy attended the Voodoo Soiree. From what it sounds like, I missed out on a pretty good opportunity to talk to some of the folks from Zombie Army, including Fluffy himself!
Zombie Army runs Statesville Haunted Prison, HellsGate, and produces Days of the Living Dead. Its founder/director, John LaFlamboy is something of a minor celebrity in the industry. Most haunters I know (myself included) would give up their first born for the opportunity to work for a company like Zombie Army.
I’m not suggesting that they would have offered me a job if I had gone to the party. I’m still a newbie, I know I’m not at their level yet. And even if they had offered me a job, there is one thing I don’t like about Zombie Army: they’re based out of Chicago. I’m still debating the urban / rural issue, but I am quite certain that I don’t want to live anywhere near a city the size of Chicago… ever.
That said – there’s no telling what opportunities or connections might have presented themselves had I attended the Voodoo Soiree. Yes, I was sick and had a good excuse not to attend. But if ever there was a time for me to make a connection – it’s now, on the verge of unemployment with no job lined up.
Cole and Macy got to have that experience. I missed out and I’m more than a little jelly. This is going to make what I have to do over the next several months that much more difficult. Hopefully the price of bribing my way into a good apprenticeship doesn’t get much higher. In a few months, two blowjobs and a case of beer will be all I can afford.