The inaugural West Coast Haunters Convention was held in Salem, Oregon over the weekend, and I attended as a guest speaker. My classes were “Haunting your haunt: Backstories to add life to your living dead.”
Oregon was a blast. The rain didn’t stop the fun, as the event hall was full of vendors, classes went on throughout the weekend, make-up competitions, haunt tours, and a LOT of networking with haunt owners and enthusiasts.
Special shout-out to new friends: set designer Nick Collins, marketing guru Jody Bossert, super convention organizer Ed Roberts, and consultant and overall head honcho of haunting Leonard Pickel. The Wolfe Bros., industry make-up wizards, were also in attendance and entertained during dinner (and cocktails) while “en costumé!”
Takeaway from the convention: “A house cannot be haunted unless it has a history.” ~Stephen King (and yes, Leonard, I did steal that!) I am, after all, in the business of writing those haunted house histories. 🙂 Backstories are integral if haunt owners want to increase sales, enliven their construction crew, and enthuse their actors. A backstory can add a movie-like element to the attraction that will keep customers coming back for more. And I haven’t even begun to discuss how haunts can use the stories on social networking sites! That’s for another blog.
Haunting, it turns out, is a huge industry. Haunt owners, yard haunters, vendors, as well as haunt-goers, attended the convention and made it very clear that California is behind as far as the haunt industry is concerned. Many haunted attractions stay up all year and open for Friday the 13th or for a few days during Spring Break. Great stuff! For the people in the group photo, haunting is a year-round job.
One myth might be that if you’re into haunting then you must have nothing else going on in life. Not so! Most haunters I met had college degrees and were quite astute businesspeople. Great group!
Update on my friends at Talladega Frights in Bakersfield, Calif.: They have moved! Beginning in the 2010 season, the attraction will be at its permanent location on Rosedale Hwy., next door to Rosedale Middle School. The location at NOR’s Fruitvale/Norris Park was great, but there was no future potential to become a permanent haunt. The new location offers what owners hope is the possibility of having a permanent structure beginning in 2011 AND plenty of drive-by signage. Look for them as you drive down Rosedale!