It was like a scene from a horror movie. From the window of my hotel room, I could see the streets below filling up with zombies … monsters … aliens … I would have feared the city was under attack, if I wasn’t excitedly applying latex flesh wounds to my own skin.
Each spring, over 3500 people attend the Midwest Haunters Convention (MHC), “the largest Halloween Show of its kind in the US serving Haunted Attraction Industry professionals and enthusiasts.” The three-day convention features educational seminars, workshops, a trade show room with over 100 vendors, chartered bus tours to top-rated haunted attractions in the area, and plenty of entertainment. Presented by TransWorld Trade Shows and Netherworld Haunted House, the convention returns to the Greater Columbus Convention Centre this June 10-12, 2016 for its 13th year.
My partner and I were thrilled to attend this convention for the very first time last year, and are excitedly making plans to attend in 2016. As an organizer of the Cannington Haunted Trail and Maze, I can honestly say that this event will change the way you think about running a haunt, whether you are a home haunter or professional/charity haunt. Based on my experience of last year’s convention, here are my Top 5 Reasons to Attend MHC.
Where else can you share three consecutive days and nights with fellow haunters, experts in the field and haunt-related vendors? There were so many opportunities to meet others in the industry, share stories and experiences, ask questions and get answers and advice. From the educational seminars, tradeshow and organized social events, to off-time outside of the convention centre … networking opportunities were everywhere. Connections were made and lasting friendships were formed.
Over 35 educational sessions were offered at reasonable rates over the three days. Topics included (but were not limited to) prop and set building, business plan writing, makeup and special effects, marketing, costume distressing, animation design and scare tactics. We took advantage of the educational seminars that were offered to learn best practices in the industry and to get ideas of new products and trends. Most of the presenters are veteran haunt owners and/or well-known gurus who are happy to share their expertise and personal experiences with others.
WOW. All I can say is WOW. I was completely in awe of the variety of professional vendors showcasing high-quality masks, costumes, props, makeup, special effects, apparel, lighting, signage, and sound effects. We purchased a high quality fog machine and juice from Froggy’s Fog, dark attraction lighting from Gantom Lighting and some hanging heads from Eville J’s Creepy Closet.
Monster Masquerade Costume Party
My partner and I did not attend the masquerade party last year, and to be honest, will not likely attend this year either. The only reason for that is we prefer to lounge by the outdoor firepit at the hotel patio and chat with fellow haunters over the loud, sweaty, crowded party. But in speaking with others who did attend, it is clearly an absolute hit, showcasing some amazing costuming and makeup effects. The party also includes a body art fashion show (very cool) and many contests and prizes.
Bus Tour to Top-Rated Haunt
Last year’s bus tour led hundreds of MHC attendees to the Haunted Hoochie, one of the world’s most extreme haunted houses. It is marketed as full sensory assault, and I would agree 100%. Between the controversial scenes, pounding sound, dizzying lights, and aggressive characters, I left the haunt feeling sick to my stomach, in a good kind of way. This haunt pushes the envelope to the extreme and was a great opportunity to experience a professional extreme haunt first-hand. Unfortunately, it was quite expensive as a featured event through MHC ($100 US which included the bus ride and a couple of free beverages), but in the end, we felt it was worthwhile as we had a good scare and came away with many great ideas. MHC 2016’s featured haunt is The ScareAtorium, “Columbus’ Scariest Haunted Attraction”. This haunt features two main attractions as well as three 3-minute escape rooms which will be interesting to see given their recent popularity in haunts.
I really can’t say enough about the Midwest Haunters Convention, and what a fabulous event it is. Since attending last year, we have made many improvements to our haunt, including increasing our marketing efforts, adding new set designs, developing a volunteer recruitment and retention plan, purchasing professional lighting and special effects, creating additional wardrobe pieces, developing a makeup team, implementing a security team, and basically tightening up our operations. Feedback from last year’s event was fabulous and showed that our efforts had not gone unnoticed. I can’t wait to discover what we will learn, see and experience at this year’s convention. Will you be going?