MHC 2012: A Volunteer’s Journey Into Darkness
By Noah Wullkotte
2012 was the 9th anniversary of the Midwest Haunters Convention and to say I was excited is a big understatement. This year I agreed to volunteer at the haunt extravaganza of the year and in April I received my schedule. Friday, June 8th I would work from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm as a greeter. This required me to guide people in the right direction as to where to go to pick up their registration or to register onsite. I was also responsible for helping with the flow of traffic as people entered the Franklin Room D.
Luckily I would be working side by side with the one and only Rex B. Hamilton. Rex is one of the most well known and influential haunt actors in the state of Ohio and one of the creators of the Ohio Haunted Conference which would later become the Midwest Haunters Convention. I was a little nervous, but I was excited at the same time. It was a new experience for me since I had never volunteered to work at a convention. I would be interacting with a lot of people, hundreds in fact.
I would also be volunteering on Saturday afternoon. My job required me to help out at the pre-registration booth downstairs next to the tradeshow floor entrance. This would be an exciting MHC for sure. In previous years, I covered the event for City Blood. But 2012 would be the first time I was helping make the Midwest Haunters Convention possible. I would be part of the staff and I had a responsibility to uphold and to make it the most bone chilling Midwest Haunters Convention possible.
All week long I was contemplating what to wear for the costume ball while in the back of my head I was a little nervous about how people would treat me as I greeted them. You never know how people will treat you when they have to wait in a long line. Some are understanding while others can be jerks to say the least. The entire week I was nervous as hell especially about what I was going to wear to the Masquerade Ball. Luckily I decided to go as an evil monk. I ordered a Venetian Stalker Mask the previous week and picked up a brown robe, black gloves and makeup from the local costume store. I was ready for the one and only Midwest Haunters Convention and Friday couldn’t have gotten here soon enough.
The night before, I started getting a strange pain in my chest every time I breathed. I thought I might have fractured a rib or had Pleurisy. I would later find out that it was stress pains that would later vanish as I drove up to Columbus, OH. It took about 2 hours to drive up to the Hyatt Regency Hotel, but thankfully I made it in time with 20 minutes to spare. It was 1:40 pm and Franklin Room D was full of staff members and the organizers of the Midwest Haunters Convention.
Kathy Schieferstein looked very busy and thankfully was able to give me a short orientation on what I was going to be doing for the next 4 hours. Kathy’s husband Barry looked stressed out beyond belief and I wasn’t about to interrupt what he was doing. I was first given a packet with all the free goodies volunteers receive as well as all the goodies press receives. This included a VIP wristband, a name badge and more. I would be recording audio Friday and Saturday for City Blood Radio and would be taking pictures to include in the article you are currently reading. I quickly put my purple MHC volunteer shirt over my black V-neck shirt and Kathy was ready to fill me in on my duties for the weekend. She would also be showing me the tradeshow floor while vendors were setting up.
The tradeshow floor looked like a dark and barren desert with vendor booths half put together and people frantically scrambling to get things done. I felt a little sorry for Kathy dealing with a plethora of tasks while having to give me a tour. Me being nervous about volunteering was nothing compared to what Kathy would be dealing with the entire weekend. 20 minutes had passed and I had finally made it back up to Franklin Room D. Rex and I were ready for the horde of haunters that would soon be lining up. We would only be letting in pre-registered attendees for the first 15 or so minutes and only 20 people were let in at a time.
There were a total of 3 lines. The first line was for attendees that were pre-registered for classes. The second line was for attendees that pre-registered for events. The third line was for those who needed to register for events or classes onsite. The time was 2:05 pm and in a few minutes the doors would be opening for those who needed to register for the 2012 Midwest Haunters Convention. I was pumped and ready for the flock of haunt goers that would be soon be storming the registration room.
A few minutes had passed and it was 2:10 pm. It was finally time to open the doors and let the rush of haunt goers in. The website Haunt Ventures recorded video of the doors being opened as haunters waited to be let in. I stepped outside while Rex took care of people inside. The line was big and people looked excited and amped up for this year’s MHC. My adrenaline was pumping and I was ready to do the best job I possibly could. Luckily I was able to strike up some conversation with a few people. One guy was coming all the way from Texas to experience the Midwest Haunters Convention for the first time ever. The first people we let in were pre-registered attendees. 10 minutes later we would be allowing everyone to come in.
It was obvious from the start that Rex had helped with the registration room before and it was pretty apparent that it was my first time volunteering at Midwest Haunters Convention. Within about 10 minutes, I started to get a hang of things and was a pro. The majority of attendees arrived between 2:10 pm and 2:45 pm. Hundreds of people had shown up in that time frame and the rest of the day consisted of small bursts of groups that would arrive every couple of minutes.
By 3:00 pm, hundreds of people had already walked through Franklin Room D and for the next 3 hours things got a little boring. Thankfully, there were plenty of people I knew and talking to them helped pass the time. I got a chance to talk with Jason Ervin and Allen Rizzo from USS Nightmare, Josh Wells, Krystal Crouch, and Damien Reaper from The Dent Schoolhouse, Eddie Embry and Angela Lawson from ScreamPark, Charles Mauerer and Derek Vitas from Spooky Ranch and many others. I even got to take a couple pictures with various people. I’m sure these photos will eventually pop up on the internet somewhere.
By 5:00 pm the crowd was pretty much dead and most outside traffic was from The Paranormal Bus Tour. Unfortunately the ‘Why Halloween Matters’ class next door was empty and I wasn’t really sure why. Maybe no one knew what time it was taking place. It was like a ghost town in Franklin Room C.
Around 5:40 pm, the buses arrived to pick up passengers for the Friday Bus tour at Costume Vault and Scare-A-Torium in Dublin,OH. Franklin Room D was still full of people, but the lines for registration were dwindling down. I was pretty much all by myself in the hallway in terms of people I knew. From the far right of me I could see a lonely bar tender who was ready to serve drinks. No one was paying attention to him
The majority of attendees had already picked up their registration or registered onsite. So, it was time to split and get a bite to eat before taking off for the Scare-A-Torium haunt tour. Before I left, I walked back into the registration room to pick up another packet with goodies and then I would be off. My back was sore and I was dying of starvation.
After getting a small bite to eat at Subway, I was ready to take a trip to Dublin,Ohio for the Friday night haunt tour at the Scare-A-Torium. It took less than 20 minutes to arrive at the haunt from downtown Columbus, Ohio and when we arrived at The Scare-A-Torium, there was a small line of people waiting to get in. The haunt would officially open at 8:00 pm and we decided to wait in the car before people started to show up. The charter buses were at the Costume Vault and would be arriving at the haunt just in time.
After waiting in the car for a couple of minutes, we decided to get out and enter the Scare-A-Torium. We got in line and waited for our turn. I recognized many of the people that were in line since I talked to them earlier in the day when they were registering for MHC. I even saw Rex B. Hamilton with his trusty camera as he took some shots of the crowd. The line was pretty small at that point, but that would quickly change. Suddenly large charter buses rolled up near the entrance and parked. Large groups of haunters stepped out and proceeded to enter The Scare-A-Torium.
The line was now all the way out the door. There must have been a couple hundred customers waiting to get the shirts scared off of them. Big Momma Clownteen was entertaining patrons while another backwoods character roamed the line. I could see Rex off in the distance snapping pictures while Haunt Ventures was taking a panorama picture of the crowd.
Our wait in line was about 30 minutes which wasn’t long at all. It was finally our turn to enter The Scare-A-Torium. Neena and Kelly Collins (producers of MHC) own and operate The Scare-A-Torium. It’s a unique blend of high energy actors and detailed scenes. Overall The Scare-A-Torium impressed me big time. I won’t go in to details because I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises you might experience this fall season. Much of the makeup for the MHC tour was done by Nick Wolfe of Graftobian Studios and the attention to detail is awe inspiring. The actors had high energy and the entire production was just as good as it is during the haunt season.
After we were done touring The Scare-A-Torium, we were ready to drive back home to good ole Cincinnati,OH. There were some things I had to take care of and Scary-Oke was simply out of the question for me that night. As we left The Scare-A-Torium, we drove past a replica of the Ghost Busters vehicle. It was pretty cool, but too modern for my tastes. Unfortunately, we had to wait a few minutes so we could pass the Zombie Army Bus. They were holding up traffic and I wasn’t exactly sure why. All I knew was that I wasn’t in the mood to deal with people who obviously didn’t care about who they were inconveniencing.
It took around 2 hours to make it back to Cincinnati. My back was sore and I was worn out from volunteering and my lack of sleep the previous night. I would be traveling back up to Columbus, Ohio the next day and I was looking forward to it. I would be helping out at the pre-registration booth and was optimistic about the people I would be dealing with. It would only be a 2 hour work day and I would have plenty of time to check out the tradeshow floor.
Saturday, June 9th
I woke up around 9:30 am and was feeling great about the day that was ahead of me. After brushing my teeth, getting dressed and packing up my costume, I was ready for the trip up to Columbus, Ohio for the 2nd day of the Midwest Haunters Convention. There was tons of traffic on the highway that morning. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t make it in time for my shift, but luckily I made it in the nick of time with 5 minutes to spare.
My hours that day were 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm at the pre-registration booth. I would be handing people the appropriate packets or wrist bands for the classes or events they registered for. Everyone was very busy when I arrived and supplies were running low. The purple MHC T-Shirts were sold out and the welcome bags were completely gone. They were replaced with plastic Greater Columbus Convention Center bags.
The pre-registration booth had less than 20 packets for people to pick up. I was informed that about 5 people had picked up their packets from 9:30 am-12:00 pm. It was a slow day at the pre-registration booth and the majority of attendees were registering onsite instead. My duties were limited since I was working side by side with another volunteer. She had the hang of things and all I was taking care of was handing people bags. It was dead at the pre-registration booth and I wasn’t really needed that afternoon. There were some interesting people I met. One haunter approached a volunteer and proceeded to talk about how he’s insecure about his small penis. That was an akward situation to say the least.
I was able to quit an hour early since my co-worker had everything taken care of and was waiting for her husband to take over her shift. I was a little relieved because I would now be able to check out the tradeshow floor for the first time that weekend without half of the lights turned off. I showed security my VIP wristband and I was off to enter this year’s Midwest Haunters Convention. The tradeshow floor was packed as far as the eye could see. Sounds of horns and air compressors echoed throughout the convention center like a sweet symphony to the ears.
The convention was packed with attendees and there were a lot more vendors then in previous years. There were a total of 105 vendors for the 2012 MHC and the floor was more filled up than it had ever been before. There were so many different booths to check out that I couldn’t contain myself. Everything from LED lighting to professional fog juice was on display. My personal favorite area of the tradeshow floor was the haunted vehicle showcase.
Attendees were able to get up close and personal to custom vehicles that had been modified to look spooky and ghoulishly frightening. There were hearses, hot rods and even a Military Hummer that advertised for Wells Township Haunted House in Brillant, OH. Wells Township was City Blood’s 2010 Visitors’ Choice Haunt. The Hummer was decked out with flashing lights and a loud air machine gun. It was loud and bad ass.
Actors dressed up as fiendish characters roamed the tradeshow floor. Most of the vendors offered cash and carry items and there were few companies that sold animatronics. My personal favorite prop at any convention I attend are the demonic dolls. The work and detail that goes into some of these creations is awe inspiring to say the least. They’re creepy and affordable.
I walked the tradeshow floor for a couple of hours before the start of the Monster Makeup Wars. I didn’t talk to that many people with the exception of the Haunt Rocker Jerry Vayne. I was surprised he recognized me since I had never talked to him before and there are few pictures of me on the internet. He must have read my name tag. I talked to Jerry for a few minutes at his booth and then was off to explore the tradeshow before the start of the Monster Makeup Wars.
Time flew by and it was already 3:45 PM. In less than an hour the competition would begin. I decided that in the meantime I would take some more photos of the various booths when suddenly I saw a large line of people at the Graftobian Studios booth. Apparently, Brian Wolfe of The Wolfe Brothers and first winner of the Monster Makeup Wars was putting professional airbrush makeup on people’s faces free of charge. Whatever you wanted done, he would do.
So, of course I was going to wait in line and have my makeup made up by a professional makeup artist that is known around the country. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted done, but I had time to think before it was my turn to sit in the makeup chair. That night I would be dressing as an Evil Monk for the Masquerade Ball, but wasn’t that crazy about the mask I would be wearing. It was a black wooden elf style mask that looked like something you would see at Mardi Gras. It was a pain in the ass to wear because it was just way too tight fitting. My mind was racing as I thought about what would look good.
After about an hour of waiting in line, it was my turn. I finally decided to be made up as a reptilian type monster. Brian draped a barber cloth over me and I felt like I was getting ready to get a hair cut. I closed my eyes as Brian started to spray my face with airbrush paint. It had very little smell to it and was cool to the touch. From time to time I would open my eyes slightly to see what was going on. A lot of the makeup work involved stencil to create texture and add depth to the overall look of the reptile. About 15 minutes had passed and I was ready to look at myself in the mirror.
I looked like an aged reptile that had been through hell and back. It was perfect for the costume I would be wearing. Brian would take a shot of me with his camera and the next person in line was ready to be made into a creature of the night. My brother Shaun was next in line and he left it up to Brian as to what he wanted to become. Brian assured Shaun that no one else would look like him at the party and he was definitely right. The end product resembled a satanic witch doctor. Shaun looked menacing and evil.
It’s funny how you meet people in life and you never think twice about what kind of stress they may be dealing with. This year was the first time I ever met Brian Wolfe and he looked as healthy as could be. A few weeks later I would find out that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few weeks after the convention had ended and was in for the fight of his life. This just shows you that you should treat everyone with kindness and respect because you never know what hell they may be going through and how much time they have left on this earth. I may not know Brian personally, but I’m rooting for his quick recovery as he faces cancer head on.
There was little time left for the Monster Makeup Wars and I was determined to get some shots with my camera and record audio for the radio show. The competition was fierce. Each contestant had 30 minutes to make their model the most grotesque monster possible with the materials they were provided. When it was all said and done, Team Wicked Jester Entertainment was victorious. Second place went to Team Dark from USS Nightmare in Newport, Kentucky. In my mind I was rooting for USS Nightmare because they are a Greater Cincinnati haunt. I’m glad they at least finished in second place.
The lights for the tradeshow would be shutting off pretty soon and there was little time left to take photos. It was a mad rush to take the best shots possible when suddenly the tradeshow floor went black. It was closing time for Midwest Haunters Convention and what we had to look forward to that night was the Masquerade Ball. It would be my first year attending the party of the year and it definitely won’t be my last.
The Masquerade Ball/Party
After a few hours of hanging out at the hotel, it was time to get dressed for the ball. After getting changed we quickly walked up the stairs for The Masquerade Ball. Trio Of Fire/ Apocalyptic Side Show was setting up and getting ready to put on their show. This is Halloween by Marilyn Manson blared as they practiced their routine. The Side Show would begin around 8 pm and in the meantime, I hung out upstairs checking out all of the amazing costumes haunters had created. My personal favorite was the dinosaur bride who wore a thin veil and made a weird creature noise as she was ready to strike. Other costumes included a winged gargoyle, a Rag Doll Offering free hugs and of course Brainstorm who everyone would be introduced to later that night.
The crowd was small outside of the Ballroom and the doors were still closed. At one point, we were informed that everyone had to wait downstairs for a while until we were allowed back up. Around 7:40 pm, we walked back up the stairs to see what was going on. The ballroom was packed and everyone was waiting for the sideshow to begin. In a few minutes everyone would get to feast their eyes on a real live freak show. A few minutes had passed and it was time for the show. The ballroom was full of creatures of the night wearing incredible costumes and enjoying each other’s company. There were pimps, skeletons, women with their asses hanging out, winged creatures and just about anything you could imagine. It was a weird sight especially for those who weren’t directly involved in the haunt industry. I’m sure most of the hotel guests were a little weirded out to say the least.
The sideshow featured dangerous stunts, an escape artist and more. At one point, the audience was allowed to participate in helping tie up the escape artist. The Mission Impossible theme played as he fooled the audience into thinking he wouldn’t be able to break fre and in the end he made his daring escape as the crowd applauded. The show lasted a little less than an hour, but was a great start for an entertaining night that lied ahead.
At a little past 9, people were allowed to enter the ballroom. People stormed the place trying to get the best seat possible. DJ Sick Rick rocked the place as he played some popular tunes. There were plenty of hors d’oeuvres that evening, but the best food would be brought out later that night. It included chicken fingers, potato skins and other goodies.
Throughout the night there were many competitions on the main stage. The dance floor was packed for the Body Art Fashion Show, Scariest Character Contest and Miss Scary Midwest. These annual events were the highlight of the party. The winner of the Scariest Character Contest was Doctor Detroit who walked away with $100 in cash and prizes. The winner of Miss Scary Midwest was Dolly who was presented with a sash, $100 and much more. The highlight for me that night was the Body Art Fashion Show. What guy doesn’t like to see semi nude females covered with paint?
The Ballroom was jam packed and it was a wild and crazy party. The left side of the ballroom seemed to be full of older adults while the right side was full of a younger generation of people. My table was pretty low key, but the table behind me was pretty wild. A girl in a thong was on top of her boyfriend giving him a lap dance which I’m sure made a few people uncomfortable. I wasn’t one of them because it was pretty damn funny and something memorable that night.
The contests ended around 11 pm and the rest of the night consisted of dancing and hanging out with friends. Many of the attendees could show off their costumes by getting their pictures taken by Laura Dark Photography outside of the ballroom. It was free of charge and all of the pictures would be featured on the company’s Facebook page. The 2012 Midwest Haunters Convention was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had at a convention in a very long time. I was relaxed and didn’t feel any pressure to ramble on about my website. It was just a good ole time that I’m not going to forget anytime soon.
Next year is the 10th anniversary of the Midwest Haunters Convention and the organizers are sure to have plenty up their sleeves including a showdown between each of the Miss Scary Midwest contestant winners to see who the best of the best is. I would like to sincerely thank all of the organizers and volunteers of this year’s Midwest Haunters Convention and I’ll be sure to see everyone in 2013.
For more information on MHC, please visit www.midwesthauntersconvention.com.