Indy Haunt Fest: A New Ghoulish Gathering
By Noah Wullkotte
Saturday, June 26th we drove up to lovely Indianapolis, Indiana for the first annual Indy Haunt Fest. Thankfully it was only 2 hours from Cincinnati so we didn’t have to drive far at all. The drive up to Indianapolis was pleasant and when we finally arrived at 9am we couldn’t contain our excitement. We parked the car and suddenly realised we were next to 3 decked out hearses which was pretty cool to say the least. Hearses were from companies and haunts such as Von Cheron and The Old Orchard Trail. Von Charon specializes in custom straight jackets and The Old Orchard Trail is a newer haunt in Spiceland, Indiana opening this September.
We decided to buy a one day pass since there wasn’t too much going on Sunday in the way of classes or events. To our surprise the workers didn’t seem to be that organized and we had to even ask for a one day blue wrist band so we could enter. It would have also been nice if schedules were handed out when you signed in at the registration table, but since they were passed out later in the day it wasn’t tha big of a deal.
We paid for our tickets and decided to walk inside to check out the event. I was glad to see that there was a well built handicap accessible ramp leading into the entrance. There aren’t enough places that cater to the psyically challenged. Next to the entrance a witch prop could be seen stirring a cauldron while a skeleton hearse drawn carriage stood alone off in the distance near a tent setup fo the 2:00 PM Foam Carving Make and Take Workshop. Once entering we decided to venture downstairs to check out the tradeshow floor. Many of the vendors had their own separate class rooms to show off their products. But unfortunately the place wasn’t very crowded. There were hardly any attendees inside the school and I was honesly concerned if the event would be cancelled or not.
Vendors showcasing their products included Pumpkin Pulp Productions, HauntCon, Von Charon and more. In 30 minutes the first class covering Bloody Make-up would begin. So to reserve a prime seat we decided to head to the gym where the classes were taking place. But guess what? There were no signs directing you where to go so we had to ask one of the vendors. I wish more thought was put into setting up signs for this event and I’m sure these problems will be fixed for next year’s event.
We walked up some steps into the gymnasium where about 30 chairs were set up, but not a single person was sitting down except for us. It was obvious that a makeup class was going to be held since sheets could be seen underneath a table while a small projector screen played information on the various Sponsors of Indy Haunt Fest. 10 minutes passed and it was 9:35. The class was scheduled to begin at 9:30 and we had no clue what was going on since we were the only people there. So we decided to walk outside to ask what was going on. Unfortunately the Make-Up Bloody Make-Up class was cancelled and we had to wait close to an hour before Leonard Pickel would be presenting his Starting Your First Haunted House seminar.
For Christ’s sake I woke up at 6 am in the morning to travel to Indianapolis for an event I was looking forward to and had to wait another hour before the classes would begin because of a presenter cancelling. The Indy Haunt Fest was facing quite a few obstacles for a first year convention. But after about an hour of driving around and returning to the International School of Indiana it would be worth it. Leonard Pickel would be this event’s saving grace.
After we returned to Indy Haunt Fest we walked to the gymnasium and got our seats for the Starting Your First Haunted House class. There were about 30 seats set up with about half of them being filled. But Leonard seemed to be in good spirits despite the small crowd. The class lasted close to an hour and a half and covered many topics pertaining to starting a haunted house. It was informative, but a lot of it was common sense with some old school techniques. I didn’t learn much new, but I was sure to jot down information on haunted house safety. After the class was over I was sure glad to step outside since it was a bit humid inside the school.
The next class was to cover Flexwax Hand Casting for props, but we didn’t really have much interest in it. We were quite hungry by that time and had to get a bite to eat. The only food available at the school was an outside hotdog cart known as Hot Diggity Dogs which had pretty reasonable prices. Unfortanately we were better off going somewhere else for a bite to eat. I would rather get a $3 meal at Wendy’s verses a $3 hot dog from a cart. So we left to get some grub and would return half an hour before the next class would begin. 30 minutes passed and the next class was ready to begin.
The presenter was from a new web design company called The Claw Studio. They specialize in graphic, web and video design. The presenter was rather nervous, but prepared none the less. The class was to last about an hour, but barely exceeded 15 minutes. A couple raffle prizes given away before the class included skulls and some spooky props.
It was interesting to see all the different types of media this company has worked with and the different haunts they’ve done work for. This included Kings Island Halloween Haunt, Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights and Scarevania. The class itself was a little hectic, but enjoyable. The Claw Studio is a quite impressive company that I may contact in the near future.
So far the Indy Haunt Fest didn’t quite meet my expectations. But as I said before, the saving grace was Leonard Pickel’s 2 part class on starting your first Haunted House. The second part would begin in about 30 minutes at 3:00 PM. Before it was to begin we decided to check out the show floor once again. Besides the couple of classes there really wasn’t much to do except get in your car and explore Indianapolis a little. It was a little too close to the start of the class, so we decided to stick around. 30 minutes had passed and it was ready for part 2 of Leonard Pickel’s Starting Your First Haunted House.
The 17 people who showed up (including a male masseuse) seemed to really be interested in what Leonard was saying and for good reason. This guy has a wealth of information. While I don’t agree with everything He has to say, it was still an entertaining class. One thing that caught my interest was how timed ticketing is the future of haunting. Yes a couple haunts may use this method, but if a haunt has any problem at all and has to stop the show it completely messes up the system. Then you end up having people who paid for an 8 PM ticket going through at 9 PM with a huge line of people who have timed tickets for the 9 pm slot. There are just so many flaws to the system.
After the class was over there wasn’t much to do except wait for the next seminar which covered techniques to psych up your haunt workers. This would prove to be a very entertaining and informative class and if you didn’t attend, you missed out. At 9 PM that night there was going to be a Rock & Ghoul Show/concert across the street in the Tawrel building next door, but how stupid would I look dressed up in a costume by myself dancing to an unknown band. Yes, costumes were mandatory and I was just not in the mood to party that night. After the concert was would end there would even be a Monster Mash bar hop (formerly Zombie Crawl) which began at 11 PM. Tomorrow the Indy Haunt Fest started at 1 PM, but since a few of the Saturday Classes were canceled it was hard telling what classes people would be taking.
There were elements of The Indy Haunt Fest that were quite enjoyable, but a few things here and there that put a sour taste in my mouth. This could be a great convention in the near future, but right now it just doesn’t have the stamina to last very long and having a crowd of about 20 people isn’t going tl help this convention flourish. Next year I hope this convention is bigger and better than ever because it has a lot of potential with the correct changes implemented.