Transworld 2017: A Trade Show of Fear
By Noah Wullkotte
Haunters from across the globe gather together in St. Louis for the one and only Halloween & Attractions Show. This massive trade show features the best props and effects the haunt industry has to offer. 2017 marks our 10th year attending Transworld and to say that we were excited is a huge understatement. Unfortunately we were only able to spend Saturday and Sunday in St. Louis because of prior commitments. But we definitely made the most out of our visit.
It took us 5 and a half hours to arrive. Luckily our hotel was only 4 minutes from the convention center. After getting a bite to eat at the local Steak ‘n Shake, we were off to Downtown St. Louis. We quickly parked the car and picked up our press badges. The trade show floor had more vendors than ever before and it was crowded to say the least. The smell of fog overwhelmed the senses and the sound of horns and air compressors filled the convention center.
Transworld is unlike any haunt convention or trade show you’ve been to before. The aisles are massive and the props are awe inspiring. Everywhere you turn there’s some type of mask company whether it be Silicone Masks from CFX Masks or Burlap Scarecrow Masks from Sinister FX. You’re bound to find something that would be perfect for that certain room or character you’re trying to create.
The Dark Zone is always one of the highlights when attending Transworld and it was a little disappointing this time around. Scarefactory showcased mostly smaller props and the entire room seemed somewhat empty. Quite a few of Scarefactory’s animatronics weren’t working properly. Poison Props didn’t fail to impress us. We were most impressed with their animated morgue which featured a cold storage foot locker with corpse legs that move back and forth. Their animatronics utilize some of the best audio effects around.
Nevermore Productions is best known for their realistic animated mannequins they introduced years ago. But this year, their killer shark animatronic was the star of their booth. Their animated pumpkin scarecrow was also quite impressive. Ghost Ride Productions has really stepped up their game over the years. Many of their props feature a glossy finish and are very realistic. Their pumpkin characters even feature slimy pumpkin guts.
(Here’s an unsavory fellow from Ghost Ride Productions.)
Gore Galore is always a hit at the show. Their actor controlled animatronics (AKA actormatronics) and Giant costumes never fail to impress. Some of the most effective animatronics are ones that interact with customers or make physical contact. Gore Galore’s new jack-o’-lantern actormatronic called Bad Seed was pretty intimidating and very mesmerizing. One of the most popular booths was from the company High Noon Creations which featured a cadaver laying on a table. The actor can hide inside the cadaver and later crawl out.
Pale Night Productions showcased their best products, but there was nothing that really stood out. CGI Animatronics have their place in haunts, but they aren’t as cutting edge as they used to be. Halloween Productions once again went all out with their booth. Last year they built a massive house facade featuring Christmas decorations and a Krampus animatronic. This year their booth resembled the creepy house from Alfred Hichcock’s Psycho.
Distortions Unlimited had a hand full of new products ranging from budget animatronics to their brand new headless victim illusion. It took me a while to figure out how they achieved this startling effect. There were plenty of Virtual Reality companies as well. I’ve used various VR Headsets, but I see it as being more of a gimmick instead of anything that would replace a haunt. There were a few Christmas vendors, but their booths got very little traffic. The highlight was a giant inflatable snow globe you could walk inside of. I truly wish that haunts would realize how profitable Christmas events are. Drive through light displays are very popular during the Holiday season.
There were various food and drink companies selling everything from cheese curds to caskets that dispense soda. Did I see anything that was a must have product? No, I didn’t. In years past you had the claustrophobia tunnel, electric firecrackers, interactive CGI, Silicone Masks and more. But there wasn’t anything new that was truly cutting edge. Yes, Froggy’s Fog had a neat laser fog swamp and GEP Productions sold a realistic Dinosaur costume. But these are products we’ve seen before. Haunts have had their own version of a fog swamp for years and the dinosaur suit is nothing new.
(These animated skulls are just a few of the frightening products from Fright Props.)
There’s always a few companies that blow me away every year. One in particular is Skeletons and More. They’ve been a vendor at Transworld and Midwest Haunters Convention for many years. Their homemade skeleton props are hand crafted and just beautiful. Midnight Studios FX is another company that cuts no corners. Their life sized figures are detailed beyond belief and are some of the best looking props the industry has to offer.
Throughout the week there were different seminars, workshops, haunt tours and events including the annual Oscares. This year Kelly Collins of The ScareAtorium won the coveted HAA Board of Directors Award for his contributions to the haunt industry. This includes the creation of Midwest Haunters Convention and the 3 Minute Escape Room. We luckily got the chance to check out one of the escape Rooms that’s next to The Darkness and operated by the same people. It’s called Curse of the Mummy and we escaped with 16 minutes to spare. If you’re a fan of Escape Rooms then you need to check out St. Louis Escape.
Transworld will always be the leading trade show for haunters. Nearly 10,000 people attend and haunters spend millions of dollars in St. Louis that week. 2018 will mark its tenth anniversary being in Downtown St. Louis and City Blood is hoping that it only gets bigger and better with age. See you next year!