We’re back from our trip to Pennsylvania and the National Haunters Convention, and boy, are our wallets empty!

Everything at the convention had a price tag: admission, seminars, haunt tour, costume ball. But we’ll get to all that in a minute.

First, we’d like to say that we had a really good time. We met some great people, saw some really cool haunt merchandise, toured some great (and not so great) haunts.  However, the convention still seems to be finding its groove, and we hope that in future years, they’ll be able to expand and provide even better offerings.

We arrived at the convention on Friday, and there were still quite a few empty booths. Vendors were still setting up, but overall, there was a good variety of haunt vendors and exhibitors, ranging from the guy who makes wooden coffins by hand in his garage to bigger, established names like Fangoria magazine and Midnight Syndicate.

Dream Scape Studios

Convention Floor

The convention offered a weekend full of classes (aka “Halloween University”). But every class had a price, ranging from $10 to $50 per class. In addition, it cost $25 for a floor pass for the weekend. This quickly drained our wallets and made us think twice about taking some of the classes.

But we did attend several of the classes, and although they were taught by experienced and knowledgeable people, some of the classes were better than others. One issue we found was that the depth and intended audiences of the classes seemed to be all over the map. One class seemed geared toward only professional haunt owners and operators, and the next class seemed to be for home haunters only. It wasn’t always clear from the class descriptions who would benefit the most from the classes. Also, once at the convention, there were no class descriptions posted anywhere, so if you relied on only the class name, you might find yourself surprised by the content once in the class.

One great part of the convention was the Q&A sessions held with the owners/managers from some of the biggest haunts in the Eastern U.S., such as the Bates Motel and Terror Behind the Walls (at Eastern State Penitentiary). Scare Zone took a side trip to check out Eastern State, and we managed to spot a bit of their haunt:

Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary

Friday night was the haunt tour, and being the haunt junkies we are, it was the part of the convention we were most looking forward to. The tour cost $175 and included bus transportation to two destinations: Scare Brothers and Fright Factory, each with four houses/mazes. We later found out that these two haunts are actually located in the same building in Philadelphia. (We’ll be providing a more detailed report of the haunts in a future post, including photos and videos.) The haunt tour also came with a “BBQ dinner,” which was frightening in itself. Tables had been set up in the queue/storage area of the haunt. The lighting was bad, and you could barely see what you were eating, which, considering the quality of the food, actually might have been a blessing. (Note that in the photo below, the lights were turned on AFTER dinner was over…hmm.)

Dinner Inside the Scare Brothers/Fright Factory
Outside the Scare Brothers/Fright Factory Haunt

Overall, $175 to tour two haunts seemed overpriced. We hope that in future years, the convention considers offering a cheaper alternative that allows guests to drive themselves and skip the dinner. Especially as the bus ride turned out to be a torture ride to Hell through Philadelphia traffic.

Saturday night was the costume ball, which cost $75. It did include dinner, but not drinks. The theme was “steam punk” (the current trendy haunt theme, so it seems), and there were some good costumes. It was a fun opportunity to mix and mingle with other haunters. But again, at $75, it’s a little too expensive. But judging by the amount of intoxicated haunters mingling in the parking lot afterward, it seemed that everyone had a really good time, so maybe $75 isn’t so bad.

If you’re a haunt employee, owner/operator, or even a home haunter, you should really check out one of the many haunt conventions that take place across the country in the spring of each year. We hope to see you at TransWorld or the Midwest Haunters Convention in 2012!