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Feb. 23, 2023

Transworld Listenersode

Transworld Listenersode

At this year’s Transworld Show, quite a few listeners stopped by the booth to say hello. Today, we’re going to play messages from two of them. Support for this episode comes from Gantom Lighting and Controls. See what you’re missing with a free...

At this year’s Transworld Show, quite a few listeners stopped by the booth to say hello. Today, we’re going to play messages from two of them. Support for this episode comes from Gantom Lighting and Controls. See what you’re missing with a free demo. Subscribe to HAN here.


Quinn Kirkland: Hey, I'm Quinn Kirkland from Hamilton Mt. My business is Field of Screams MT. We've been in business in Victor Montana for 24 years now, and this year, one of the main things we're going to add is a 1960s, old, rusty bus that was converted into a camper. We're going to put that out in the middle of our cornfield, and it's going to be a blast, we're going to have a fun time with it. But, it's good to be at the show, and see all the new people and all the new vendors. Having a blast out here.

Aaron Stolicker: Hi there, I'm Aaron Stolicker, I'm with Dark Hollow Productions and we're in that odd transitional period a lot of haunts find themselves in between home haunting and a professional attraction. We have a lot of aspirations, I think everyone does. Number one on our list though is, we want to make sure we're doing everything right. That involves a lot of research and a lot of coming to attractions. Last year we took a massive tour across the country of a whole lot of different spaces. We saw the breadth of different events from the big theme park events, to immersive theater, to independent haunts, and big shows like Transworld are really amazing places. 

I joked that I didn't get to see the show floor until about 2/3 of the way into the show because I've just been taking classes, networking, and talking. Getting to talk to people, I think, is the biggest thing. We've met so many like-minded individuals, and Like we said, we're really trying to start from a place of knowledge and a place that we're not just barreling into things with a fistful of cash and going, "yeah!" And then immediately realizing, "where did all the money go?"

Philip Hernandez: So, considering you spent so much time on education and you're really trying to like transit. What did you learn this year?

Aaron Stolicker: Oh my goodness, that's a loaded question. We really made it a point to focus on the classes about business leases, that we were just in yesterday with, I believe it was, the Halloween Express team. That was indispensable. They're talking about temporary leases, negotiating those terms, so hearing from like The Fear Factory team too, they were amazing in terms of, "OK, here's how you get involved in the community. Here's how you avoid the big H word," saying haunted house, and immediately coming at that with facts, with industry statistics about, "here's how you talk about the traffic impact, maybe this." But the really nitty gritty that takes to come to a community with that, because we all like to think, "oh, the community's going to love this!" There will always be people who are going to be naysayers and being able to respond to them in the most appropriate way, and the most professional way, coming at them with actual facts and not just saying, "oh, it'll be fine. We're good people, trust us." It doesn't cut it most of the time.

Philip Hernandez: That's so true. What do you guys have planned for this season?

Aaron Stolicker: So, this season, of course, we say, "oh, we're not going to do that much." You can't keep a haunter down, even last year we're like, "we're not going to do anything," and that evolved into a whole projection mapping show and an escape room sort of experience for our guests; all themed after Hocus Pocus cause you got to keep relevant. This year I think we're still planning on a lot of travel, not quite as much as last year. Last year we were on the West Coast, we were in Pennsylvania, and we were all up in New England. We actually took our own version of the Legendary Haunt Tour, inadvertently. 

So, this year I think we're going to be we're really focusing personally on building a lot of midway items, things that you initially think, "oh, that comes secondary." But for us, we're really heavily focused on the interactive side. I come from an interactive entertainment background. Originally, I worked for a company that did, kind of, the prototype of a lot of escape rooms. They opened in 2003 in Boston, and I was still 11 years old, playing escape games on Flash on my computer at that point. To see there was a physical version of that was really cool. 

A lot of our midway is heavily interactive based, very much akin to the sort of experiences you'd find in a lot of spaces that they add at like Great Wolf Lodge with the sort of Magic West, you have Universal starting to get into that space with the escape experience they have. It's not quite an escape room, its storytelling focus first, and that's where we're coming from. So, being able to build a lot of these midway pieces too, for us personally, we look at that as an opportunity to bring those with us as well to events around the community that we're eventually hoping to open in, getting our name out there, making sure that people know our faces, and know the product we're putting out so we don't just one day pop up like a circus in the middle of the night and go, "come, please. We promise. We're not terrifying." We hope we're terrifying.

Philip Hernandez: Do you have a specific example?

Aaron Stolicker: The interactive element we used just last year for Hocus Pocus, we had built a kind of booth that was Halloween festival themed, had posters all on the side or flyers for various businesses around the town that we had made, that had hidden language in them that pointed you essentially from poster to poster. So, we would direct them, "hey, maybe go check out the bicycle shop," and really heavily emphasize that. They go over and they read the bicycle shop and, "come find us! After you're done checking us out maybe go check out this," and following down the line eventually ended up at, "hey, come to the Salem Witch Museum. Find us on the map at D4," and guests would then make their way back over to the main table, notice there's a little layout of the town, find the grid layout, take a candle, the black flame candle of course, and if they moved that over top of the space on the board it unlocked--this is involved, I apologize, getting very specific--the chest, which they grabbed the UV flashlight, they revealed the message on the actual booth, and upon reading the incantation we actually had two possible endings for that, a scary and a not scary. 

We didn't want every kid coming up who was clearly going to throw their candy and run away getting the scary ending with Billy Butcherson, but we wanted something fun. So, the not scary, they said an incantation, they caused the cauldron to bubble over, it's really fun. So having that split path, having the ability, and Shaqtober Fest did it very well this year with having scary and not scary offerings in the same venue, just because someone could hear the word horror or haunted house and go, "I don't. I'm not about that. I'm sorry. I'm just not going to come." That's the worst possible outcome because your event could be perfectly tailored for them, they could have such a great idea, but if they throw up those red flags immediately because there are no offerings for them there, or they perceive that, you've lost an entire customer, and possibly a whole group because we're not going to go without moms. Sorry, kids. So, being able to have options for people at different levels, but again, that costs us nothing more beyond the programming initially to have two possibilities. That was the same set, it was the same setup, and it allowed us to offer something for everyone. 

Philip Hernandez: Thank you so much for stopping by.

Aaron Stolicker: Absolutely. Thank you so much.