After two years away, the West Coast Halloween Convention returned May 13th - 15th, 2022, in Portland, Oregon.
After two years away, the West Coast Halloween Convention returned May 13th - 15th, 2022, in Portland, Oregon. From home haunters to pros, attendees enjoyed the Halloween Marketplace, three days of education, haunt tour at The FearPDX, Halfway to Halloween Costume Ball, charity auction, and the Nightmare After WCHC movie night. But what makes this event unique is that it’s a 501(c)3 organization that gives grants to professionals who work with children with hearing impairments and/or autism. Today, we’ll hear from Roman Marino, Roger Hayes of Hayes Haunt Productions, and Jeremiah from the Calvarium.
Philip: Coming up, we're on location at the West Coast Halloween Convention. After two years away, the West Coast Halloween Convention returned May 13th through 15th in Portland, Oregon. From home haunters to pros, attendees enjoyed the Halloween marketplace, three days of education, haunt tour, costume ball, charity auction, and movie night. But what makes this event unique is that it's a 501c3 organization that gives grants to professionals who work with children with hearing impairments and/or autism. Today, we'll hear from one of the team members, a teacher, and a vendor. Let's begin by speaking with one of the staff members Roman.
Roman: I'm Roman Marino. I'm with the West Coast Halloween Convention. We are a 501c3 charity organization. So, we use Halloween as a catalyst for this group, and this group benefits teachers that work with autistic and hearing-impaired children. Ed Roberts, our president, started this group 13 years ago in Salem, Oregon. So, it's a great thing that he brought the other nine members on, and it's something we've done every year since.
So, we have education, we have an auction, we have a marketplace, and we have a costume ball, which is my favorite thing about the convention. So, for 13 years we've been doing this and giving as much money as we can back to the teachers that really need it, that are working with autistic and hearing-impaired children.
Philip: And speaking of education, attendees had their choice of over 30 classes, workshops, and make-and-takes. I caught up with one of the teachers, Roger Hayes, and asked about his classes.
Roger: Hi, everybody, I'm Roger Hayes, or as everybody knows me, I'm uncle Roj. I'm here at West Coast Haunters Convention teaching a couple of classes. I'm the guy that wrote the Home Haunting For Mere Mortals book.
I've always been a little creepy since I was little, as most of us haunters are, loved Halloween as a kid, loved to dress up and scare people, and thought that was a really great time. Then, my wife actually had me create a toe pincher coffin for an activity that she had. So, I dove back into my Halloween roots as a kid, and we actually created a very successful home haunt in Atlanta, Georgia. So, we had animatronics that I had built or bought, sets, actors, the whole shot, and we were in the newspaper a few times. So, that really led me into wanting to share that and the knowledge that I had gained from that.
I was able to teach a make-and-take on creating a plant monster. All the students seem to have a really good time and were able to create a Little Shop of Horrors-esque kind of plant monster. We also taught on having a successful haunt on a budget, because I have never, ever met a haunter that has unlimited budget, myself included. So, I wanted to save them the money that I've wasted in early years and give them the tips and tricks to make their money go as far as they could.
Philip: What would you tell to an enthusiast who is thinking about they might want to get into haunting in some fashion?
Roger: Absolutely. Planning is everything. Make sure that you figure out what you're going to do that year. Make sure it's reasonable. First of all, start planning for plan the sky. If I could do it and have unlimited hours and a bit of money, what would I do? And then once you do that, think about what's important, think about what is going to make it flow through the haunt, so it has some continuity and tells somewhat of a story, and then scale it back to what's reasonable to do that year. Because if you try and do too much, and bite off too much at one point, it's not going to be fun. And let's face it. We're not in it for the money we're in it for the fun. So, if you do that, you're going to have a great time.
Attend as many haunt conventions as you can. Attend as many classes and education, like they do here, as you possibly can. Talk to as many people that have done the same types of things that you're trying to do. And join a local haunt group, they're really good too.
Philip: I think it's interesting that you mentioned the plan and the story. How important do you think the story is to an experience like that?
Roger: In my mind, even if the guest can't tell what the story is, if you at least have a story in mind when you're designing your haunt and making things flow, and you can at least see how that works in your mind, then the guests may not know exactly what that story is, but it will help build some continuity in it. So, as you go from one room to another, you don't go, "wait a minute, I went from a dungeon to an alien scene, how did I get there?" So, it gives more natural transitions, even if they can't tell what the story is. So, again, look at it from the guest perspective, and make sure that there's a story, even if you're the only one that knows the storyline.
Philip: And then here at your booth, you're displaying things that you have made that you're selling for haunters.
Roger: We, unfortunately, had to close our haunt and move out west. So, now we're moving into more of consulting, helping other people with. We are now doing CNC mill tombstones with my art. I'm finally able to do a dead rockstars area in our graveyard, which is really great. I've always been enamored with art and things like that. So, I'm doing a lot of sculpting and casting, and I actually put together an adult coloring book that is child-friendly, that's Halloween Dreams And Screams, you know, creepy things.
Philip: How should someone decide between purchasing something and making it themselves?
Roger: A very good question. So, world, according to Roj, which we all know is a twisted thing. If you're going to make 50 of them, and you can make it cheaper, sure, take a look at, take a look at building it, but time is money as Einstein proved. So, you really have to look at it and see, "what can I buy the piece for and how much am I going to say? And am I sure that it's going to work?" So that, should I buy it, or should I build it is definitely something that you should consider. Now, if you only need one of them, probably buy it.
If you've got an idea for an animatronic or something that has not really been invented yet, go ahead and build it yourself and share how to do it with other people so we can keep this hobby going.
Philip: Why is Halloween important?
Roger: Because we're all creepy. At heart, we're all creepy. I keep going back to that part in The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown thing where they're out trick or treating and Snoopy's kind of creeping around and doing all this stuff and that crisp air and in autumn, and the leaves blowing down the street, and people are out running around scaring each other and getting candy that we all experienced as a kid. I want to keep that magic alive, and to me, that's one of the best times in my life, and I want to be able to make sure that generations to come get to share that. So, I think it's really important.
Philip: Next up the Halloween marketplace. This year, the West Coast Halloween Convention had 38 vendors selling everything from haunt supplies to home goods, and speaking of home goods, here's Jeremiah from The Calvarium.
Hi, I'm Jeremiah. I'm the owner and creative director of The Calvarium, a company where I designed textiles and then I use those textiles to create home decor and accessories and upholstery for people's homes, garments to 0, and I do this all out of Beaverton, Oregon.
All of these things just start as sketches, things that I think about, ideas that I have, and I start sketching them out and then I transfer all of that into the computer, and I do some sketching in there. I work a lot with Illustrator and Photoshop, and I composite them together as designs and then turn them into a repeat. Then I have a company print up the fabric for me, and then I get the fabric and I make all this stuff
Philip: So, this truly is original, because they're your designs and then manifested as physical products, physical fabric.
Jeremiah: Thank you, yeah. It's a fascinating process too, and it's a very exciting thing when you see something that just starts off as an idea in your head become something physical and tangible.
Philip: Give us an example of the different types of products that you carry.
Jeremiah: Okay, it comes down to a few broad categories. I have furniture, home decor, which are small things like throw pillows, and then I also do a lot of bags, a lot of bags and purses and pouches. And those are the broader categories that I have.
Philip: Talk to me about the furniture.
Jeremiah: Sure, some of these are things that I actually build myself from scratch, but a lot of times it's either clients coming to me with furniture that they've wanted to have recovered for a while, or I find things around that I really like that I think deserve to have a new life. I work with a lot of found objects, and I recover them, refinish them, repair them.
Philip: Why are you drawn to this genre?
Jeremiah: I've always loved Halloween, ever since... I mean, since I was a little kid I've been obsessed with Halloween. So, this just felt natural. It actually started because I wanted to make Halloween furniture for my own house, and you can only have so many chairs in your own home before you run out of room. I had friends tell me that I should just start selling them, and so I did.
Philip: What are you trying to evoke with the consumer?
Jeremiah: I take a lot of the emotional cues from Disney's Haunted Mansion, where it's a little spooky, but it's fun and it's funny, and it's not necessarily threatening or gory, but it is spooky, and that's the line that I like to walk on. I like things to be scary and spooky, but fun and not overly thematically just Halloween.
I also like to mix things like classical design styles with Halloween, and you have some designs that are double-take things where you don't see the skulls or the bats right away until you actually look at it a little bit closer. You can find things that say Happy Halloween anywhere, so I wanted to do something that was going to be a little bit different and a little bit elevated from just your typical big box, mass produced, Halloween decoration, something that you could have in your home year-round without it having to be just for October.
Philip: What is your most underrated product that you have done?
Jeremiah: I would say, probably, the most underrated thing would be this concept that my late husband had for small bags that he called afternoon bags, and we both thought that it was going to be this amazing thing, because they were just big enough. They were bigger than a clutch, smaller than a purse, and just nobody liked them, nobody. They didn't take off at all, and I really was surprised by that cause I thought they would be the hottest thing that we've ever made, but they weren't. That's probably the most underrated one, yeah.
Philip: And now the easy question is, what is your most popular product? What would be something that you would be like known for?
Jeremiah: Oh, like Victorian sofas. When I get a chance to do like an antique Victorian sofa, do it in some crazy to red velvet pattern, very like Elvira sofa, those always turn out so incredible. The genre fits with the style of the furniture.
Philip: Bonus question, why is Halloween important?
Jeremiah: You have to have this scope of life. Life can be traumatic and scary, and as we've learned in the last two years, I mean, it can really be a harrowing experience. Frankly, mortality is inevitable, and having a healthy relationship with that inevitability, I think is really important. Being able to poke fun at it, and have fun and enjoy it, be in that space without letting that space control you, I think is a really important thing for the human condition. I think it is really important for mental health to not let that fear of, “something's going to happen no matter what,” you can't let that fear control your life. It's important for us to dive into those fears and understand them and realize, nothing you can do about it, so laugh at it and enjoy it. Enjoy life because it could be short.
Philip: Okay. That's it for today. You may have noticed we didn't cover the haunt tour today. Well, that's coming up tomorrow.
Here are some great episodes to start with.