The Terrors of the TransWorld Halloween and Attractions Show 2014

The Phantom of the Ville and the Louisville Halloween crew take a hearse ride to St. Louis for the biggest Halloween industry trade show in the world!

Apparently, St. Louis doesn’t do anything small. From the 630 foot Gateway Arch that immediately lets travelers know they’ve arrived to the 10 story, fantastical urban jungle gym that makes up the nearly indescribable experience of the City Museum to one of the most elaborate haunted attractions in the country, the Darkness, St. Louis seems to enjoy things with a sense of scale.

It only seems appropriate then that St. Louis also hosts the largest Halloween trade show in the world, the TransWorld Halloween & Attractions Show, which took place last weekend in the 502,000 square feet of America’s Center Convention Complex.

Overwhelming is really the only proper word I can use to describe the experience of exploring the trade show floor which was crammed wall-to-wall with the most Halloween and haunted attraction props, masks and special effects in any one place anywhere on earth. This includes a massive Dark Zone area where some of the industry’s biggest animatronic abominations and interactive props are displayed in a darkened room where the full effect of their horrific performance can be better appreciated by potential buyers. Haunt industry seminars were also taking place all weekend, covering every aspect of the haunt business from financial planning to set building to special make up to the latest trends in extreme haunting tactics.

This was my first year attending TransWorld, and while I’m no stranger to the haunted attraction industry, this show turned me into a slack-jawed, drooling neo-spook. I don’t quite know where to begin.

Before we hit the floor running Saturday morning, we ran into Culbertson Mansion’s, Holly Crisler, who had an entire graveyard scene painted across her lovely eyebrows and 7th Street Haunt’s, Travis Boling, who was still recovering from a late night haunter’s party at the City Museum. With our ID badges secured to our rotting corpses we first made a beeline straight to the Dark Zone to check out the latest gigantic animated props and scenes.

Lording over the room in majestic terror was the Elder Dragon by Scare Factory, which you may end up coming face-to-face with in Louisville this Halloween, if current plans by Andrew Coombs at Grim Trails remain on schedule. The ceiling was writhing with winged demons of every size, and every display shocked passers-by with lunging zombies. There was a staircase prop with a possessed Linda Blair clone that spider-walked up and down the stairs.

One of coolest set pieces in the Dark Zone was a Gothic hallway haunted on both sides by dozens of grasping skeletons that would pull at your clothing as you made your way through. It was like a scene out of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” that we all loved, but also all agreed wouldn’t last long in a haunted attraction where frightened guests could easily damage the skeletons.

Next I experienced a coffin ride rougher than the one at my own funeral a century ago (remind me to tell you the shocking story sometime). This particular coffin ride was made for the haunted house at Waverly Hills Sanatorium right here in the Ville, and this one has all the latest in coffin technology. It has an “open window” (a video screen inside the coffin) through which you can see everything that’s happening as your not-yet-dead body gets rolled through the abandoned tuberculosis hospital and through the infamous Body Chute to its final destination. At one point, you’ll feel rats crawling across your legs and feet as the claustrophobia sets in. At the risk of losing my spooky reputation, I must admit I had to hit the panic button before the ride was over to avoid losing my breakfast. You can experience it yourself at the Waverly Hills haunted house this Halloween.

Back on the main show room floor, we ran into Asylum Haunted Scream Park’s, Richard Teachout, who was there to screen “Monsters Wanted” and shop for new props for his multi-attraction haunt in Louisville’s South End.

Teachout is also the mastermind behind this weekend’s FREE undead LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) melee, Humans VS Zombies, which takes place on Saturday, March 29th, from 4PM9PM at the Sam Peden Community Park at 3037 Grant Line Road in New Albany, IN. See for details about the game and for all the information about this local version of it.

It was about this time that I stumbled onto one of the coolest new haunt props I saw at TransWorld this year, Pale Night Production’s ( “Restless Spirit” coffin prop. Honestly, I’ve only been lukewarm on most of the new CGI video based doors and windows where you see a video of a maniac or zombie trying to break through a door which usually results in a broken window and/or axe dents in the door. In the Restless Spirit coffin, Pale Night presents a practical coffin with a practical mummified corpse inside that looks like a motionless prop until the spirit trapped within starts shaking the coffin wildly until it “escapes” as an animated ghost appears in the open window of the coffin and a burst of cold air blasts the unsuspecting onlooker. It’s ghoulishly great!

Next, we toured some of the latest examples of fantasy haunt room design. There was a complete skull mountain castle/cave walk-in that showed off some of the latest vacuform panels that can transform any location into a Gothic castle or dark cavern. The most impressive room was the “Lava Room,” where you cross a bridge over the illusion of molten lava flowing beneath your feet. A scene like this can make a local haunted attraction feel like a multi-million dollar attraction at Disney World or Universal Studios.

We ran into Industrial Terrorplex owner, Terry Campbell, who was busy showing haunters the new vacuform panels made by his Trip Sixx Studios right here in Louisville. You can read all about Trip Sixx Studios in our new article here:

Not far from Tripp Sixx’s booth, I found another new concept that melds the idea of a prop with a costumed actor for maximum effect. It’s a marble statue that appears to be made of stone until it opens its eyes. Anyone might be forgiven for thinking the statue was animatronic until it reaches out and grabs you! It’s not a costume, but an actual statue made to fit an actor inside to bring it to life with stone-like gloves for arms. It’s subtle, but very effective!

There were several horror celebrities signing autographs for haunters at the show, including Sean Whalen (Roach in “The People Under the Stairs”), Jonathan Breck (The Creeper himself in “Jeepers Creepers”) and P.J. Soles (“Halloween,” “Carrie,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School”). Louisville Halloween’s Pumpkin King and I were like grade school trick-or-treaters on a sugar high while meeting P.J. Soles. Not only did she appear in the greatest Halloween related movie ever made, she also appeared with my favorite band of all time, the Ramones, in Roger Corman’s 1979 punk rock classic. Soles also played the object of Bill Murray’s lust in the 1981 Fort Knox shot movie, “Stripes.” As most Louisville film fans know, the opening scenes of “Stripes” that follow Murray’s down-on-his-luck cab driver were shot in downtown Louisville, and we spent a few minutes talking to Miss Soles about filming here. She thought the opening scenes were probably shot in New York, and was delighted to finally know where they were actually shot.

While waiting in line to meet P.J. Soles we ran into Seymour, Indiana’s Fear Fair owner, Brett Hays, who is a TransWorld Halloween Show veteran. Last year he had several amazing props for his “Silent Hill” scenes designed and built exclusively for his attraction by vendors at the show. These included an armless, walking animatronic zombie that spits and several zombie nurses’ costumes. This year, those props are now available to other haunters for purchase.

Right next to Hayes, we also bumped into our old friend, Raymond Castile, creator of the Gallery of Monster Toys website (, moderator for the popular Universal Monster Army website ( and star of “The Embodiment of Evil,” the third and final instalment of the “Coffin Joe” trilogy featuring Brazilian boogeyman, Jose Mojica Marins, as the nefarious, Ze do Caixao  (known as Coffin Joe to American horror fans)! Castile played the young Coffin Joe in flashback scenes for the 2008 film which picked up the storyline from “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul” (1964) and “This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse” (1967). Castile was browsing the TransWorld showroom floor for ideas and props for a Krampus Festival he’s trying to organize in St. Louis next Christmas.

Perhaps the greatest honor we had over the weekend was meeting Ed Edmunds, owner of Distortions Unlimited, one of the most famous and talented monster creators in the business. Edmunds, who has been making monster masks and full sized animatronics since 1978, was featured in the Travel Channel series, “Making Monsters,” which ran each fall for the last three seasons. Sadly, we learned just before the show that the Travel Channel has cancelled the fourth season of “Making Monsters.” Hopefully, another cable channel will pick up this fascinating and informative program.

We marveled at some of Distortions’ latest props, including a new twist on the now familiar electric chair gag, which we won’t spoil, but is sure to shock a lot of folks that are sure they know how this “tired” prop works! I also saw Distortions’ giant, talking animatronic skull for the first time, which Edmunds told us he debuted at TransWorld in 2013.

Back to the maze of Halloween goodness, we soon came across Haunted Hotel owner, Kevin Stich, and his Sinister FX booth selling their new line of burlap and latex masks made here in the Ville. You can read all about Sinister FX in our article here:

As we approached the far end of the trade room floor, there were still several major attractions left to explore; the Doom Dome, the interactive haunted house and the interactive zombie shooting gallery.

The Doom Dome is an inflatable black igloo containing a ride simulator. Inside there were three “rumble seats” that interact with a film projected on the inner dome Omnimax-style. The film was a bit disjointed and hallucinating, like a visual version of one of those Halloween sound effects records you see in novelty stores every year, and it didn’t really have a story to follow. It’s a simulated journey through a haunted house with occasional loud noises and scary faces that accompany the rumbling of the seats. It’s a neat idea, but unfortunately the resolution of the images projected on the black dome was fairly poor and cheapened the whole experience.

By the time I got to the interactive haunted house, the TransWorld staff was already in the process of auctioning off each scene. But I didn’t really feel like I missed much, as there seemed to be very little that was really interactive inside; nothing like the amazing animatronic props in the Dark Zone anyway.

The interactive zombie shooting gallery was much more interesting. Made for the use of paintball guns, the constructed maze took guests through twisting passageways that would open up into three dimensional sets with plenty of places for zombies to pop out of. Latex zombie masks were built over the top of paintball helmets so headshots wouldn’t hurt the actors. It looked like a hit concept.

Suddenly it was nearly four o’clock and it had taken us nearly six hours to complete the journey across the showroom floor. It was both an unforgettable and exhausting experience. After a brief rest back at the hotel, the Louisville Halloween crew met for dinner and then decided to cap off the night with a trip to the City Museum.

The City Museum is something that should not be missed by those with a sense of wonder and imagination. We crawled through the labyrinthine Enchanted Caves filled with nooks and crannies of glowing crystals and cascading waterfalls. Monsters, dinosaurs and mythical creatures are carved into the very rock around you. We made our way to top of the incredible, sci-fi looking maze and took the 10 story slide all the way to the bottom. Part funhouse, part art project, part jungle gym, the massive City Museum is almost impossible to describe. It must be experienced. Like the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, the City Museum is constantly changing and always under construction, so you never know what new areas and experiences may await you.

I apologize if this article has gotten a little longwinded, but I feel it’s appropriate in the context of the scale of the TransWorld Halloween & Attractions show. Stay tuned to Louisville Halloween in the coming weeks as we have much more news of the creepy and unusual to share with you long before the haunting season arrives this year.

The Phantom of The Ville

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