Yeah, what a name! What images it conjures up! But i tell you, there were no size 15 stiletto heels on display, No Rupaul devotees workin’ it…
The full name of the show is actually: “TransWorld’s Halloween and Attractions show” and i found myself in St Louis, gateway of the west, in the spring of 2017 because that’s just the sort of job i have!
Not a Halloween sort of job at all really. Somewhere along life’s odd twists and turns i found myself in the laser tag business. So, how do Halloween attractions and laser tag get mixed together? i’ll explain:
So “Haunters” – Haunters is industry-speak: it’s what people that work in the Haunted House business call themselves, when in creepy-Rome… So, Haunters run these booming attractions where thousands of people come to have at least a tiny little poop and pee scared out of them. These thousands of people that come each night inevitably are transformed into long lines of people. Long lines of people get bored waiting to be entertained so some enterprising haunter thought to add a side-attraction of laser tag. You’re stuck in line BUT if you get a ticket to play laser tag you get to step out of line, play for a while, and step right back into line. Crowds are less bored and its a little more money into the coffers that Haunters work their creepy-butts off to fill in a single month every year.
That’s how i wound up in a convention hall bubbling over with nightmare fuel!
Some important information: i do NOT like scary things! Life is scary enough, you know with cancer and rabies and stuff! i don’t watch scary movies because they stick with me like dirty gum in pool-hair. Let me set the bar for you on my tolerance level for anything remotely horror/scary/all-that-creepy-stuff: Years ago friends urged me to watch the very fine movie “Signs” with them. You know pre-snap Mel and family dealing with aliens, that “Signs”. Back when M Night still had street cred. That movie stuck with me for a week. i’d wake up having dreamed that an alien ran across my roof, or was on the other side of my door and i’d just been looking under the crack with a well polished knife. Even writing this i’m getting a mild to moderate case of the heebie-jeebies. That my dear readers is how low my tolerance for scary crap is.
So with that measure in mind picture me as i walked into a good sized convention center full of Haunters, who’s tolerance was on the exact opposite end of the spectrum as mine. This piece of St Louis real-estate for several days a year has the highest population density of SlenderMen on the planet. Also the highest density of animatronic demon faces, aliens, disemboweled humans, and all that creepy ass jazz! There were companies that sold fake blood of all varieties (oh, yes it comes in varieties) & they sold it by the gallon! i saw gallon jugs-o-blood, 5 gallon buckets-o-blood, and even a 55 gallon drum-o-blood!
There are bad discos in the world with far less strobe lights than the TransWorld Halloween and Attraction show. i feel confident in wagering that not many Haunters are epileptics!
The whole thing was an insane amount of sensory overload! With the movement, the lights, the noises (i never thought about how many sound effects go into haunted houses), the mutilated dummies, the costumed stilt-walkers dressed as the aforementioned SlenderMan, all the other creepy costumed people hawking their terror-wares… i’ve never been more relieved to find a laser tag manufacturer as i was that first day at TransWorld.
All-in-All though it really was an amazing experience. There’s NO way i would have ever just walked into that convention, but my vocation took me there! There are a few nearly universal truths i can tell you about Haunters:
1) Haunters LOVE to party! i’ve been around other professional groups at their conventions before and i know every group thinks they are the kings & queens of living the wild-life while on that yearly business trip but you’re probably wrong. Unless you work for Pablo Escobar the Haunters probably got you beat! While on a public train a fellow convention-goer made sure that i knew he would hook me up with a little bump if i needed it, and gave me the low-down on at least 3 parties. That was on the train leaving the airport, the offers did-not decrease while i was there! Meanwhile, all i wanted to do was eat Gooey Butter Cake and nap.
2) Haunters are also super nice and helpful people! They talk about crazy stuff, like cubic footage in coffins, and edible vs non-edible fake blood but if you wanted to open up a new haunted house 95% of them would give you good solid advise on the do’s and don’ts (and probably shower you with booze and cocaine like you’re an extra on the filming of Wall Street in 1987). If you looked confused or lost they would stop and offer help, not paid workers at the convention offering assistance – other attendees. It was amazing!
Anyway: we got some new laser taggers, DID eat Gooey Butter Cake (thumbs up), St Louis Style Barbecue (more thumbs up), St Louis style pizza (very confused thumbs down???), we saw the Gateway Arch, and walked countless miles through a nicely revitalized downtown St Louis before hoping on a plane and coming back home to work and family. i’d go to St Louis again tomorrow (unless tomorrow is a summer day, been there in the summer- avoid it when it’s hot), hopefully my path will take me to the banks of the Mississippi in the Gateway to the West again again one day.