Being a person who could devour as many “haunt” events as you can throw at me, I have become accustom to having travel great distances often by car to get my fix of the creepy crawlies throughout the year. So imagine my great surprise when I heard that the HauntX Haunter’s Retreat and Trade Show was coming to the town I currently haunt – good old Reno, NV! HauntX is not a new name to those in the business but it recently came under new management and they decided to spend this year in one of the West’s most haunted territories, especially since Reno is just a crow’s flight from Virginia City and its very dark history.
First thing folks need to realize is a haunter’s trade show is different from a haunt convention. There aren’t rooms filled with the cast of Planet of The Apes waiting to sign autographs or panels with the cast of The Monster Squad – this is an event where home haunters, experts on makeup and electronics, and professional grade special effects companies get together and talk serious shop all day and unwind all night. You get to learn tips on Disney grade animatronics or watch a winner from Faceoff (Nicole Chilelli) perform makeup work using the highest quality makeup all in an effort to up your haunting game.
The weekend started on Thursday with some heavily advanced classes followed by a haunt tour of Virginia City. A limited number of people were bused up and guided to the creepiest places in an already creepy town where EMPS were recorded and the night was full of spirited fun with spirits flowing when everyone returned to the host hotel Circus Circus.
Friday morning started off a bit quiet with weather issues slowing arrivals down and attendees recovering from the night before (hey it is a retreat after all!). As winds died down and everyone started rising from bed things started to get going with sessions during the day on how to take purchased plain skeletons and make them look freshly dug up, how to program animatronics, even sliding stunts and safety from GamingShogun.com friend, Ron “Wilson” Rivera. I took my first lesson in soldering and want to send a special thanks to Mike Warren of Indstructables and Haunt Hackers for their amazing patience with me. All the classes were taught by legends in their field, many of which have multiple decades of experience. These are the folks that can make your haunt an event that receives hundreds of guests a night.
Speaking of night time fun, each evening featured a different activity. Friday night, the organizers of Reno’s annual vampire crawl worked with HauntX to throw the event on this weekend so that Reno could show some ghoulish hospitality. Luckily most of the vampires didn’t sparkle (just a few). Saturday was the HauntX Masquerade Ball where costumes were encouraged but not required and the DJ mixed tunes with greatest hits of creepy flicks. Personally I was delighted to see a Dr. Horrible cosplayer and a couple of Pirates Of Emerson folks decked out in their seafaring garb. When the weekend was all said and done and the props, makeup and electronics were all stored away there was a pizza party and viewing of Killer Klowns From Outer Space.
As a haunt reviewer I have a greater appreciation of some of the techniques employed and how haunts can better utilize them. Now I can not only review whether or not scares or illusions are effective I can tell if a fog machine would benefit from a chiller or whether or not a haunt is due for a new or higher quality spray system. It was a fun and exhausting weekend and I am already looking forward to next year. I promise to practice my soldering before it rolls around again!