Monday, October 20, 2014

The Legendary Haunt Tour Delivers Unprecedented Access to Haunted Attractions in New England this November

In just a matter of weeks New Englanders will be treated to a visit by the venerable Legendary Haunt Tour which has chosen to come to our neck of the woods on November 7th and 8th, 2014

Halloween New England sat down with Jennifer Braverman of TransWorld to learn more about what you can expect from this year’s special tour.

The Legendary Haunt Tour is a co-production between TransWorld and Netherworld—the former being the producer of the monstrous Halloween and Attractions trade show that takes place each March in St. Louis, and the latter being one of the largest, long-running, and most respected haunted attractions in the country. 

Featuring three New England haunted attractions, a haunt education panel, catered dinners, a day in Salem, post-show parties, and more, the Legendary Haunt Tour is unique because of its timing. The tour schedule coincides with the end of the Halloween season to enable haunt professionals, soon-to-be haunters, and enthusiasts to experience featured haunts as authentically as a customer would—the way they were designed to be.  The 2014 tour will be featuring New England’s own Haunted Overload (Lee, NH), Nightmare New England (Litchfield, NH), and Fright Kingdom (Nashua, NH).

Legendary Haunt Tour Salem 2014 - Haunted Overload
The foreboding entrance to Haunted Overload in Lee, NH
If you’re not a member of the haunt industry it may surprise you to learn that the very folks who create haunted attractions rarely have the opportunity to enjoy the fruit of their peers’ labor, especially in a “live” atmosphere with customers, actors, and energy. As haunters all work virtually the same nights each season, they relish the chance to visit and other haunts as the tour makes possible.

Haunters may be fans of one another’s work but often it is an appreciation gained through mutual respect, an understanding of one’s design, skills, or creative approach, and photos/videos that are generated through the season—hardly ever through the live experience which can’t fully be conveyed outside of the real deal.

The Legendary Haunt Tour is many things to many haunters, but it is arguably a highlight of every fall for being a favorite way to decompress after a grueling season. Remember, most of the attendees closed their show just days earlier and they’ll admit it’s the first chance to unwind after a demanding stretch of work leading to Halloween. 

Planning a year in advance, Braverman says that she and Netherworld keep their ears open to determine which attractions people are buzzing about. The St. Louis convention every spring is a particularly rich place for gathering feedback about which haunts are high on people’s wish list and this informs them to keep certain haunts on their radar for future tours. Netherworld’s Ben Armstrong and Billy Messina are the arbiters of the short list for potential tour stops and together with Braverman they begin to factor in logistics. 

Legendary Haunt Tour Salem 2014 - Fright Kingdom
Sinister clown at NH's Fright Kingdom
Braverman says the timing of the tour is essential—it simply wouldn’t be the same to offer a tour like this over the winter or spring. It was Netherworld’s Ben Armstrong’s idea to invite featured haunts to extend their season by an extra night or weekend to accommodate the tour’s visit. For the featured attractions, it’s a no-brainer to sign on at that time of year since the actors are still in a groove from the season, the major props aren’t already in storage, and the lighting and fog machines are still in place.

TransWorld and Netherworld are in an unusually well-suited to produce a tour like this because of the strong relationships they have formed through the years with hundreds of haunters and vendors nationally through the Halloween and Attraction Show. They are providing more than transportation and a ticket to see a haunt. The tour’s itinerary facilitates opportunities for the haunt community to deepen their connection to one another through social gatherings, free time in an interesting city, visits to haunts they are curious about, and the round table discussion.

When asked why she opted to bring the tour to New England this year, Braverman shares the tour “had never really been out east. When you think of Halloween, you think of Salem and it has such history. Besides seeing the haunts, Salem is really a highlight and we thought it would make for a very exciting tour for people. There’s a mystical element to this year’s tour that we just haven’t had before.”   

It’s also the first year the tour has featured outdoor attractions. Haunted Overload is an entirely outdoor trail and three of Nightmare New England’s five attractions are set under the stars and in the woods. Fright Kingdom is the only exclusively indoor attraction this year which balances out the tour itinerary well. Each attraction is distinctly different from the next and their proximity to one another makes offering three tour stops possible when most Legendary itineraries have featured just two.  

Legendary Haunt Tour Salem 2014 - Nightmare New England Brigham Manor
The enormous Brigham Manor at Nightmare New England 
With professionals like Armstrong, Messina, and Braverman at the helm organizing the tour, many prop and scenic design vendors are a regular sight too.  

“Some of the [TransWorld Halloween and Attraction Show] exhibitors (vendors) come because it gives them a chance to network with their buyers (haunt owners). At TransWorld, they don’t really get a chance to socialize—they’re on the show floor selling and then at night they’re exhausted. Here, they get to find out what people like in their haunted houses and what kind of products these buyers want so that they can develop and create for next year’s show.”  

The people who join the tour really understand the unique value of what is being provided—something they could never get if they attended the two or three attractions on their own, independently. 

“Beyond seeing the haunts, you are getting to meet and talk with other haunted attraction owners. A lot of these owners and haunters who attend are kind of like celebrities in their own right,“ says Braverman. “You’ll be able to talk to them, listen and ask about how their season went. You’ll get to sit through seminars with them and round table discussions summarizing how their season was. You’ll be able to network and learn. The tour adds a dynamic that most people wouldn’t ordinarily get.”

“After all,” she adds, “where else can you go and see two hundred other haunt owners in a room right after their season ended?”

Legendary Haunt Tour Salem 2014 - Haunted Overload
A knife-wielding maniac awaits in Haunted Overload's vortex
For superfans and would-be professional haunters, the tour is a virtual who’s-who of the haunted attraction industry. As the largest industry-focused trade show, TransWorld isn’t open to the general public or haunt enthusiasts. By default, the Legendary Haunt Tour has become the premier place to meet and learn from a wide variety of pro haunters, prop and scenic designers, entrepreneurs, and innovators--the very people who are driving the industry forward and creating new avenues for haunters of every stripe, size, and budget. 

“The tour is a great environment for people who are thinking of starting a haunted attraction. They’ll get a chance to ask questions of all of these guys—and not necessarily in a seminar setting. It’s a great benefit. I think that is why a lot of enthusiasts do go. Where else can you go where you get to see all of these people together?”

Michael Chaille, owner of Ghost Ride Productions, is a designer and developer of mechanical and special effects, and custom props. He makes a point to attend every year because "Legendary is where Ghost Ride Productions refines our next year’s goals and product development based on what we learn from this gathering.  Without a tradeshow floor, the bus rides and breakneck schedule turn the tour into something more like continued education.  It's a requirement for all serious professionals, no matter the discipline or field."

Some of the most well-known owners and designers are regulars on the tour—as attendees and also as panel guests. Braverman characterizes the discussions as a fresh wrap-up of the season followed by a Q & A.  

Legendary Haunt Tour Salem 2014 - Fright Kingdom
The facade at Nashua's Fright Kingdom
“We try to have different kinds of people up there talking about their season--someone that runs a hayride, someone that runs a traditional haunt, someone who has a paintball field and runs a zombie shoot—so there are a variety opinions” that convey a diversity in the haunt experience.

Featured panelists in recent years have included John Laflamboy, owner of Zombie Army Productions (Chicago, IL), Allen Hopps, director of Dark Hour Haunted House (Plano, TX), Chris Stafford, owner of Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group (Austin, TX), Randy Bates, Owner of Bates Motel and Pennhurst Asylum (Glen Mills, PA and Spring City, PA), Ben Armstrong of Netherworld (Atlanta, GA), and Timothy Gavinski, owner of Wisconsin Feargrounds (Milwaukee, WI).

The Legendary Haunt Tour provides an extraordinary amount of access to the most creative minds and successful haunters in this country—it’s a one-of-a-kind chance to understand what makes these men and women tick.

Knowledgeable tour-goers (and TransWorld veterans) understand that the tour hotel is a vital and important social hub, yet its nightly gatherings are not listed on the itinerary per se. The hotel becomes the place where colleagues can recount their season, network, and bounce around new ideas for next year (yes, Halloween really never has an “off-season” for these folks). 
For New Englanders who plan to attend the Legendary Haunt Tour, it’s worth forgoing your own bed for a night or two as the tour hotel is a veritable magnet for informal social meet-ups. 

Legendary Haunt Tour Salem 2014 - Nightmare New England
Raven's Claw Cemetery at Nightmare New England 
“Haunters love to all be together,” explains Braverman.  “The advantage to staying at the host hotel is that when you get back from the tour at night, everyone can go to the bar where most people continue to socialize or network.” 

For locals, the Legendary Haunt Tour provides an insider’s behind-the-scenes experience that simply couldn’t be accessed as an independent haunt fan. It’s an incredible way to meet such a wide variety of haunted house owners from across the country.

“They get to be with the group, hear about everyone’s season, see everyone, learn about different aspects of the haunted houses that they don’t normally see," says Braverman. "They’ll enjoy the Q & A and be able to ask questions of the haunt owners whose attractions are being featured on the tour that they normally might be able to.“

Ghost Ride's Chaille describes Legendary Haunt Tour attendees as "seeming to be more relaxed and less guarded, more like a fraternity.  Like troops comparing stories after the battle has ended, we love hearing all the 'battle stories' from across North America and around the world."

For Braverman, her favorite part of Legendary is getting to see everyone and hear about how everyone’s season went. She enjoys that, for many, the haunt season culminates with this tour. 

“I get to see the full cycle,” she says. “I see people come to [TransWorld] and buy the product. I know how hard all these haunters work throughout the year. You hear the woes, and it’s nice to hear about their successes. You get to hear a lot of what they did well and what they feel didn’t go well. I get to hear what they’d like to see more of on the TransWorld show floor. I gain an insight that I wouldn’t normally get when I see them at the trade show because they’re really only at the show to buy, or to take classes, or network. To be able to socialize with them is just something I just don’t often get to do and that is part of the reason I really love Legendary so much. People will come to Legendary from around the world and it’s so great to hear all the different perspectives.”

For us New Englanders, having the Legendary Haunt Tour visit our region is a feather in our cap. We here at Halloween New England can attest that our New England haunt community is thriving and we’re seeing more and more yard and home haunters taking the next step to move “pro”. 

Local haunters and superfans who may have seen one or two of the tour’s featured haunts in recent years should know the experience of Legendary will be unmatched in terms of access, networking, and the free flow of ideas and feedback that comes with being surrounded by dozens of the brightest and most innovative minds in the haunt community. It’s a truly rare gift to have the wider haunt community coming out to our own backyard. 

We are counting down the days for the Legendary Haunt Tour weekend and we look forward to welcoming so many industry pros to our region. We hope to see as many northeast haunters and superfans representing our historic area and distinct Halloween culture. We’ll be there, will you? 

Looking to find out more about the tour? Find tour itineraries, online ticketing, hotel booking info, transportation, and more at the Legendary Haunt Tour's website.

The photos in this article were published with the expressed permission of Artifact Images (Haunted Overload), SpookyWorld Presents Nightmare New England, and Fright Kingdom.

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