Event Dates: 6/11/22 - 6/12/22 Reviewer: Lindsay
Are you a Halloween addict? Do you enjoy being scared? Maybe a little of both, and you just can't wait another 3-4 months to get your spooky fix? What about a haunted house worker looking for ways to connect with others and grow in the industry? The team behind the annual Transworld Halloween & Attractions Show also put on another event that may be right up your alley - and this one is open to the public! Held every year between late Spring and the Summer, the Midwest Haunters Convention provides a solid middle ground for both haunters to hone their craft and Halloween enthusiasts to come and see what the industry is all about, while mingling with loads of others who love (and create) the scary. The dates and locations for the event vary; for 2022, the show was hosted at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in the village of Rosemont, IL, and heavily featured attractions found within the Chicagoland haunt scene.
If you're interested in attending MHC, your first order of business should be registration, as without it you cannot add any extras. A number of ticket options are available to attendees, whether you want to go for just one day, the whole weekend, or get a package that includes other stuff. My pick was the full weekend pass, which ran me $55. Once you've registered, you can then start adding seminars, the Costume Ball, and/or haunt tours. I chose to add the Pre-Convention Bus Tour myself ($350), and also the Saturday Night Haunt Tour ($90), which was at The 13th Floor - Chicago and included dinner. (More on this later!) A good rule of thumb is the earlier you sign up, the more money you will save. Also, you'll want to book your hotel room as soon as possible! The host hotels didn't have much left weeks before the event.
While not nearly as ginormous as its sister show, Midwest still has an excellent selection of booths and vendors spanning the convention floor. As it is a show primarily geared towards the haunt industry, most vendors had some relation, selling masks, props, SFX lenses, makeup, animatronics, offering ticketing and advertising services, etc. However, if you aren't a haunter, don't worry - there's stuff for you, too! Other vendors were selling awesome horror and Halloween merch, body scrubs, jewelry, delicious chocolate and fudge, and handmade art. You can never be 100% sure of what you'll find as you browse through the show. Not to mention who you might run into, or what may happen out there... one of my most memorable moments was when I spotted the clowns from Creepy Hollow Haunted House, and messaged a friend of mine, who is a huge fan of theirs. The next thing I knew, I was meeting all of them, and even ended up in Rellik The Clown’s Twitch stream! I haven't made it to Texas yet to see their haunt, so that was pretty cool.
Speaking of vendors, I want to throw some extra special love out to my favorite part of the convention floor: Haunter's Row! Tucked towards the back where the show stage was, Haunter's Row was a joint effort between the MHC team and review site Haunted House Chicago, with booths featuring several popular attractions in the Chicagoland area. Most had actors in both costume and character, and I absolutely loved speaking with them, interacting with them - and sometimes being scared by them! (This was where my rivalry with cymbal monkey clown began. Again, more on that later.) What a great spot for haunters to mingle and the public to have some fun. (A little love is also in order for Nick and Suzze on our team, who were very tolerant of my frequent requests for photos. Thanks again guys!)
And I can't leave out the shows - 100% free as part of your registration, and so very entertaining. Our whole group witnessed the Screamin' Hot Sauce Challenge... which a surprising number of haunters managed to survive! Well done! I personally caught some of Frightful Family Feud, and all three of us pulled up again to watch the Monster Match Game. Both were hilarious, and I hope the Midwest team decides to keep them going in the future.
Let's change gears for a moment and shift over to Saturday night's haunt tour, taking place just down the road at 13th Floor Haunted House Chicago. In addition to entry to the haunt, convention-goers were also transported there and back via bus, and provided with a meal of pizza, chips, cookie, and drink. Not bad! While there didn't seem to be much outside of the place decor-wise, they had fun music playing and quite a few roamers to entertain the crowd. I'm fairly certain I finally got to see the great Joseph Bodkin in action, which was a real treat, as was interacting with Mandi Macabre, a haunter whose work I've admired for a while. There was also a lovely ghoul I had a running joke with involving an exchange of my teeth for a photo (I never did find those pliers - sorry!). But the character who really stole the show was this cymbal monkey clown... he'd spooked me good on the convention floor that day, and decided he was going to pick on me a whole lot more when I got to his haunt. I was scared two more times outside, again when waiting in the indoor queue, and he just couldn't resist coming back for a parting shot in the gift shop. Of course, we also took a photo together and were making hand hearts at each other... what can I say, he was too cute for me not to forgive his antics.
As with all the other haunts I visited that weekend, The 13th Floor was totally new to me. It was among the more visually beautiful I'd experienced, with some of the most immense and jaw-dropping sets I've ever had the pleasure of walking through. I loved exploring the mansion part, and man, they had some uber creepy characters in that section! (Shout out to the smaller actor with the split mouth, just as fun as they were unsettling.) Their huge pirate ship area was also really cool. I remember walking into more than one scene going "oh my gosh!" and "wow!" - the last haunt to get that reaction out of me was HellsGate, when I visited last year. That should tell you how good their set work was. I did think the house could've used a few less animatronic startles and more human ones, but everything was well placed and never felt random. And it was an off season event, so this place could be a whole different beast during haunt season. (Fun fact: The 13th Floor was the only haunt I experienced during MHC completely alone. It was nice to go at my own pace and be able to take everything in.)
Getting back to the convention, there's no doubt this show is mostly for haunters, but if you're a general haunted house fan- which I am- you definitely shouldn't sleep on Midwest. There are plenty of vendors and shows to fill your time on the show floor itself, and if you can swing the cost for them, the haunt tours are a great way to add even more fun to your experience. (I didn't do the Costume Ball, but Nick and Suzze did, and they seemed to enjoy it!) And best of all, it's a fantastic opportunity to connect with a lot of friendly, like-minded people. All of us on Haunted Honeymooners were able to introduce ourselves to many people we hadn't had the pleasure of meeting yet, and now we can help them promote their work, too.
There are quite a few more things I could say to express my feelings on this event, but I think this exchange I had with a family member via text would sum it up 100%. After sending him a few photos I'd taken with haunt characters at the show, he joked, "Where do you find all these weird-looking people?"
To which I replied, "They may be weird, but they're my people."
Another awesome Midwest Haunters Convention is officially in the books. I had such a wonderful time meeting just as many wonderful people, and I hope we can do this again soon! Until next time, MHC... it's been fun.