The MHC Story
After seeing a group of teens scare a bunch of younger kids on an afternoon hayride, Kelly Collins was motivated to create a small-scale Saturday night “spooky hayride” which spurred his love for haunts. Kelly’s wife, Neena, always had a love for costuming and Halloween parties and when they met, she agreed to help out with his haunted attractions (little did she know that 30 years later, she’d be working full-time operating the ScareAtorium, one of the largest haunts in Ohio).
In 2003, a small haunters conference in Ohio had announced they were discontinuing their show. Kelly and Neena, who were instructors at the conference, struck up a conversation with Barry and Kathy Schieferstein, who had seen the same post online about the conference closing. Both couples were thinking about starting their own haunters show to fill the gap. The group decided to form a partnership and create their own convention.
After a couple months of planning and searching for a location, the foursome decided to host the Midwest Haunters Convention, a gathering for haunt owners, actors, scene builders, makeup artists and home haunters. They wrote a 10 year plan with the goal of someday hosting 1,000 participants from Ohio and surrounding states. They wanted MHC to give haunters a place to shop for anything they needed: props, costumes, makeup, supplies, etc. To keep the show financially available to everyone, they decided to keep their profit margin low, work out of their homes and use volunteers for show staffing. They wanted their exhibitors to be successful, too, so they set their booth prices low and offered free assistance unloading their trucks.
The MHC reached 1,000 attendees during their fourth year! The convention had outgrown all the local hotels and needed to move to the Columbus Convention Center where they could continue to expand. “Our management team is made up of haunt owners, actors, makeup artists and home haunters,” says Barry. “We know what it’s like to work in this industry. We feel as though our experience helps us put on a convention that is useful and friendly to the haunter community.”
Advice from the Pros
From Kelly: Take as much education as you can get your hands on. Learn from others costly mistakes instead of trial and error. Attending the Midwest Haunters Convention not only provides excellent educational seminars, it will also expose you to social opportunities to talk with others in the industry. This is an unusual industry where people involved are usually willing to share their experiences and offer tips on how they’ve gotten to where they are! We’re really a friendly group with a shared love of Halloween and performing.
From Barry: Get to know people at a show like MHC and ask questions. Haunters are unusually friendly and willing to share advice and tips. Most people you talk to will say they come to MHC for the trade show, the education, or the party. The real reason everyone comes is the atmosphere and the networking. Seeing old friends and meeting new people who are willing to help you succeed is what makes haunts a great industry!
Interested in attending the Midwest Haunters Convention? Find tickets here.