Every year, haunters from around the world flock to St. Louis, Missouri to take part in the world’s largest tradeshow dedicated to Halloween: TransWorld’s Halloween & Attractions Show. The pandemic of 2020 was the first year I recall the show being canceled, so there were big expectations for this year’s outing. More and more places are opening up, and the hope is that haunted attractions can be back to somewhat normal, come October. Did TransWorld’s 2021 HAA Show meet those expectations in the minds of attendees? I will give you my personal thoughts, breaking it down to what I thought was the good, the bad and the hopes for future shows.
TransWorld’s Halloween & Attractions Show is THE place to find almost everything you need in the haunted attraction business. This is why not only haunters from your locally owned haunted houses or haunted hayrides attend, but also the “big boys” from Universal Studios, Six Flags and the most famous attractions worldwide. In theory, as long as you have the property to put on an attraction, you could show up to TransWorld with money to spend and walk out with a fully fleshed-out event that will wow the crowds this Halloween season.
2021 continued this tradition, with a few missing components (more on that later). The show floor was packed with new and old vendors alike. The veteran vendors showed why they are staples in the industry, bringing the props and tools that have made them stand-out names in the industry, such as Froggy Fog, Ghost Ride Studios and Gore Galore. Newer vendors, like Von Grimm Productions and Dead Yard Productions, released products they had been saving up for the past two years.
In fact, the star of the show was probably from Dead Yard Productions. They made a fully animated exorcist bedroom scene. It begins with a rather attractive (hey… she was) possessed girl on a bed. Moments later, the lights begin flickering and the bed begins bucking like a mechanical bull. As the girl rises up to her feet on the bed, the dresser and paintings on the wall begin rocking around. Once the 30-second show is finished, the whole room resets back to just your standard ghoul girl scene. Every time I walked past their booth, there was a crowd watching (damned be the social distancing suggestions).
The show’s administrators and staff had the unenviable position of trying to enforce mask mandates and social distancing requirements. The lanes between vendor rows were marked with “one-way” directions and nearly double in width. It was the first time ever that I have seen TransWorld take up the entire floor of America’s Center Convention Complex. And what was even more fun was the fact that the Christmas Attractions Show, a newer part of TransWorld, was moved out to the floor of the adjacent Dome. Here, they were able to control the lighting, really allowing the lights on the gigantic displays to pop. Plus, as an NFL fan, it was really neat to be out on the field of what once was a thriving football team. I have always imagined what it would feel like to be on the field, and this was my chance. It was an excellent experience. For this, TransWorld’s staff deserves high praise!
With everything being spaced out greatly, TransWorld became a stamina run, to say the least. For attendees such as myself (who may be a little rounder in shape), the America’s Center Convention Complex was a massive pursuit. Not going to lie, I spent a couple of hours on the floor and did not get to see it all on my first day there. This was mainly because I was worn out. This is more on me than on TransWorld, but it still made the show much harder to see in one outing. Starting to think the TransWorld HAA Show will need to be looked at like Disney World: Plan to make multiple trips to see it all.
The Dark Zone, an area that is set aside for some of the top animatronic companies in haunting to show off their wares in a dark environment, was sadly a former shell of itself. Scare Factory showed up, but missing from this room were companies like Hazard Room and Poison Props. With the room pretty much all to themselves, you would think Scare Factory would have filled the area with a slew of products from their catalog. But their area looked barely built. They had a few of their massive props, but things like games, walkthroughs and sets were gone. The room looked to be an afterthought, as if TransWorld may be looking to remove The Dark Zone soon.
**In checking Scare Factory’s website, they explain that since TransWorld takes place in May this year, they only brought a limited amount of products to display in order to ensure they can get orders ready for the haunt season. So, maybe this was the same reason for other vendors to not have displays at the show**
Probably the biggest problem with the tradeshow was the lack of “newness.” I probably say this every single year, for the past 10 years. There really isn’t anything innovative from the vast majority of vendors. It is the same products, same designs and same prices. Maybe it was because of the cancellation of 2020, but I was heading in thinking there would be all sorts of new items to see. The mask makers like CFX, Von Grimm, Immortal and others had great new designs. Why can’t the rest of the vendors give us something awe-inspiring? With very few exceptions, it was the same show from 2019, which was the same show from 2018. Maybe there isn’t anything new to be made. I don’t want to believe that. Technology is here. Let’s use it.
The rumor mills have been circulating online quite a bit about the future of TransWorld. Due to disagreements between some vendors and the organization, many have speculated that the show will change in the near future. Some vendors state they will not be coming back to the show, at least annually. Others have said they have not experienced any issues with the show’s staff, and look forward to every single year they attend. My hope is that the vendors who are saying they will not come back have a change of heart. The haunt community is stronger with each one of us.
Rumors have shown up as of late that TransWorld may be looking for a new venue. St. Louis is a wonderful city, but some believe a change in location may benefit the show in many ways. Cities such as Nashville and Indianapolis have been thrown out there. Time will tell what (if any) change will happen. My hope is, of course, that the show will come to Nashville, if only for a short time. That would make my wallet happier.
In conclusion, TransWorld’s Halloween and Attractions show was much needed in 2021. After the lockdowns of the past year, it is great to see so many haunters getting back on track for the next Halloween season. Despite the problems, TransWorld is still the “must attend” event for anyone who owns, wants to own or just loves haunted houses. Here’s to many more years of this epic haunted event!