Scare LA: The Halloween Convention in Los Angeles

Written by Norman Gidney. Posted in Features, Scare LA

frontpagepic_KY

Published on August 17, 2014 at 3:00 am with 4 Comments

Last weekend, August 9th and 10th, a frightfully fun convention was held in Los Angeles. Scare LA is a large-scale convention held each August for Halloween fans, professional haunters, and anyone in between that loves everything associated with the spooky holiday!  This event celebrates Halloween and the fun that is coming to the Southern California area each fall.  Think of it as the preview for Halloween.

In its second year, Scare LA is held mostly indoors at LA Mart, a multi-story building in downtown L.A. LA Mart offered 4 floors to the Halloween fest. The main convention area was on the 2nd floor, where vendors, artists, haunters and make up artists converged in booths and demo areas.  Along the back wall of the second floor, independent haunt companies set up mini versions of the terrifying creations that they would be offering in the fall.  This floor also contained the Main Stage where various panels and presentations were held.

Floor 7 was reserved for presentations and workshops on anything haunted or Halloween.  It was also the area where special performances were offered like Chilling Tales of the Haunted Mansion: LIVE! or the experimental theatre group Urban Death. There was even a screening room that offered up and coming horror filmmakers a chance to debut their works.

This was a big show that required a lot of work to put together.  Producers, Lora Ivanova, David Markland, Johana Atilano, and Rick West put in countless hours getting the event off the ground.  A team of volunteers and artist worked tirelessly the week before to prep the convention floor on the second level.

IMG_0565

Entering the second floor from the elevators, Delusion Haunted Play was getting the foyer ready.

IMG_0568

IMG_0606

IMG_0633

IMG_0573

IMG_0578

IMG_0581

IMG_0585

IMG_0600

IMG_0695

No Bones about it! Scare LA gets a thumbs up!

Make up master for Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights, Larry Bones, is here setting up his booth and demo area.  Such a great guy.

In the main thoroughfare of floor 2, a special area was set up for what are known as Sliders.  Sliders are those startling guys that run and slide up in front of you as you are making your way through the dark and fog at places like Knott’s Berry Farm and Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor.

IMG_0572

Along the back wall of the independent haunts were setting up their mini haunted houses.

IMG_0561

The Reign of Terror photo op.

IMG_0597

On the seventh floor touches were being made to offer a more reserved, yet spooky feel.

IMG_0627

IMG_0628

IMG_0625

Even the classrooms were spooky.

Up on the 11th floor, Jeff Scheifelbein was working hard with his production team from Sinister Pointe Productions, getting the Gala event space for Saturday night ready to go.  Jeff has an impeccable eye for detail and mood which was a perfect fit for a Halloween Gala.

IMG_0673

IMG_0675

IMG_0679

Down in the basement, that’s right, basement, Devin and Lawrence from Pasadena’s ALONE Experience were getting their deliciously evil designs in place.  More on this in a bit.

Everything was set.  Saturday morning at 10am the doors opened and fans of Halloween flooded in.  My mouth was agape at the amount of craftsmanship and wizardry behind the displays and effects that  I saw.  Every turn led to a new macabre discovery, another deliciously horrifying find. We set our schedule and, unfortunately there was simply too much to cover it all.  But we have what we believed to be the major highlights of the panel discussions and the things to be seen.

When Hinges Creek: Celebrating 45 Years of the Haunted Mansion

At 11 am the first panel of the event was in celebration of the 45th anniversary of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. Disney Legends Bob Gurr and Alice Davis were led by Doombuggies.com creator and MiceChat MicePod contributor, Jeff Baham, in a discussion of the history and creation of the attraction.

IMG_0708

IMG_0709

Event producer, David Markland gives the all clear signal and the show began.

IMG_0710

IMG_0713

Jeff Baham took the stage and led the crowd in a recitation of the opening spiel of the Haunted Mansion.  So geeky, so wonderful.

IMG_0729

IMG_0734

Seated, Bob Gurr and Alice Davis brought history to life in their recollections.

IMG_0748

IMG_0750

A gag being worked on in the studio.

IMG_0752

An early model of the attraction featuring the Hatbox Ghost.

IMG_0754

IMG_0757

Alice Davis recalled her husband’s, Marc Davis, style of humor and how he infused it into his ideas for the Mansion.  ”It was a type of humor that everyone could get a laugh out of” she said.

IMG_0761

IMG_0763

IMG_0775

Queen Mary Dark Harbor Presentation

The Haunted Mansion panel closed and within an hour we were back into the Main Stage hall to hear about what Queen Mary Dark Harbor has planned for us this fall.

IMG_0793

The entire creative team took the stage to explain the amazing preparation and work that are going into this years Haunt at the Queen Mary.

IMG_0801

The Dark Harbor Team: Steve Sheldon, Ryan Lewis, Adam Conger, J.J. Wickham, David Wally, Bre Combs, Christina Cofran, Katy Brisbois, Brian Luallen

But that wasn’t all that they had for us.  No, not at all.  The insanely funny, terribly gruesome icon of Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor was welcomed to the stage as well.

IMG_0818

The team then made the announcements about what was coming to Dark Harbor.  3 mazes were returning, but there would be three new mazes as well, a total of six.

IMG_0806

Circus, Submerged and Dead Rise would all be returning.

IMG_0810

There wil also be a new Monster Midway area.

IMG_0812

The entire cast of characters would be returning with a brand new member.

Bun6yBrCEAAK907.jpg-large

The Voodoo Priestess.

The new mazes would be Voodoo Village (in the Village of the Damned location) Soulmate, (in the old Quarantine space on the ship) and B340 (taking up the Hellfire space.) Bun6yBnCQAAw_3e.jpg-large

There will also be a brand new up-charge maze called Encounters. IMG_0826

After the panel discussion folks were welcomed to come up and take pics.  I, of course, went straight to the Ringmaster for a duck face selfie.

BuoASZfCIAAUHp9

Knott’s Halloween Haunt Presentation
Knott’s Scary Farm brought it just a few hours later at 4pm.  This being their second appearance at Scare LA, they certainly knocked it out of the park.  The room was awash with green when the team arrived.

IMG_0845

Jeff Tucker took his spot as Master of Ceremonies to the proceedings. He’s so good at this.

With the big Haunt reveal having happened just a week before, what could Knott’s possibly offer convention goers?  Plenty.

IMG_0854

IMG_0859

They explained that among the surprises, all of the skeleton key rooms would be new.  They would be featured in Black Magic, Gunslinger’s Grave, Pinocchio Unstrung, Dominion of the Damned, and Voodoo

IMG_0863

They also went into detail on the new Special OPs: Infected experience.

IMG_0864

IMG_0870

Finally they announced the return of a Haunt icon, the Headless Horseman.

IMG_0871

IMG_0872

Halloween Horror Nights Presentation

IMG_6935

On Sunday, August 10th, at 1pm Universal Studios Hollywood took the Main Stage with another sold out panel discussion.  They had a big reveal to deliver and a very special celebrity was on hand to help.  Within seconds of Creative Director, John Murdy, and Artistic Director, Chris Williams taking the stage, they brought out none other than the legendary John Landis!

IMG_0908
IMG_0910

IMG_0917

An American Werewolf in London is the final maze announced for Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights.  When the event begins in mid-September guests will be able to relive the horrifying journey of David, an american attacked by a werwolf while visiting England.  The maze will include the famous transformation scene, a trip through the London subway system, and a visit to the Slaughtered Lamb.

IMG_6937

IMG_6939

IMG_6940

IMG_6941

 

Show Floor

The expo hall offered a tremendous amount of things to see and learn. Halloween fans could look for souvenirs.  Professional haunters could shop for supplies. The rest of us simply wandered and enjoyed everything there was to be seen.

Part of the Scare floor was devoted to the Decayed Brigade sliding troupe.  Sliding developed as another way to scare.  Running and sliding in front of guests, startling them with a scream and the loud noise.  It has since become an interesting little sport that Haunt fans love.

BunxnXqCAAADXaF

IMG_0705

Froggy’s Fog firing it up.

IMG_0783

Disney Legend Bob Gurr on the floor after the Haunted Mansion presentation on Saturday.

IMG_0918

A monster from the Garner Holt booth.

IMG_0921

John Landis posing with @VFXCreates

IMG_6943

John Landis even took a pic with me!

IMG_0926

The imagination in the costumes was interesting.

IMG_0927

This guy has multiple personalities.

Another unique feature of Scare LA was the ability to sample some of the upcoming Haunted attractions, shows and houses. The levels ranged from professional to homegrown haunts.  All of them fascinating in execution and imagination.

The Curse of the Devil Swamp

Among our favorites was The Curse of the Devil Swamp.  The brainchild of Lucas Acosta, the mini maze even featured a pre-show.  Pretty damned ambitious.  The scares were inventive and a lot of fun.

Curse of the Devil Swamp

Curse of the Devil Swamp

Field of Screams

Field of Screams Haunted attraction in Lake Elsinore offered a rather interesting experience called the Hellavator.  Think of what it was like to be in an enclosed elevator, in the dark, with this.

IMG_6933

Reign of Terror

The wonderful Reign of Terror in Thousand Oaks offered a photo op in a ghastly setup.  Jeff Heimbuch, Alan Simpson (Haunt Monster) and myself chose the traditional Rockwell poses.

IMG_6932

IMG_0698

The wickedly talented D Star photography was on hand to handle the photography at the Reign of Terror Booth.

ALONE

Probably the very best thing to experience was the haunted attraction, ALONE.  If you wanted to experience the maze, you were required to sign a waver of liability, proof of age, and give them your phone number.

Bunqi3SCQAAnB_r

At 4:00pm, when the time for my ALONE experience arrived, I was standing in the parking lot, waiting to get into the Terror Trucks mazes in the parking lot.   A man asked me to confirm my identity.  Then told me, “The time for your Alone experience has come.  Stop whatever you are doing.  If you are standing in a group, do not say a word.  Turn and walk away.  If you have any personal belongings leave them behind.  Meet us on the second floor at the elevators.”

I left the line I had been standing in for a good 15 minutes and headed back into the building.  ”Stay on the phone with me and do exactly as I say.” The man on the phone said.  Addled with a large digital camera and camera bag my eyes darted around the crowd, hoping to find a familiar face to leave my stuff with for the next half hour.

I entered the first floor of LAMart and rounded the corner to the first floor elevators are.  I literally ran into Doug Barnes from the Season Pass Podcast.

“Doug!  Doug, can you watch my camera for  a minute?”
Startled and confused Doug asked, “What?  Is everything okay?  For how long?”
“I don’t know!  Um, 10-15 minutes, I don’t know.” I spoke in a hushed tone as I didn’t want the creepy guy on the phone wouldn’t hear me breaking his ‘don’t talk to anyone’ rule.
“But I was headed out to grab a bite to eat.” Doug explained.
Panicked I grabbed my camera and camera bag back from him.  He pulled them off of my shoulder again, “No I got this I got this, meet me in the lobby.  This is probably gonna be good.” Doug said.

My heart thumping I piled into a crowded elevator going up, the man still on the other end of the line.  ”Surprisingly good reception for an elevator.” I thought.  Sweat collected between my ear and the phone as I nervously waited for the doors to open.

The doors of the elevator opened and I was on the floor where Delusion had set up their masterpiece of a display.  I stepped to the center of the area and soon enough a creepy, hippie-like girl approached me.

“Norm, right?”
“Yeah.” I stammered.
“Oh, it is so good to see you again! Remember the great times we had at the meditation tent!”
Playing along I answered, “Yes I do.”
“Oh you just wouldn’t believe it.  I ran into these people.  They really know the truth about things.  They are called the Enola society.” She whips a black and white brochure out of her woven shoulder purse and stabs it into my palm. “You really need to go check them out.”
The girl then guides me back to the elevator.
“Go to the basement.  They have set up a wonderful meditation center down there.  Go down and do not talk to ANYONE.”
I stood alone in an elevator. Having pressed the LL button the girl stepped back out into the second floor lobby and stood watching as the doors closed in front of me.

The moments of quiet before the doors opened again seemed to last forever.  What would happen next?  What had I gotten myself into?

I reached the basement level where a man then walked me by the arm, talking about dimensions and alternate realities.  Suddenly another man walked past us, grabbed my arm and pulled me in the opposite direction.  He then shoved me into pitch dark and unseen hands guided me though a series of visual and psychological oddities and physical tasks.

Buo00xcCUAEJutJ

Me, after my ALONE Experience.

I will not go into detail here as the mystery is far more terrifying than anything I could explain.  Suffice it to say that It was a mental roller coaster ride that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Lawrence and Devin, whom I had met earlier on Friday as they were setting up the experience, should be proud at the odd, disturbing experience that they created in a found space.  Kudos too, for the inventive way they called people from the floor when their time was up.  A special shout out goes to the creepy cult girl who sent me down to the basement.  She was absolutely perfect.

By the next morning, word had gotten out on how awesome the ALONE experience was.  Before the show floor had opened up to regular guests, the line was already filled with press and those who payed extra for early entry.

IMG_6931

You can be certain that I will be going to experience ALONE when it returns this fall in Pasadena.

Garner Holt: I was a Teenage Haunter

What does Garner Holt have to do with Halloween?  Plenty. He may run the leading animatronics design company in the business, but he really cut his teeth in horror! Garner had the honor of closing out the Scare LA convention this past weekend in a panel discussion with MiceChat MicePod’s Doug Barnes (Co-Host of the Season Pass Podcast).

Garner Holt: I Was a Teenage Haunter covered where it all began and where it led.  Building little haunted houses in his back yard, Garner was able to create immersive walkthroughs that featured talking skulls, animated props, and other inventive effects.  It wasn’t very long until hundreds of people lined up to see his wild creations and he moved forward on his career path that led to working with the top theme parks in the world.

IMG_0928

IMG_0931

IMG_0930

We have video of the presentation for you below:

Breakdown

The time finally came to tear down the show and it was with bittersweet emotion that I helped the crew pack things up.  I frankly didn’t want the weekend to come to a close, as it was something that was engrossingly fun and entertaining.  Every panel, each little haunt, all of the booths, held such unique and interesting surprises.

IMG_0955

The Big Bad Wolf was sad to have to leave.

IMG_6950

The Zombies were dreading the drive home on the 5.

IMG_6955

Johanna Atilano, fresh from her experience in ALONE, begins to peel vinyl from the slider floor. She was still trying to process the experience she had just survived.

IMG_6956

Lora Ivanova, down on the floor peeling the vinyl with everyone else.

IMG_6957

I made friends here that I will never forget.

IMG_6958

It takes a village to pull up the vinyl.

This year’s Scare LA was a memorable weekend that will be hard to forget.  I seriously cannot remember the last time that I have been to a convention where I wanted to see everything and I had too little time.  The organization of the event was excellent as well, with only minor snafus here and there (which are always to be expected in large events such as this). This being only their second year, Scare LA has already put a firm imprint on the Halloween market.  Not just here in Los Angeles, but setting a standard that will, without question, be imitated in other cities across the country.  What these other places don’t have is the same heavy concentration of Halloween crazed fans.  Los Angeles is a Halloween town.

I am not only looking forward to Halloween 2014, but to ScareLA next year.

About Norman Gidney

Norman Gidney, also known as Fishbulb, produces and edits many of the articles on MiceChat. Tune in every Tuesday for the Orlando Parkhopper and every Friday for In The Parks. But you'll also find his photos in the Weekly Round Up, SAMLAND, and numerous other columns on the site.

Browse Archived Articles by

4 Comments

Comments for Scare LA: The Halloween Convention in Los Angeles are now closed.

  1. ScareLA was amazing! Even though I only went Sunday, it was still an incredible day. And yes, ALONE was fantastic!

  2. What a fun time you had, Norm!! Thanks for documenting this event for those of us Halloween fans who love what these creative geniuses are cooking for us horror fans to look forward to this upcoming Halloween. You certainly sold me on the “Alone” experience. I’m planning a trip down there from Seattle just for that alone! Thanks again!

  3. You said more on the terror trucks later…but then nothing on the terror trucks. I loved the event, but it was sad that the student tickets were sold out, and yet many of the classes were half-full. I would have paid plenty just to have a chance to waitlist some of those classes.

  4. Reign of Terror is in Thousand Oaks not Woodland Hills. :)