What is the West Coast Haunters Convention?
West Coast Haunters Convention celebrates five years! Coast to coast Halloween enthusiasts primed to gather in Portland for annual convention
By Dana Martin
To Ed Roberts, haunting isn't just a seasonal job or a passing hobby. For Roberts and the students at the Oregon School for the Deaf—and for hundreds of supporters from across the United States—haunting is everything. This year marks the fifth year for the WCHC and with that comes some exciting news!
Every May, Roberts throws one of the Halloween industry’s biggest parties, the West Coast Haunters Convention (WCHC), the only convention of its kind west of the Rockies. Haunters, folks who love the spooky, scary, cobwebbing, blood splattering lifestyle associated with Halloween, gather in Portland, Oregon, to buy, sell, learn, and network with others like them. This year, the convention is from May 16,17,18 and features Roy Wooley, RJ Haddy and Nicholas "Nix" Herrera from the hit SyFy show "Face Off" as keynote speakers and a plethora of haunters from around the country offering over 45 different classes, workshops and hands on make and takes!
“We started this convention because it was too costly to take my students to the other trade shows,” said Roberts, a counselor in the Boys Dorm Resident Program at the Oregon School for the Deaf in Salem. Roberts has run Nightmare Factory, a non-profit haunted attraction at the school, for 26 years and uses the proceeds from the haunted house to benefit his students. In 2012, he founded the WCHC as a 501(c)3 as another act of love, but this time, for deaf and autistic students everywhere.
“The WCHC is a 501(c)3 that will offer mini grants to professionals that work with deaf and or autistic children,” said Roberts.
Roberts doesn't pay lip service to serving his students, either. Sign language interpreters are on hand for each class or event where they are needed, and so are students from the Salem school who have earned the trip to Portland. They know the haunt and the convention are their biggest sources of revenue for special programs and “extras” needed at their school.
“I am big on charity,” said Roberts. “I'm always looking into benefits and programs that work with deaf and autistic children.” The WCHC is the only convention of its kind that is 100% for charity, a benefit Roberts never intended would set him apart from his peers but is happy it does.
West Coast Haunters Convention is slowly gaining recognition among those peers.
In its' fifth year, the WCHC is bracing itself for its biggest attendance yet. Word travels fast that the education is free, the haunt tours are good, and that networking will be abundant.
“We keep coming back because there is a real sense of family there, the classes are free, and there are a lot of them. We also love that it caters to the deaf community in Portland,” said Jeromy and Zach Ball, the Bloodshed Brothers from Temecula, Calif. The Bloodshed Brothers, among many attendees, began their haunting career as home haunters before turning professional. The WCHC boasts some of the best speakers and classes designed specifically for charity haunts and home haunts.
“There’s a huge community of home haunters on the West Coast,” said Roberts. “We don’t want to give the illusion that we are just for pros. Everyone is welcome.”
Cindy Lemas gets it. Lemas first heard of the WCHC last year and decided to send three representatives to the convention from her charity haunt in Fort Bragg, Calif. What they came away with, said Lemas, was invaluable. “We learned that the attraction has become a business and to treat is as a business to make money. We also learned a new skill set with makeup techniques, building sets, special effects and lighting. With all we learned, thanks to the WCHC, we increased the attraction to three nights, obtained sponsors, charged for both teens and adults, and sold advance tickets. In 2012, we doubled 2011’s proceeds!”
On this year’s West Coast menu of fun is a tradeshow floor with vendors selling everything from costumes, makeup, and props to coffins, Froggy’s Fog, Necrotic Creations and much more. On Friday night there will be a tour of Milburn, Oregon's "Milburn's Haunted Manor", Saturday night is the highlight event, The Halfway to Halloween Charity Costume Ball and silent auction featuring a costume contest, food, and a no-host bar from 9pm to 2am.