If you thought we were going to rise above pandering to the love of Halloween, you were wrong. Today’s newsletter is all about how we, in Flyover Country, do the holiday right!
- First, we’ll tell you about a Louisville haunted house attraction that doesn’t use actors or props to scare the beejesus out of you.
- In Columbus, OH, Unit 70 Studios produces life-size animatronic and static props for themed attractions worldwide.
- A Minnesota company is the largest retailer of Halloween costumers in the world.
- Kansas City’s Walkin’ and Rollin’ nonprofit builds costumes for kids in walkers and wheelchairs.
- The Teal Pumpkin Project helps trick-or-treating kids with food allergies
- Name that Flyover City.
October 31, 2019
A haunted house with no actors or special effects
Image source: Aaron Vowels via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
In the early 1900s, Jefferson County, KY, was stricken with an outbreak of tuberculosis. All TB patients from the City Hospital were relocated to temporary quarters on the grounds of Waverly Hills. By 1924, a five-story Waverly Hills Sanatorium was built that could hold more than 400 patients. The death rate of TB patients at the time was one per day.
So what does that have to do with Halloween? The building that housed the sanatorium was purchased in 2001 by Tina and Charlie Mattingly and turned into a haunted house attraction. [cue scary music]
This haunted house doesn’t feature actors and special effects, however. Waverly Hills offers two kinds of tours: Guided Tours, which follow a strict path with a tour guide, and Public Investigations, which allow free roam for a period of time on each floor.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium has been frequently featured on television: Ghost Hunters (as one of the “most haunted” hospitals in the eastern US), ABC’s Scariest Places on Earth, the British show Most Haunted, and Destination America’s Ghost Asylum and Paranormal Lockdown. It was also mentioned in the CW’s Supernatural show in episode 23, season 11.
Oh, and if you dare to visit one day, please, please, stay far away from the infamous "Room 502"!
Unit 70 Studios: Professional monster makers
Source: The Bloodshed Brothers Via Youtube
Custom-painted glass eyes. A glossy, slimy, 3D coating. Silicone skins. Welcome to the haunted attraction business. Welcome to Unit 70 Studios.
This is a busy season for the company, which produces life-size animatronic and static props for themed attractions worldwide. Based in Columbus, OH, Unit 70 launched in 2003 and now offers hundreds of products under the categories of aliens; animals and insects; asylum and medical; circus and side show; and creatures and monsters. The company prides itself on its ongoing R&D, creating new designs and developing proprietary materials and processes.
So how do you get into the creepy prop business? Founder Bo Bruns got an early start, creating props (like severed limbs) to scare the mailman. As a teenager, he made latex monsters in his parents’ basement. After he graduated from Columbus College of Art and Design, he began his professional career, working for another haunted attraction company before launching his own. It seems to have been the right path.
“I always wanted to do this stuff for a living, be a monster maker, and it seemed like a really weird or exotic thing to do, like wanting to be a rock star or astronaut, but somebody’s got to do it,” he said. “Somebody’s got to have that job.”
Minnesota company devoted to Halloween
If you’re dressing up as Wonder Woman or Jon Snow this Halloween and you bought or rented your costume online, you might be surprised to learn you likely got it from a family business. A Mankato, MN, family runs HalloweenCostumes.com, one of the largest Halloween Costume retailers in the world.
The huge company (2,000 seasonal employees) has an unlikely origin story. Four siblings run the family business, which they started in the 90s by renting out the costumes their mom had sewn for them over the years when they were kids. They parlayed that into a costume sales and rental online behemoth after paying $1 million for their domain name.
The Fallenstein family now offers trick-or-treating Americans, who spend $9 billion per year on Halloween costumes, 10,000 styles of costumes to choose from. All because Mom was an excellent seamstress and Dad loved to turn the family lawn into a graveyard every Halloween.
Giving kids with limited mobility Halloween costumes
Walkin' and Rollin' is a Kansas City-based non-profit that builds costumes for kids in walkers and wheelchairs, free of charge.
It was an idea that started from the heart. Lon Davis was worried about how his preschool son’s classmates were interacting with him. Reese was the only kid they knew in a wheelchair.
When Halloween came around, Lon constructed a Disney WALL-E costume for Reese. That day, Reese was the most popular kid in school.
In 2014, Reese attended Planet Comicon in a Captain America costume. The organizers saw it and requested the family set up a booth the following year. That next year at their booth, Lon told Startland News, they were approached by an older man in a wheelchair. “He reached into his wallet and pulled out a $100 bill and put it in our donation bucket and he said, ‘I wish there was something like this when I was a kid,’ and then he rolled away.”
Eight years later, the company, led by Lon and his wife Angie, has produced over a hundred costumes and are giving kids with limited mobility a feeling of inclusion.
Walkin and Rollin is a team effort: Community partners sponsor costume builds and then chip in to actually help build the costumes. “We’ll go in there and have all the materials, all the plans for six or seven costumes and then we’ll have 30 or 40 volunteers show up and we’ll build them all together.”
You can click here to sponsor a Walkin and Rollin project or to learn more about investment opportunities.
Making Halloween fun for kids with food allergies
It ain’t easy being a kid. Like when you go trick or treating but you’ve got severe food allergies and have to say no to candy. Saying no to candy—that’s just wrong.
But over the past few years, food allergy awareness has shot through the roof. It even has its own color now: teal. And teal is the new orange, thanks to the Teal Pumpkin Project.
It works like this. When trick or treaters are imminent, you set out a teal pumpkin (one you’ve painted or one you’ve bought—Walmart and Target have what you need). That tells kids that you have non-food treats (you know the stuff: glow sticks, creepy rubber spiders, vampire fangs). All the fun of trick or treating without the life-threatening side effects.
The Teal Pumpkin Project, brainchild of the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee, is now spearheaded by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Households that participate in the project can submit their address to FARE, which maintains an updated national map of homes offering non-food treats.
IN "FRIGHT" ENTERTAINMENT
It's ... Name that Flyover city!
Did you think we were going to let go of the Halloween theme before we threw some trivia at you? Not a chance.
And now, the questions:
- This city boasts a library that has long been rumored to house a spirit known as the Lady in Grey.
- This city holds an annual Halloween music festival called Freakfest.
- The creepy tourist trap called Trundle Manor is located in this city.
Click here for today's answers
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