Cal Haunts is a group of Halloween/Haunt enthusiasts who get together once a month for project make and takes and practically every weekend of the spring and summer to build the Hall of Shadows entrance for the Midsummer Scream convention in Long Beach, California August 3rd and 4th. CalHaunts has been around for about fifteen years. Members are comprised of home/professional haunters and those with a passion for the strange and unusual. I joined CalHaunts about a year and a half ago and have participated in the past two Midsummer Scream builds. This is the story of this year’s build: Tiki Terror.
When Rick West comes calling, CalHaunts come answering. Rick West and CalHaunts members decided on a Tiki Terror Theme for the 2019 convention. Tiki? Visions of the Disney Tiki Room or Easter Island may fill your brain. When CalHaunts members get together and share their collective ideas, dark magic happens. Where some may dream big, CalHaunts dreams bigger. Bigger as in life-sized airplane, volcano, tiki temple, waterfall, and some bigger than life island inhabitants.
Building began in February and will continue every weekend until the convention. Building these grand props takes time and cooperation from Mother Nature. She decided to put a literal damper on the build days so members have had to work double-time (every weekend) to create these elaborate pieces. About a group of twenty of us have worked every single weekend while maintaining full-time jobs and have involuntarily and gladly shed blood, sweat, and tears to bring this vision to life.
Each weekend members show up to Rotten Apple 907 a home haunt ran by the Haunt Godmother and Father Diane and Preston Meyer and are assigned various tasks. Tasks may include foam cutting/carving/burning, plane building, leaf/tree making, vine making, and lots and lots of painting.
The build isn’t just about making an amazing display for Midsummer Scream, it’s about making connections with friends that will eventually become family. Imagine a family that you look forward to seeing every single Saturday and Sunday. Most of us ditch our real-world or muggle (Harry Potter fans) “families” for the haunt family that we have made through CalHaunts. We have a bond that is stronger than five-ply foam. Our water cooler stays pretty full throughout the day, but our beer and booze cooler stays half empty or half full depending on your perspective. While we should all weigh one-hundred pounds because of sweating out every calorie, our belies are full of laughter and comradery.
When you come to see our CalHaunts Tiki Terror display nothing is store-bought or nature made. It is all hand made from love, friendship, sweat, tears, laughter, and just a bit of foul language. Believe me, I tried persuading other members to just gather palm leaves, banana leaves, and lava rocks. The answer was, “It’s not the CalHunts way.” In other words, we build it, we paint it, we love it, we sculpt it, we cut it, we carve it, we burn it, we coat it, and we do it all over again because it needs another coat of whatever.
When you walk among the wreckage, salvage, pygmies, palm/banana trees, remember that this was a labor of love not just for a haunt but for each other.