CHAOS training at Transworld March 7-9, registration is active. Go to CHAOS page
In 1990, The Wall Street Journal wrote an article on the haunt business that included the names of Leonard Pickel, Drew Hunter, Joe Jensen, and David Bertolino. After being featured in the article, these individuals wanted to meet one another, so they made contact by phone. They discovered that Pickel, Bertolino and Jensen were going to be at the TransWorld Halloween Show in Chicago in March, so they made arrangements to meet there. Bertolino, who worked for Rubie’s Costumes, was manning a booth at the TransWorld Show. Because of the article, so many haunters came by the booth that he invited them to meet with him later. That night in his suite, 20 or so haunters gathered to discuss the haunt industry and common problems. During the meeting, Bertolino piped up and said, “you know what we need? We need an association!” recalled Pickel.
There were feelings at the time that an association of haunters would never work. But Pickel stated that one way to start the discussion of such a thing would be through a newsletter. He offered the use of his database and told everyone that if they would send articles for the newsletter, he would put it together. But submissions were few and the association did not get off the ground at that time. The idea of an international industry association lay dormant for several years.
In March of 1998, at the TransWorld Halloween Show in Chicago, Leonard and Jeanne Pickel organized an informal meeting of the proposed association, the first of many that would shape the future of haunting.
When questioned about the founding of the organization, Pickel stated, “My motive for starting a Haunted Association was to simply give something back to the industry that I love. I cannot count the number of haunters that I can call my dear friends.” When David Bertolino suggested the association earlier in 1990, Leonard Pickel had his doubts. But after witnessing the success of TransWorld’s Haunted Attractions Seminars for three years, he became convinced the industry now had the mass and focus for a trade association. Looking around for who was in the best position to start such an organization, Leonard realized that he was one of the few haunters who had a broad reputation in the industry, but did not have a large October event. “I felt like the nay-sayers would accuse someone like David Bertolino or Joe Jensen of only trying to benefit their own shows. But I was the president of a haunt manufacturing company, not an operator.”
With good council from other haunters from around the country, the association was able to get the tires aired up and the engine running. But Pickel never had any desire to be in the driver’s seat. Declining several requests to be on the Board of Directors, Pickel handed over control of the International Association of Haunted Attractions to the Board as soon as was practical.
Drew Hunter and Ernie Romegialli agreed to be co-chairs of the fledgling IAHA during the association’s first year. Together, they identified the common issues that affected all sectors of the haunted attraction industry and set a course for the future.
The organization’s bylaws were passed by the membership during the association’s first annual meeting in Rosemont, Illinois, on March 13th,1999.
Fast forward to 2009, President Patrick Konopelski wanted an association that was led by Haunt Owners. The bylaws at the time allowed for anyone regardless of position in the haunt world to be on the board of the association. While this design was all inclusive, it was not representative of haunt owners. Essentially an actor in a haunted house could have held the position of President of the association. For obvious reasons this needed to change. Everyone on the board agreed this change was best for the association and the industry as a whole. The non-haunt owners on the board graciously agreed to step down to make way for new board members that were haunt owners or operators. While haunt owners were the only ones allowed to be on the board, all others in the industry were welcome to participate on the committee level.
Around the same time there was another association that was in existence for a few years (Haunted House Association) that wanted to end their association and merge with IAHA (International Association of Haunted Attractions). Patrick Konopelski – Shocktoberfest, Brett Bertolino – Terror Behind the Walls at ESP, Randy Bates – Bates Motel, and Gene Schopf – Field of Screams met in Philadelphia to lay the groundwork to merge the associations. The decision was made to merge the two organizations and change the name to the Haunted Attraction Association. This new name and board structure was more reflective of the current atmosphere of the industry. Led by Patrick Konopelski, an interim board was put into place and this initiative was executed over the next two years. He worked closely with attorney Peter Karlowicz to create the bylaws for the new association. These changes created a stronger and more respected association for the haunt industry for many years to come.