Georgios Quality Inn & Suites Conference Center
Orland Park, IL
July 29-31, 2016

Speaker Bios

Speaker Bios

This year’s speakers for Chicago Frights are the widest array of levels and expertise eve assembled in one place. From seasoned speakers to first timers, from corporate haunts and the largest attraction in the market to non-profit, makeup artists and prop builders, all with one thing in common, the desire to share what they know with the rest of us! This convention has it all!

Please join me in thanking these special haunters for putting in the time, effort and guts it takes to stand in front of their peers and  offer over 40 hours of education at Chicago Frights 2016!

Brianna Abello of Eerie Dolls

Brianna Abello is a writer and horror enthusiast whose passion for writing scary stories led to the creation of Eerie Dolls, a horror story blog. A collection of original short stories and mini series, Eerie Dolls is a site filled with bizarre tales, inspirational pieces, interviews, articles and more creepy content. From a young age she was always fascinated by books such as ‘Scary to Tell in The Dark’ and began to write her own stories. Originally starting as an anonymous writer online she began sharing her stories on forums, websites and blogs. She draws inspiration from personal experiences, dreams and the world around her. Overtime she began writing more and more online through different aliases and decided to create a site that contained all her writing in one place.
A fan of all things creepy and spooky she enjoys researching mysterious phenomena and likes to discover new indie books and films. Besides her writing on Eerie Dolls, she currently writes for places like Nosleep and runs a Facebook group dedicated to women in horror. She loves meeting other horror/paranormal fans and sharing scary content that will be sure to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand.
Creative Session Saturday 10:00am-11:00am Creating Your Own Horror Blog or Website

George Bellefeuille of Freaky Farmers show

George Bell is known to most as the Chaplain and has been involved with producing entertainment for over 38 years. George as ran haunt rides at fairs, directed major magic acts in Las Vegas, Branson and tourist attractions in Florida. Freaky Farmers Shows has acts touring the USA…even producing a Horror themed bizarre magic show at the famed Theater Wit in Chicago that starts during Chicago Frights – stop at their vendor booth to say Boo!
Actor Development Sunday 10:30am-11:30am Haunt Characters: Make A Profit Year Round Doing What You Love!

Kevin Biksacky of Designing the Fear

Haunt enthusiast turned actor and SFX makeup artist, Kevin Biksacky has spent nearly two decades researching and immersing himself into the haunted attraction culture. From yard displays to prop building, he has had his finger on the pulse on terror. If there is a better way to do something he will do his best to find it. He is also no stranger around tools and an avid DIYer with an electronics degree who loves to create or come up with new prop concepts. Kevin, has always noticed the trends in the haunt industry and keeps up on these ever so changing trends.
His wife, Bonny accompanies him at various haunt themed events and conventions as schedule permits and they are known as the “Creeper Couple” is when they adorn their zombie persona. Recently Bonny has picked up photography and now taking convention and event photos which are now shared on her Facebook page, Images by Scary Girl.
All things Halloween related keeps Kevin preoccupied. For him it’s not just a fall pastime but has it has a full time grip on his soul and often brings Halloween into any conversation, which he apologizes for in advance. Each year Kevin works on making his yard display larger than the last and hopes to have the time to design a home haunt in future years to come. He is now currently a field reporter and head of research and development for Designing the Fear, a haunt news and reviews website which covers haunted events, attractions and horror in the media.

Actor Development Saturday 3:00pm-4pm The Haunt Life: How To Start Haunt Acting?

Wayne & Shelly Dvorak of Ghoulson Family Reunion (Home Haunt)

Wayne has been a home haunter for over 10 years. Almost everything in his haunt is hand made. In that time he has taken his haunt from a few simple RIP head stones and throwing together a few random bits of junk lying around, to a “Dungeon scene” and progressed into a full grave yard with custom tomb stones, fence, animated columns and props, lighting, and live actors on Halloween night. has recently described Wayne’s haunt as “Disneyesque”. For a non-blood and gore haunt he considers this high praise. Wayne took a big jump in 2011 when he joined “Garage of Evil” and Haunt Forum”, and went to his first haunt convention. There he was introduced to the wonders of Hot Wire foam carving and his haunt would never be the same. Wayne became a member of the Chicago Haunt Builders club in 2013 where he learned the art of animation and electronics and the “Ghoulson Family Reunion” was begun. It manages to grow bigger and more complex every year.

Demo/Tech Presentation Sunday 3:30pm-4:30pm Tombstone Design And Creation: Combining Common Halloween Items With Foam Board To Make Epic Tombstones

Wendy Ferris

Wendy Ferris has been in love with haunting since she was a small child. Wendy attended the school for creative and performing arts in Cincinnati Ohio and has worked with several haunts for ten years and has had her own home haunt. Her love of FX makeup has pushed her to learn and create all that she can. In the haunt industry, Wendy has worked on construction of rooms and props, doing prop repairs, in makeup rooms creating characters and prosthetics throughout the year.
Wendy has also been a supervisor during the season, has worked with the military helping with training as the moulage artist for simulated injuries needed and is also the paramedic for the training team on site. Most of the makeup she uses is strictly silicone and her own line of prosthetic injuries. Her training as a police officer and paramedic have given her the ability to create very realistic wounds.

Demo/Tech Presentation Sunday 2:00pm-3:00pm Working With Silicone, It’s Not That Scary

Mike Ganino

Mike Ganino is a former Chief Operating Officer at one of the hottest fast casual 2.0 brands and now leads his own speaking, training, and consulting organization. He helps companies, leaders, and individual contributors embrace change, accelerate growth, and achieve breakthrough performance. Mike is a leading expert on building a great restaurant and hospitality brand with innovative training and speaking on culture design, people systems, positive leadership, and branding. He has worked with a number of category leading brands like Uber, Pressed Juicery, Protein Bar, Yum! Brands, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, ChowNow, USFoods, and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises.
Business Seminar Saturday 11:30am-12:30pm Brewing Up a Spooky Brand That Gets People Screaming, Talking, and Lining Up For More

Bryan Gruszka of Horror Tourers

Bryan Gruszka, founder of the Horror Tourers, is a haunt afficionado who has been visiting haunted houses, home haunts, and yard displays for almost 30 years. Bryan and his fellow Tourers, has been reviewing haunts or all types throughout Illinois and Northwest Indiana since 2001. Known for honest, straightforward, substantive video and written reviews, the Horror Tourers pride themselves on presenting haunt fans with objective information regarding their potential haunt choices, so that they can make the most informed decisions regarding the haunts that they visit.
Creative Session Sunday 4:30pm-5:30pm What Makes a Great Haunted Event

John Grzywacz

“Grizzy”, as he likes to be called, has been recognized by OSHA’s National Office in Washington D.C. as both a National Electrical Code (NEC®) historian as well as “the best electrical safety trainer in the country!” Certainly at the very least Grizzy has been OSHA’s electrical safety “go-to guy” and has been instrumental in shaping and interpreting OSHA policy and regulations for several decades.
Grizzy has trained OSHA compliance officers, appeared as OSHA’s electrical expert, and guided literally hundreds and hundreds of electrical fatality investigations. Grizzy continues to train OSHA compliance officers and personnel coast to coast, as well as still providing investigative assistance to the Agency on fatality investigations and significant cases. His electrical expertise has not only shaped OSHA policy but also the OSHA Electrical Standard’s. Grizzy is currently a member of the ASTM F-18 Committee which writes the “Electrical Protective Equipment for Workers” standards.
In addition to being a professional speaker and nationally recognized seminar leader with over 40,000 hours of platform experience, Grizzy has numerous published works in video and print which have assisted safety professionals and helped workers for decades.
Recognized nationally as preeminent in regulatory electrical safety training, private corporations and agencies outside of OSHA are now obtaining the same training that the OSHA inspectors obtain form Grizzy, as well as insight into navigating the complex regulatory requirements.
Recently Grizzy has been presenting and lecturing on various aspects of some of the rare and unique electrical artifacts and high voltage apparatus which he has been collecting for decades, some of which date back prior to the turn of the 20th Century.
Keynote Saturday 6:00pm-7:30pm Arcs and Sparks: High Voltage Special Effects from Dr. Frankenstein’s Laboratory
Business Seminar Saturday 10:00am-11:00am OSHA Concerns for Haunts

Arcs and Sparks: High Voltage Special Effects from Dr. Frankenstein’s Laboratory

Dan Gunnell of Grimbold Manor

Dan Gunnell and his wife Maureen are the curators of Grimbold Manor, a home haunt display in suburban Chicago. Grimbold Manor is a Gothic style, story driven, yard display that relies on mood and ambiance to achieve its highly rated reputation. The haunt features a unique graveyard, Gothic facade, and other traditional Halloween themes. It combines animatronic props of both electrical and pneumatic types as well as extensively detailed scenery to bring the story of Grimbold Manor to life. Dan has been haunting for over 10 years and is a founding member of Chicago Haunt Builders.
Creative Session Sunday 10:30am-11:30am An Introduction to Haunt LED Lighting: Or How To Play With Electricity Without Becoming An Addition To Your Display

Joe Jensen of Joe Jensen Studios

Artistic director of Chapter Eleven Theatre Guild and co-creator of Haunted America, the Haunt industry’s first Haunted Attraction Web Portal and message board and “Creator of cool things…,” Joe Jensen has been involved in the creation and evolution of the interactive media for over 30 years. He has designed and directed over 30 haunted houses, that attracted over a million guests and national accolades, and has worked with everything from massive budgets and almost nothing at all to further his craft.
Actor Development Sunday 2:00pm-3:00pm Advance Acting Workshop… the Hades way!
Creative Session Saturday 11:30am-12:30pm Painting With Light For The Ultimate Fright Sight
Creative Session Sunday 2:00pm-3:00pm 3 Hades Haunted House Ideas not seen
Creative Session Saturday 1:30pm-2:30pm Brainstorming Panel Discussion On Haunted Attraction Room Designs

Ryan Kasnick of Fables Studios

Ryan has been in web marketing for the last 8 years and 2016 will mark his third in the haunted attractions industry. A lifelong fan of Halloween and haunted attractions, he is currently the Marketing Manager for Fables Studios. Ryan has a BA in Film/Video and a MBA with a focus in Marketing.
Business Seminar Sunday 3:30pm-4:30pm Haunting in the Digital Age: How to Effectively Utilize Social & E-mail Marketing

Jean Kent of Haunted Emporium

Jean Kent has written for both Haunted Illinois and Haunted Attraction Magazine – scoring an interview with legendary Tom Savini – who’s a tough one. Operating VFN Fiberglass for the last 20 years along side of her husband, she knows the difficulties of building your customer base, working cons, and solving difficult problems. Starting in 1969, in a garage by her father in law – VFN now spans world wide – and is featured on many of the vehicles on Discovery’s Street Outlaws and Microsoft’s Forza 3.
Jean’s current adventure is – a site for horror enthusiasts who want year round fun. Combining music, cars, family, industry and terror. This is her second year running.
Business Seminar Sunday 10:30am-11:30am Living your Dream: Getting started in the Haunted Amusement Industry – and keeping it going.

John La Flamboy of Zombie Army

Creative Session Saturday 1:30pm-2:30pm Brainstorming Panel Discussion On Haunted Attraction Room Designs

Alex Linebrink of HauntPay

Alex Linebrink is the founder and CEO of HauntPay, a platform for powering scary simple ticketing and payments for haunted attractions. In additional to professionally working with over 250 haunted attractions every year, Alex has been involved in the haunt industry for 15+ years as home haunter and hobbyist.
Business Seminar Saturday 1:30pm-2:30pm Maximizing Revenue with Digital Media, Social Media, and PR

Joe Manning of Reynolds Advanced Materials

Demo/Tech Presentation Saturday 3:00pm-4pm Wounds and Skin Effects Part 1
Demo/Tech Presentation Saturday 4:00pm-5:00pm Wounds and Skin Effects Part 2

Matt Marich of Universal Studios Orlando

With 38 years in the entertainment industry, Matt began haunting in 1974, with local charity foundations, and then professional Haunts. Having owned six of his own haunted attractions, he has built many more for amusement parks, and clients. Matt worked as a make-up effects artist, prop builder, and scenic artist on over 35 films, such as Tombstone, The Stand, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Matt owned Edge Designs for 17 years and developed 12-20 new Animated effects for the Industry, including pioneering the resin caste ornament business specifically for haunters. He is currently a Figure Finish Artist for Universal Orlando, where they oversee the final finish, skins and dressing of animatronic creatures and props for both parks.
Demo/Tech Presentation Sunday 12:00pm-1:00pm Creative Prop Building

Nicole Metzger of Scare Actor-The 17th Door

Nicole Metzger has been a horror fan for her whole life and as she grew up doing theatre and transitioned into haunting last year with The 17th Door, an internationally recognized viral haunt. Aside from work as a scare actor with The 17th Door and Club Cosplay, she’s worked with Scare LA and Days of the Dead convention services as well as being a guest writer for Dread Central. This is her first time in Chicago and she’s excited to meet the Midwest Haunt Community and a whole new side of the country’s amazing horror haven.
Actor Development Saturday 11:30am-12:30pm Entry Level Haunting: Everything I Wish I Had Known

David Peterson of Misery Bay Software

From his very first IBM punch card in the 7th grade, David Peterson has been programming computers. On a steady diet of Byte magazine and computer time, David’s code-fu grew strong from an early age. Over the years, the only thing matching his enthusiasm for computers has been his love of Disney’s The Haunted Mansion, as well as all things animatronic and Halloween. He is an Imagineer at heart.
After earning a Computer Science degree from the University of Wisconsin—Madison in 1986, David worked for many years near Madison, producing a variety of real-time communication software and applications for industry-leaders Amtelco and Innovation Technologies Worldwide. From 2004 to 2011, David lived overseas in East Asia, still working as a software developer for ITW. It was during this time that his ideas of the perfect show controller for home haunters germinated into what has become the DAZL software.
After several years of development, DAZL is now ready to take the stage. David Peterson has formed Misery Bay Software to sell and support DAZL.
Demo/Tech Presentation Sunday 10:30am-11:30am DAZL: Automating Your Next Haunt or Escape Room

Leonard Pickel of Hauntrepreneurs

With more than 35 years haunting experience and designing over 200 original and innovative Haunted Attractions through his company, Hauntrepreneurs®, Leonard has created frightening attractions for major venues worldwide including Madison Square Garden, Universal Studios Florida, Six Flags theme parks, and Kandy Halloween at the Playboy Mansion as well as Haunted Attractions in foreign countries including Puerto Rico, Canada, Russia, China, Australia and India. Pickel shares his expertise offering seminars throughout the year at haunt conventions across the country and as Event Coordinator for and Chicago Frights. Check out Leonard’s web site at, or follow him on Twitter @leonardpickel and
Business Seminar Sunday 12:00pm-1:00pm Making Money With a Haunted House
Creative Session Sunday 3:30pm-4:30pm Haunt Design Do’s and Don’ts: Avoiding Common Errors That Decreases Haunt Effectiveness
Creative Session Saturday 1:30pm-2:30pm Brainstorming Panel Discussion On Haunted Attraction Room Designs

Dr. William Ramsay

Dr. Bill Ramsay/”Dr. TerrorEyes” has been a Home Haunter and prop builder for 42 years and is co-creator of Ocala, FL’s “Fear Fest” Commercial Haunt. He is a sponsored course instructor and presenter for HAuNTcon, TransWorld, HauntX, Canadian Haunted Attraction Conference (CHAC), West Coast Haunters Convention (WCHC), Halloween Extreme, Midwest Haunters Convention (MHC), National Haunters Convention (NHC), ScareLA, Lakeland ZombieFest, and Florida Haunters Make-n-Take/Social. Acting host of “Florida Haunter’s Annual Ocala Social,” Bill is also a member of and several online Facebook Halloween-related groups. His numerous accolades have included: “Best Prop” at Halloween Extreme, “First Place Prop” at Garage Haunts USA, “Best Costume” at Stockade-2 event, “2nd Place Costume” from Haunt Nation Magazine, “Most Creative Costume” from Mojo Grill, “Spookiest Costume” from Disney Cruise Line, and “Scariest Costume” from WCHC.
Business Seminar Saturday 3:00pm-4pm Newbie Home Haunter Tips For Success
Hands-On Workshop (Materials Fee Required) Saturday 11:30am-1:00pm Easy “No Latex Mess” Skull Corpsification Workshop
Demo/Tech Presentation Saturday 1:30pm-2:30pm Horrifyingly Easy Scary Costume Distressing Presentation
Hands-On Workshop (Materials Fee Required) Sunday 10:30pm-12:00pm Spooky Witch’s Poison Bottle

Brian Sichelle

Formerly a scare actor for Six Flags Great America since 1997, Brian “Psycho” Sichelle has been leaving people mentally scarred, legally, for almost 2 decades, and brings new meaning to the word FEAR. Brian has worked for many haunts, big and small, and is now scaring for multiple haunted houses in the Chicagoland area, working in scare acting even in the off season. He has earned his bones in the haunt industry, and wishes to pass this knowledge on to others.
Actor Development Saturday 1:30pm-2:30pm How To Be An Effective Scare Actor In Today’s More Jaded Society
Actor Development Sunday 12:00pm-1:00pm Bring The Evil: An Interactive Scare Class

Brent Skowronek of Brents Effects

As small child, Brent has had a passion for Halloween. Growing up, his mother would paint his face every year. Brent played around with special effects, but it wasn’t until he was about 17 when his passion grew. Brent got his start as a haunted house actor, but he wanted to expand his ability and started practicing more with haunt makeup. After one year of working the haunt, he was promoted to makeup team for that same haunt. Since then, he has done makeups for various events and occasions. Five years later, and he is still working at the Trail of Screams in Rockford Il and is now the makeup manager and coordinator for the haunt. Brent also has his own company called Brents Effects. Brent does everything from performing with fire on stage (under the stage name of “BLAZE”) to making costumes, masks, and even hosts his own events. But of course his specialty is creating a creature of the night.
Hands-On Workshop (Materials Fee Required) Saturday 2:00pm-3:30pm Intro To Basic Haunt Makeup, Hands On Tutorial

Jim Slanker of Canyon Trail Cemetery

Jim Slanker and his wife Dawn are the creators of Canyon Trail Cemetery, a multi-award winning home haunt display in suburban Chicago. The haunt features a graveyard and pumpkin/scarecrow themes, and is deeply detailed. Their haunt is known for animatronic props, with nearly 3 dozen pneumatic props built by Jim and detailed by Dawn. They are founding members of Chicago Haunt Builders. Jim has assisted with the construction of local for-profit and volunteer haunted houses.
Demo/Tech Presentation Saturday 11:30am-12:30pm Pneumatics 101: Animating Props With Air

Scott Swenson of Scott Swenson Creative Development LLC

Scott participated in his first haunted house at the age of 8 in his friend’s basement. This was when he learned the valuable lesson that red fingernail polish should not be used as “blood” dripping from the corner of a performer’s eye. He learned many more lessons as he studied at The Goodman School of Drama and received his BA from Northern Illinois University in Theatre. In 1999, Scott participated in his first professional haunt experience, Spooky Safari at Busch Gardens Tampa. The following year he was part of the development and implementation team for the park’s internationally recognized annual haunted attraction Howl-O-Scream. For 15 years, Scott was a driving force within the Howl-O-Scream Tampa team, acting as Creative Director for 7 years and Creative Producer for 2. He lead the creative development for over 25 different haunted houses including Alone, The Experiment and one of his personal favorites, After Hours. He also acted as a haunt consultant for sister parks; SeaWorld Texas and Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Scott and the H.O.S. team have cast and trained thousands of actors and worked with many of the great designers and craftspeople in the industry. In December of 2014, Scott took the lessons he had learned from his wonderful theme park experiences to go freelance and form Scott Swenson Creative Development, LLC. Almost immediately The Wilson Company hired him as Creative Director for a new and different haunt experience in downtown Tampa called The Vault of Souls. This high end, boutique style haunt broke new ground for Halloween entertainment. It focusses more on immersive interactive theatre and less on traditional haunted house techniques. This means no blood, no chainsaws, no designated pathway, no observers…only participants. Based on the lessons learned in its first year, the 2016 version will be richer and deeper in story, elegance and fear. Scott’s career has lead him away from haunting from time to time (other clients include The Florida Aquarium, Lowry Park Zoo and The Tampa Theater) but ever since he was 8 years old, trying to pick nail polish off of his face with his fingernail, he has been a haunter at heart!
Actor Development Saturday 4:30pm-5:30pm Monsters for the Media: Creating Characters That Draw Attention
Creative Session Sunday 12:00pm-1:00pm Telling Scary Stories: From Campfire to Haunted Attraction
Creative Session Saturday 1:30pm-2:30pm Brainstorming Panel Discussion On Haunted Attraction Room Designs

Kyle Vest of Blast Effects

With a Degree in Urban arts, Special Effects, and Professional Makeup Artistry, Kyle Vest has been involved in almost every aspect of live performances both on and off stage. Kyle studied Airbrush and Graffiti Arts at Herron School of Art, and Theatrical Makeup at Joe Blasco majoring in both Beauty and Advanced Prosthetic Make-Up, rising to the level of Master Teacher Trainer.
Kyle has worked for over a 100 special events throughout the U.S. as a silt walker, aerialist, makeup artist, model, Stunt Performer, Skater, Model, Male Pole Artist and Dancer. He has designed, managed, and/or coordinated over 7 different Haunted Attractions and worked in the Makeup and Entertainment department of Universal Studios Florida for 5 years. Presently Kyle is competing in the body Painting reality TV show Skin Wars.
At Chicago Frights, Kyle will be available for autographs and photos with fans, but will also be teaching classes on makeup.
Demo/Tech Presentation Saturday 10:00am-11:00am Haunted Attraction Airbrush Makeup: Tricks of the Haunting Makeup Trade
Demo/Tech Presentation Sunday 5:00pm-6:00pm Prosthetics to Wigs: Everything You Need to Know About the Haunt Makeup World

Brad Weinstein

At a very young age, Brad Weinstein began creating haunted houses in his family’s garage with a team of kids from the neighborhood. During his first year of college, Brad became a professional haunter joining Elitch Garden’s Fright Fest design and build team. He remained a seasonal member of the Fright Fest team during all four years of college, working each season except his sophomore year – participating in a six month internship at Walt Disney World in Orlando. After graduation, Brad moved to NYC and began working in the field of marketing. Shortly after arriving in the city he began stewarding at Sleep No More during the weekends and became involved in the NYC improv community. In 2015, Brad graduated from the Upright Citizens Brigade, an improv school founded by Amy Poehler and seven other highly regarded improvisers. Brad is currently active in the NYC improv community and remains involved in the Haunted House industry through trade shows, conferences, and online forums.
Creative Session Saturday 3:00pm-4pm Haunt Design Theory: What Improv Teaches us about Designing Effective Haunts

Tania Zaia

Tania is an actor, builder, promoter, makeup artist, costume designer, and Halloween/haunt enthusiast. Tania volunteered for a haunted house for her elementary school at the age of 12, and acted in numerous plays from elementary through high school. Over the past 22 years Tania has volunteered her acting skills at haunts such as Skokie Scream Scene (non profit), Niles YMCA haunt (non profit), Lombard Jaycees (non profit), Eleventh Hour, and Six Flags Fright Fest. For the last two seasons she has been acting at the Macabre Haunt in Antioch, Il and managing the events for Twitter/facebook social media pages. Two years ago Tania created Monsters Den, a home haunt for neighborhood children to get a scare and free candy.
Business Seminar Saturday 4:30pm-5:30pm Preparing A Business Plan For A Haunted House

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Georgios Quality Inn & Suites Conference Center
8800 W 159th St, Orland Park, IL 60462
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