Haunters Against Hate is a nonprofit that donates to LGBT youth organizations across the country. They raised funds from the sale of merchandise, the Book Of Haunters series, and most recently, their own branded event, HAH The Event. Coming up, we’ll learn more about the latest Book Of Haunters and this year’s Haunters Against Hate The Event. Paul Lanner, the creator of Haunters Against Hate, explains more.
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Check out the exhibitor list for Transworld. Haunters Against Hate will be in booth 1440 for Transworld 2022.
Why the Focus on LGBT Youth Organizations?
Paul: I try to focus on LGBT organizations that focus on teens. I think youth need it the most because they’re the ones that are most vulnerable to hatred and bullying– whether from school, even from inside their families– and they need a support system that they can go to prevent them from suicide because the highest rate of suicide is in LGBT youth.
Philip: The book, and the event, are ways to highlight LGBT haunters. Is that correct?
Paul: Yes, exactly. Volume Five of the book, Haunters, was dedicated exclusively to LGBTQ haunters. It enabled them to tell their stories about coming out and how the haunt industry has helped them deal with it. They were accepted by the haunt community even when they were not accepted by their families. Because of those books, I’ve gotten emails from a woman who said that by me sending her a couple of t-shirts, it was the first time she saw her daughter smile in two years because she was being bullied so much because of her sexuality. So, that’s what keeps Haunters Against Hate going. These stories show if we can help one individual youth feel empowered and feel good about themselves, the goal is accomplished.
What Is the Book of Haunters Series?
Paul: There have now been eight volumes. Volume One was just the US, and it has now expanded into the world. I’ve gotten submissions from Australia, from Germany, from the UK. It allows people, all these haunters, to see that they’re in this haunt family together, and so they should never feel alone. I feel that haunters need to be recognized in the industry for what they do because they’re so important.
As the books have gone on, I’ve expanded it to include the people behind the scenes, like the set decorators and makeup artists, because they’re just as important. They, too, must have a voice and tell everyone why they were involved in the industry. So, I thought that was a wise thing to do
Philip: It’s like a physical record.
Paul: Exactly. It’s a coffee table book. I look at it almost as a yearbook.
Where Did the Idea for the Book of Haunters Come From?
Paul: It started with an idea that I got to do a calendar, a 14-month calendar. I was like, “submit your photo,” I was hoping I’d maybe get 20 photos to choose from. I ended up getting over 100 photos and submissions for that calendar. It was like, “Okay, this is not going to work because there are so many people that are submitting photos.” and they were amazing. I was like, “I’ve got to expand this and turn this into a coffee table book.” So, I did the first volume, and I was like, “Well, we’ll see how it does,” and it sold out immediately the first run. So, I had to do another run. I was like, “Okay, this is something that people are interested in.”
Volume Four was delegated to people of color and minorities, actors in the industry. Volume Five was the LGBT. Volume Six was strictly women in the industry. Ironically, that’s the one that filled up the fastest. Within a week and a half, the book was full. So, I will have to do a second volume on that one. In the most recent volume, part of it was dedicated to haunters who are no longer with us. So, people from their haunts sent in photos, and their bios were written by fellow haunters, really touching, really nice.
Philip: Something that sets it apart is that there are themes for each one.
Paul: I like to show that there’s a diversity in the haunt industry, that it’s not just all your CIS gender, white males. Everyone likes to take part in the haunted industry. Everyone has a passion for it. So, I wanted to show everyone out there that you’re not alone, it’s like we’re all together as a family, and we should all treat each other as family.
What Is the Haunters Against Hate Event?
Paul: It is happening in July this year, and yes, the first event went very well. I wouldn’t say it was the biggest Con ever or event, but I don’t want it that big. The most important thing for me was that everyone felt very welcomed at my event, very comfortable, and that’s what I wanted the most.
I’ve created Haunters Against Hate awards. It recognizes the haunter of the year who has stood up to bullying in their haunt or things similar. Last year it went to someone who stood up to religious fanatics who were protesting, and he went out there in his outfit and held up a Haunters Against Hate sign. You know, something that shows what Haunters Against Hate is all about.
There’s also a Legacy Award for a celebrity that has been very supportive of Haunters Against Hate. This year it’s going to Brandon Crane, who played one of the kids in the original It. He has been an advocate for Haunters Against Hate since I first met him years ago.
Then there’s a Memorial Award in the name of a haunter that passed away from Statesville Haunted Prison. This year, the award is going to a haunter and Sheriff that was ambushed and killed at 27 years old. His partner will accept that award because it was well-deserved. I like to bring emotion and feelings, because to me, that bonds people even more.
There’ll be fun stuff like the Cosplay Competition, the Makeup Competition, and things like that, but I want it to be, once again, an event about family and that everyone feels comfortable with each other.
Philip: Is that bonding kind of why you think it’s important to go into the event space for this type of branded event?
Paul: Absolutely. Because, as I said, you’ll have these haunters coming up with their lanyards and don’t know each other. They’ll see the lanyards and, “Oh my God, Oh my God.” You see these people, who don’t know each other, carrying books, and maybe just by looking at a book, you see they’re real people, face-to-face, and you get that bond formed. So, the family grows that way, and that’s what I want and is important to me. So, I’m expanding it only a little because I don’t want anyone to feel overwhelmed. I call it a small intimate event.
What Is This Year's Agenda for the Haunters Against Hate Event?
Paul: There will be drag shows, panels, and workshops. I’m having a cast reunion from George Romero’s Day of The Dead there. Judith O’Day, who played Barbara in the original Night of The Living Dead, will be there. Mark Patton from Nightmare on Elm Street Two, and Scream Queen, will be there. With him being LGBT, I think it’s a great marriage, and he’s very excited to be there. The one wonderful thing about this is all these actors have waived their fees to show their support for Haunters Against Hate.
Philip: To tie it all home, the profits from this event go back to the youth organization donations, correct?
Paul: Exactly. Yes. It’s all non-profit. So, everything will go back to the youth organization donations. Generally, since I’m in Lexington, I’ll probably give to the PCSO again this year, which is Pride Community Services Organization, Lexington, that helped the youth in this town.
Where Will Haunters Against Hate Be for Transworld?
Paul: Well, it will be my sixth year, I believe. Yep, I’m looking forward to it. Boot 1440, if I remember correctly. I’ll have new t-shirt designs, the latest book, and new 2022 pins for Haunters Against Hate, so all the fun. Oh, and I’m bringing back the Hunters Against Hate raffle where people can buy raffle tickets, and I’ve had 12 companies donate products like Gore Galore, Froggy’s Fog, and many others. Synapse Films is also donating stuff. So that’s exciting, and that’s a lot of fun.