Last week I started a new website and Facebook page, Horror Net Australia. It seeks to track down and list all the horror-themed businesses in Australia, which has long been a fancy of mine. Imagine, if you will, a one-stop shop for all things horror in the whole country.
Through the process of creating the site, putting out the call for people to list on the site, and creating the Facebook page (pretty necessary these days to gain cross-platform exposure), I came across a lot of horror-themed stuff happening in Australia. A lot more than I knew about.
I know, to some degree, the writing and publishing industry in Australia. But I have only just begun to delve into the world of horror-themed tourism and retail that is on the rise here in the country.
My first exposure to the retail and tourism culture was through the stallholders at the inaugural Oz Horror Convention in late 2012.
Some of the businesses have become friends of mine through the process of interacting with them. As president of the Australian Horror Writers Association (AHWA), I decided that the association would benefit from partnerships with some of these businesses.
Haunted location tours are springing up all over the place. Aradale Asylum is one the AHWA is in partnership with to provide an annual creative retreat.
Around 13,000 people passed away at Aradale Mental Hospital in its 130 years in operation. As a result, Aradale is considered one of the most haunted locations in Australia. Now, for the first time, Aradale’s doors have opened for evening explorations. Aradale ghost tour is one of the creepiest ghost tours in Australia. Explore the facilities for two hours after dark where you’ll be haunted by stories of bizarre history, brutal treatments, amazing personal stories, and of course lots of ghost stories.
The tour travels through the cell blocks, administration, chapel, kitchen, infirmaries, surgery theatres and morgue.
Tours are limited to 30 people, and are led by a team of professional theatrical historians.
Nightshade FX, who create collectibles and oddities as well as special effect props and make-up for film and theatre, were one of the first groups I did business with. This connection led to the creation of the trophies for the AHWA-run Australian Shadows Awards for genre writing.
Zombiehire.com are another group I discovered at the Oz Horror Con. ZombieHire.com is Australia’s leading supplier of zombies, zombie-themed entertainment packages, film casting, choreography, promotional stunts and SFX make-up services. Since the inception of the agency in 2010, ZombieHire.com zombies have been invited to appear in launch campaigns for AMC’s smash-hit television series The Walking Dead; IRL Shooter’s real life video game Patient Zero; the Australian launch of BMW’s new Mini Roadster & Coupe; SFX make-up promotions for cosmetics giant Kryolan; and public in-store appearances and fundraising for the biggest event on the zombie calendar, the Melbourne Zombie Shuffle.
Melbourne Zombie Convention
More zombie-themed fun, Melbourne’s long-awaited inaugural zombie genre expo, Melbourne Zombie Convention (MelbZomCon) is being held on Sunday 6 October, 2013. Housed in the decadently gothic heritage-listed Royal Melbourne Hotel on Bourke St, Melbourne’s first exclusive-zombie-content convention will launch the start of Melbourne’s Halloween season to a limited crowd of 600 patrons and showcase a cross-section of the zombie genre’s finest local filmmakers, SFX make-up artists, academics, literature, merchandise, social groups, videogames and cosplay characters. The event also incorporates the inaugural AHWA/MZC Short Story Competition.
Beechworth Asylum Creative Retreat 11-13 October 2013
The Australian Horror Writers Association has arranged a three-day/two-night stay at the Mayday Hills Mental Hospital in Beechworth, Victoria, for writers, editors, artists, photographers, filmmakers, and any other creative-type people. A paranormal investigation will run throughout the entire weekend. Any participants are permitted to take part. There is another similar event in February 2014, held at Aradale Asylum.
Stores and shops
Genre bookstores and pop culture retailers are attempting to make a comeback here, after the collapse of some of the larger chains (no heart, no soul, and no direct customer interaction). Notions Unlimited in Melbourne is an independent bookshop specialising in science fiction, fantasy and horror, as well as graphic novels, manga, games, media and gaming tie-ins, media & literary reference, genre art, popular science, and a small range of collectibles (including products from the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society). Their horror department boasts a fantastic selection of small press and hard-to-find titles, as well as gothic classics, modern masterpieces, latest releases, and everything in-between. Zombies are a particular obsession of theirs, and they pride themselves in their range and knowledge of the sub-genre.
Zombie Steve’s is a 100% family-owned, Aussie pop-culture shop nestled in the heart of Bendigo, Victoria, and they’re ‘hungry for your business,’ as their slogan goes.
Finally, there are some really entertaining performance artists working in the horror industry here in Australia. I am yet to find many, but one stands out to me.
The Laudanum Project are a theatrical troupe hailing from Melbourne, Australia. They were founded in 2009 and to date have written and produced three plays: The Terrible Account of the St Fiacrius Orphans (2009-10), performed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival; The Penny-Toy Man (2010-11), performed at the Melbourne Fringe Festival; and Ballad of The Plague Doctor (2012-13), performed at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, as part of the Engine Room Season for The Capital Theatre, Bendigo and upcoming on Halloween night at the old chapel at the Aradale Lunatic Asylum.
In addition to the plays they have recorded their own version of Mary Howitt’s 1829 poem ‘The Spider And The Fly’ which appeared alongside artist Chloe Neath’s ‘Spider’ artwork at the 2013 Co.Lab exhibition in Bendigo, Victoria.
A typical Laudanum Project performance consists of intricate and powerful storytelling that takes its cues from the masters such as Poe, Dickens and Bradbury. Underneath the seething monologues and poetry sits a dark and unsettling soundscape which accompanies the entire story from beginning to end. The overall effect is traditionally theatrical yet intensely cinematic as the audience are coaxed into horrific worlds and scenarios that they very often end up painting themselves.
The Laudanum Project are: Lady Sophronia Lick-Penny on keyboards, Alphonse Cheese-Probert as The Speaker, and Mr. Farcquar (role unknown).
This is just a small portion of the many horror-themed projects, attractions, and businesses currently making more and more noise in the Australian genre landscape. They are all linked through my blog at the Horror Network. Check them out, and take heart that horror in Australia is alive and well, and likely creeping up on you from behind, claws raised…
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