** This entry is directly from FreakShow Deluxe’s founder & president, the Reverend Tommy Gunn.
On September 11, 2011 – the tenth anniversary of the tragedy of the terrorist attacks on the United States – I was listening to coverage on NPR and doing a bit of reflecting myself, when I suddenly had a realization. A connection I had never made before. One might call it an epiphany of sorts.
The terrorists are responsible for the creation of the FreakShow Deluxe.
I am not trying to be funny, or make a joke out of this. Here is what happened:
On September 11, 2001, I was in the production offices for the theatre company I had just recently joined as Director of Marketing and Public Relations. The former Director, Scott, was scheduled to fly in from his home in Manhattan in that day to finish going over things with me.
When we got the call to turn on the television, and saw that the first tower had been struck, I remember thinking, “It has to be an accident. No way someone would do that on purpose.”
Then we watched in horror as, on the live feed, the second plane deliberately crashed into the second tower.
Shock washed over the staff as we watched the television. It wasn’t long before onscreen voices were saying this was bigger than a simple accident. Within moments, we were all scrambling for telephones.
In addition to Scott and his wife living in Manhattan not far from the Twin Towers, we had other friends and colleagues in New York. Unfortunately, we quickly discovered phone calls were pretty useless.
Scott was supposed to be flying in – was he okay? Was one of those planes his? We just had NO idea…
Then I noticed his icon on the Instant Messenger. Sending a quick note – I got the reply back right away, Scott and his wife were okay. He had just been getting ready to leave for the airport when the first plane hit the tower. New Yorkers were being told to stay home and that all travel was being shut down, including the airport.
They could see the devastation from their apartment, and it was awful.
Relieved they were safe, the office spent the rest of the day with the television on, watching the footage of the plane crashing into the Tower replayed over and over again. And it sparked a discussion.
In just a few weeks, our company was to open the annual Haunted Trail fundraiser. With the devastation and horror of what happened – was it really a good idea to open? Would blood-covered victims, screams in the darkness, and maniacs in the woods coupled with all the fire and smoke (common for the outdoor attraction) just be in bad taste after what happened?
Sure, we would lose the money, went the argument, but better that than incur the wrath and bad will of the people.
I argued for the Haunt, with the belief that people would need some relief from what was going on – and that classic entertainment like it would help. We could play down some things and play up others with the hope not to offend. Marketing would be a huge factor in this goal. Plus we had just a horrible season and needed the money.
In the end, it was decided we couldn’t do without the money.
So it became my responsibility to market the crap out of it – which is exactly what I did. In fact, I ended up bringing in enough business that it was too much. Crowds came in such numbers that they often had to stand in line to get into the Haunt for up to two (2) hours AFTER purchasing their tickets!
I was right. People needed some respite from the real horrors of life, and the fake “horror” of the Haunt. Unfortunately, they also needed some respite from the HUGE lines – or they were going to riot and tear the place up.
Reaching out to my contacts and friends, including filmmaker Andy Copp and horror show host Dr. Creep, I began experimenting with ways to entertain the crowd while they waited. A big screen featured snippets of horror movies (compiled by Copp), there were live interactions with the cult figure of Dr. Creep and an hourly “electrocution show” with an automated prop. Then, finally one night – inspiration came…
Pulling up some skills I had picked up over time working theatre, I built a small bed of nails and some simple torches, and began entertaining the crowd eating and breathing fire and laying on the bed of nails and inviting people in line to come stand on top of me. Within the evening, one of the “scares” told me he had some skills and I invited him to help me out.
By the end of the run, we had started coming up with other acts and getting some ideas of what we could do for the next year. And from that simple beginning – FreakShow Deluxe would be born!
And with it an idea: that despite how difficult things may be, it is possible to overcome and carry on.
It is one of the foremost ideas behind your FreakShow Deluxe. That pain is only temporary. And while the scars may remain – it cannot keep you down unless you let it. The world continues to turn. Life continues to go on. And you need to be there with it every step of the way, living each precious moment to its fullest.
It is amazing what the human body AND the spirit can endure, can suffer, and yet still carry on. To heal and repair itself. To face even MORE challenges and still keep its spirit intact — brave and unwilling to give up.
I am proud to continue this idea with every FreakShow Deluxe show.
From this point, if you are interested, you can read more about the history of this company in other posts on this blog!