I'm constantly getting emails from people asking how I started the Florida Haunters, and advice on how they can start their own local group. The only advice I can give is DON'T WAIT FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT!!!! With the popularity of Facebook and other social media right now, it is SUPER easy to get a group going. All you have to do is take the first step. Give it a good name, some word of mouth, and pretty soon you'll have your hands full. :-) That said, here is how we progressed from "I want to hang with more haunters" to what we are now:
After being on the Halloween-L mailing list for a few years and subsequently moving on to other email-based groups, and then a LOT of forums, I used to hope someone would take the initiative and start a group for the people in Florida who wanted to get together for these infamous "Make & Takes" and gatherings like that crazy "Ironstock" that I kept hearing about. Unfortunately, after a 7-year stretch of watching in despair all the other haunters having all this fun and wanting to be a part of it (but VERY geographically challenged in that they were ALL up north or out west), I decided that enough was enough. Back in 2006, the Yahoo groups method of getting people gathered in one spot on the internet was pretty popular, and I figured it was a good way to start for the haunters of Florida too. I knew there was already a group for the Tampa Bay area, but I wanted something a little more all-inclusive for the whole state, so I made a group of my own, and named it the Florida Home Haunters, which soon turned into Florida Haunters. Finally, we started getting members from the assorted forums that I was on, and it started to grow. We had a few make and takes, and quickly turned into a family of like-minded souls. I even hosted a few get-togethers at my own home, and supplied lunch and some nice door prizes for my folks in attendance.
In 2007, a good friend and fellow haunter, Oct31man, Robert, decided it was time for a real home for us, and with my blessing in using the name, he put together the Florida Haunters forum with the help of HauntBrothers. He asked me to co-administer the forum, and I gladly said yes. Our group bloomed, and more make and takes and gatherings were happening. Unfortunately, Robert's life had some changes happening and he had to leave us, so he asked me to take over the website and forum completely since I was the founder of the original group, and I honored his wishes. Over the years, I've spent a good chunk of my own money and a seriously huge amount of my time working on and maintaining this website and forum, all because I love my Florida Haunters and I want to keep our group active and strong.
While I can't devote as much time any longer due to my work schedule, most of our core founding forum members (IshWitch, maureenpr, LindaPaul, KindredSpirit, Spyder among others) are still our most active members to this day, almost 7 years later, and they along with the newer members, continue to plan and execute some fun and educational get-togethers. Another Florida Haunters group was formed by member Trevor (who also asked if I minded the use of my group's name) on Facebook in 2010 and brought in even more members to our group and a lot of discussion happens there since everyone spends a lot of their lives on Facebook due to its ease of use.
The Florida Haunters are and have always been about sharing knowledge with each other so that we can all grow as artists, prop-builders, haunters, actors, and Halloween enthusiasts. We are a family; we fill a special social need for each other that normal people just can't because they don't understand our love for the most amazing and fun date on the calendar. The founding group's OFFICIAL HOME is here on this forum, and I am your (g)host as you enter our home. I bid you welcome....