ADDISON (CBSDFW.COM) – Imagine paying good money to see blood, guts and gore: That’s what draws crowds to horror conventions. Frequenter Tim Helmer proudly displays his ‘horror collection’ memorabilia in his home.
“This is my hobby,” he said, pointing at a hockey mask signed by nearly every actor who played Jason in the “Friday The 13th” movies. “From the time, I get up in the morning until the time I go to work, until the time I go home; I’m always finding new horror stuff.”
But it was an empty hotel in Addison that shocked him on May 13, 2011. It was supposed to be the site of a convention called Camp Blood, which Helmer paid to attend.
As he paged through a horror-fan magazine from nearly two-years-ago, Helmer pointed to an old advertisement for the convention. “It had every single person from ‘Friday the 13th’ who was supposed to be there.”
Helmer blames the organizer, John Gray.
“I think what he did is fraud,” Helmer said.
John Gray placed the ads in several magazines for a “Friday the 30th” convention to observe the 30th anniversary of the series. Gray has hosted several other horror conventions in the past and according to some website blogs, many horror fans bought tickets.
“People were behind him,” Helmer said.
The plot, however, took a turn. First, there was a sudden venue change from a Lewisville hotel to Sneaky Pete’s, a nearby restaurant. Chris Kapler, a manager at Sneaky Pete’s, said phone calls came in from around the world from people asking about the convention, even though Gray did not have contract with the restaurant.
“Some people were calling from Canada, Australia. They wanted to make sure that if they were flying all the way out here that it was going to be here,” Kapler told CBS 11.
The August convention never happened. Ticketholders say Gray canceled the convention online at the last minute. Terri Dawn Arnold, who was traveling to Texas from California, had already booked her hotel and flights.
“So much for your non-refundable airline tickets,” said Arnold. “I still don’t have my money back,” she added.
The convention website, which at one point featured celebrities from the horror films, contained nothing more than an email address for John Gray. Ticketholders complained on websites and blogs that Gray refused to respond to their emails. Gray also did not respond to email messages from CBS 11 sent to that address.
Frustrated fans filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau, the Attorney General of Texas and PayPal. Bloggers called Gray a “criminal” for taking their money.
Gray then announced a new date of Friday, May 13, 2011 at the Crowned Plaza in Addison. On that day, CBS 11 went to the Crowne Plaza in Addison, but again, Gray was a no-show. The hotel’s general manager who spoke off camera said his employees were trying to call Gray, but hadn’t heard from him. CBS 11 did track down John Gray at his home after he had not returned several of our calls.
“I don’t have the [ticketholders’] money.” Gray said. “Their money is in an escrow account. The trustee is going to, as soon as we get everything finalized with the attorney. Everybody is getting their money back.”
Gray said he had two other partners involved in the convention back out. Gray, however, would not reveal their names. He said the convention, known as Camp Blood or Texas Fear Fest, had filed bankruptcy.
Gray requested a sit down, formal interview, but failed to show for two appointments. The Texas Attorney General’s Office wants to hear from any ticketholders who are upset that the convention was canceled.