I HAVE TO ADMIT that before I played it, I was a little skeptical about the latest Elvira-themed pinball machine that debuted this weekend at Pinball Expo 2019. I’m a big fan of the previous Elvira tables, Elvira and the Party Monsters (1989) and Scared Stiff (1996), both designed by Dennis Nordman and released through Midway/Bally.
The new table, Elvira’s House of Horrors , from Stern Pinball, was also designed by Nordman, and served as the centerpiece of Pinball Expo 2019 in Wheeling, IL this weekend, since they brokered a special guest appearance by Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) herself. The first couple times I played the table, I bemoaned the lack of some of the more whimsical features of the past two tables — like the “monster slide” style ramps. But by the end of the weekend (after two or three dozen plays!) I was a solid fan (aside from the weird cartoon “Deadheads”).
I’ve been going to the show for several years now, but this is the first year I’ve gone to Pinball Expo on Thursday and Friday night as well as all day Saturday. Which means I got a LOT more play time in this year! That worked out, since I think there were more machines there this year than ever before.
I took pictures of a lot of the machines I played, so based just on counting those, I know I played more than 40 distinct games, many of them several times.
I spent a lot of time playing the new Elvira’s House of Horrors machine (my high score at the end of the weekend was nearly 35 million — though two of the guys I was with scored over 60 million on it). I also set a new personal best score on one of my favorite classic games, Stargazer (1,384,150 – up about a hundred thousand from a score I set on it in the spring).
There were a lot of highlights for me for this year’s show. I was fist-pumped on Saturday by Steve Ritchie, who designed all three Black Knight pinball machines. I talked with Zombie Yeti, the artist behind Stern Pinball’s Deadpool, Ghostbusters and others. I saw Dennis Nordman, the creator of the art for all three Elvira machines. And on Friday night, I met Cassandra Peterson, Elvira herself, and got her to sign a photo for my game room. (Hopefully some day, it will hang near an Elvira pinball table… but that’s a long-range game room dream!)
Here’s the video of her being introduced by Jack Danger (“Deadflip”), a pinball “rock star” who Shaun met and took a picture with last year. She appeared at HorrorHound in Indianapolis last month, but I never got the chance to meet her there since I was running my own table the whole show.
Since the Elvira line was huge, I disappeared for an hour and had dinner at Spears, a great beer, burgers and bourbon bar near the hotel with my best friends in pinball — Brad and Christian Czernik, Mike Schudel, Chad Dentandt and Mike Gaspar. I spent some extra time at Spears both Thursday and Friday nights working on my next novel, Voodoo Heart, since it’s due at the end of the year. I couldn’t go a whole weekend without getting a chapter or two written!
I then came back when the celebrity insanity had abated a bit, and actually got in line to meet Cassandra. Unfortunately, I didn’t know Mike Gaspar was out in the audience shooting pictures of my back… or I would have turned around to have gotten a shot with both Elvira and myself LOOKING at the camera…
The History of Pinball with Pat Lawlor…
Friday also was a different day for me because, thanks to my friend Chad, I got to actually attend one of the lectures going on at the show (usually, I just play the tables and don’t see the “deep side” of the convention).
I watched Pat Lawlor give a talk on the history of pinball, its booms, busts, and reinventions which was pretty interesting. Lawlor is the game designer of two of the game’s biggest titles — The Addams Family and Twilight Zone, and more recently created Dialed In and Willie Wonka.
The big day…
On Saturday, Shaun went down with me (as usual) to spend the day and we were there for almost 12 hours. There were more four ballrooms of machines this year (there were also tournaments going on, but as much as I love pinball, I’m not competition ready), so unlike previous years, Shaun did not try to play every single machine. That would not have been possible! (He has come close in prior years).
One room held the most recent Stern games (Elvira, Star Wars, Beatles, Jurassic Park, Deadpool) and we hit all those.
Another held games available for auction, which had a really weird mix of titles — some offbeat things I’ve never seen before including some Spanish titles, along with more big-name licensed stuff like Shrek, Jetsons, Family Guy, Mars Attacks, Hook, and a big 3D “Pong” table. (I kicked Shaun’s butt on that one. I’m old school.)
There was also the standard, crowded “older title” room where many people bring games and leave them on free play all weekend in exchange for free admission to the convention. I thought about bringing one of mine this year… but was lazy!
That room was where I spent a good chunk of time on Saturday night playing Stargazer and Elvira and the Party Monsters and Cybernaut, as well as checking out the play on examples of Meteor and Galaxy — tables I own. I decided I liked my tables better!
Then were was a “Dealers Room,” where in addition to some newer games from current smaller manufacturers like Jersey Jack and American Pinball, there were parts and artwork and other things being sold.
I ended up buying an LED frame with signed Beetlejuice artwork by Chris Franchi, an artist known for his recent Batman 66 and The Munsters themed tables for Stern. Sadly, the Beetlejuice pinball art that he designed may never become a table, but since that’s a favorite film of the Everson clan, it was a natural crossover piece to grab for our game room.
The dealer’s room is also where Brad was helping out most of the weekend with a charity booth called Project Pinball.
Fun with Pinball Exhibit
A cool added feature of the show this year was Fun with Pinball exhibit room filled with small demo stations which showed “How Pinball Works.” I talked a bit with the creator, Mark Gibson, who guided Shaun through playing both “baseball” and “horserace” game he’d fashioned with various pinball parts.
Ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver ball…
There are other stories. Like Shaun being paraded through the hallways on Mike’s shoulders to celebrate his triumphant win over Mike and Christian on Jurassic Park.
Or the strange group half-step dance to the them of Manos, Hands of Fate every time it came on during a segment in the new Elvira game.
Or the strange series of photos titled “Look Who’s Here” of the back of people’s heads while playing pinball that were texted to multiple players…
Suffice it to say… we had a great time. And the best times always end too soon.
Here are some more pix from the weekend: