Daughter Raven, and proud parents Todd and Nicole Cameron with little newborn Jack. (Li Carter Photo @happysqueak)

Nanaimo dad reflects on viral photoshoot at McNab’s Corn Maze

  • Dec. 6, 2018 7:30 p.m.

By Todd Cameron

It was two months ago, the evening of October 9th, when I posted a fun comedy alien-themed maternity photoshoot to my facebook page. I had just come in from setting up all of our Halloween decorations (a full day’s job) and was excited to finally put this joke out there as Canadian Thanksgiving was over and the Halloweeen season had officially begun.

Friends and family immediately began to like and comment on the post. I could have predicted a fun reaction from family and friends as I thought it was a pretty funny idea and, along with the help of our friend and photographer, Li Carter, we had executed the idea very well. What I couldn’t have seen coming was the amount of sharing that was about to happen.

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By the time I went to bed at 1 am that morning, there were over five thousand shares of my post. In the early morning hours I checked my phone to find a message from Bored Panda asking permission to share our photos on their website.

The post had been shared tens of thousands of times. By the end of that first full day, the share count was over 200 thousand on my Facebook post alone. Something else that I definitely didn’t see coming was that I would be spending the next few weeks fielding messages and calls from dozens of news outlets and websites, that I would be turning my living room into a skype interview studio on numerous occasions, or that my life would be changed in a real meaningful way.

I wanted to share some of the more interesting stories that happened during this few week period leading up to the birth of our amazing child.

My Dad Reaches Out

About a year ago, about 2 years after my Dad passed away, I began receiving a piece of spam email that came bearing his name, Jim Cameron. It was a “forwarded” spam article about a Keto product and this email started coming in every once in a while (15 times in total since then) and it was the only spam that made it through my junk mail filter. More than a few times, it had come through as I was thinking or talking about my Dad.

Recently, I had spoken to a very nice woman from People magazine, and, for some reason in that particular interview, I had mentioned my Dad and his love for Halloween being an inspiration for me and that I knew he was looking down and laughing at these pictures and media attention. He had been in my mind a lot lately with the upcoming birth of our baby and because of his namesake, director James Cameron, having written and directed the “Alien” sequel, “Aliens”.

My Dad used to take us trick or treating every year, while my mom stayed at home to give out candy. He would take us around our neighborhood, rain or shine, and then he would drive us to the houses of special folks: grandparents, aunts and uncles, family friends so that they would get to see us dressed up and so that we would get the experience of showing off our costumes and get special treats. He always wore a Dracula mask to be in the spirit of the season with us.

Every year, my Dad would find the biggest pumpkin he could, carve all of the skin off and then carve into the flesh to make the coolest pumpkins anyone in our hometown had seen. This was before the era of “Halloween Wars” or Pinterest.

He just loved Halloween and he was a very quietly artistic and creative guy. Later on, I had the honor of being able to bring my daughter over to his house for trick or treating. He always acted like whatever she was dressed as was the coolest costume he had ever seen and he would have a “special Halloween stash” for her.

The reporter for People had decided to actually finish the article with a quote about him and I remember thinking that my Dad would have thought it was pretty cool that I got him mentioned by People.

The second that I finished reading that paragraph about him, and for the first time in a month, that email from James Cameron binged in my notifications. I put my phone down and tears streamed down my face as they are right now writing about this.

I would give anything to have called my Dad after we made most of the world laugh. He would have loved it. I would have give anything to be able to call him a call last week to tell him that he had a new grandchild and to watch him beam while looking in his grandchild’s eyes.

I would give anything to knock on his door next year with a bundled up little dressed up one year old and hear him dote over the little trick or treater in my arms. But none of that is going to happen. Right now, all that I have is that spam email, my Halloween memories, and a love for the season that started as a little boy wearing a cheap mask holding his Dad’s hand.

The Mystery of Murray McNabb and his Reaction

I had mentioned on social media a week before posting this photoshoot, how great Murray McNab from McNab’s Corn Maze was when I approached him to do a maternity shoot on his pumpkin patch and to buy a pumpkin off of him before pumpkin selling season had even started there.

Not only did he take time out of his work day to drive me on his tractor to two different fields to find the perfect pumpkin, once I found it, he just gave it to me as a baby gift, telling me that if I set up an RESP, to throw a few bucks in there for him.

He had no idea we were doing a horror/ comedy maternity shoot (we weren’t telling anyone), and of course he had no idea that his business would get a bunch of mentions across the world. Just a kind genuine man doing a solid favor for another.

After the shoot was posted and went absolutely viral, Nicole hoped out loud that Murray wouldn’t be upset that his family business would be associated with the horror scene. I guessed that he wouldn’t be because both the shoot and his business were devoted to Halloween, but you never know.

I hadn’t had a chance to check, though, what with all of the interviews and messages taking up my time. The next day, someone posted a a screen shot from the McNab’s website and my doubts dissipated. There, written in big bold letters was “McNAB’S SETS THE STAGE FOR VIRAL MATERNITY PHOTO SHOOT”! They were totally capitlizing on the success of the shoot, which gave me the biggest smile. When I texted him later that day, he showed his appreciation for all of the mentions by offering free corn maze passes for our family for as long as he owned the farm!

The day after, “Good Morning America” posted their article on their website about our viral shoot. I read through a lot of the same info I had read in at least twenty other articles until my eyes hit something new. There, right in the middle of the article, was a small paragraph about Murray’s kind gesture and what a great guy he was. It completely warmed my heart to see him getting some international recognition after having spent so much time in the community quietly spreading kindness and humor and family fun to friends and strangers alike. Here’s hoping for more people like Murray McNab!

Becoming a father for the second time; and how best to name a Halloween legend

I often joke that my new son (yes it was a boy!) had the most famous Halloween costume in the world for 2018 and he wasn’t even born when it happened. We are absolutely tickled pink that we have this great story and all of these online articles, newspaper clippings and videos to show our son when he is at an appropriate age.

Going viral was a great distraction for us as we powered through the last few weeks of playing the waiting game for the birth to take place. It was actually also the perfect time for this adventure to unfold because having something even MORE exciting being just around the corner, it prevented us from getting a crash when the media frenzy died down. On October 23rd, 2018, at 4:36 a.m.. our 8 lb, 8 oz son was born here in Nanaimo, B.C.

He was healthy and super alert right from the first few minutes and after a couple more nights in the maternity ward, we are now home and beginning our winter full of baby cuddles. The story of how we had named the little guy was actually a shocking Halloween tale…

We had had a number of girl names picked out that we liked but only one or two boy names picked out and we weren’t crazy about them. One day, while doing some housework in the middle of that media storm, I wondered if the baby shouldn’t have some sort of Halloween themed name.

I mean, Nicole and I had met at Halloween, our baby was going to be born during the Halloween season, we got engaged on October 21st, we got married just after Halloween, and so many of our adventures and laughs had centered around Halloween or dress up and imagination. Then to top it all off, this viral Halloween-themed post happened right before Halloween.

It only seemed right to give a tip of the hat to the season that had brought us so much. Then the name just popped into my head. Jack.It’s a great name on its own but also carries some serious Halloween weight.

I put forth my idea to Nicole and, though she didn’t veto it right away, she seemed interested but unsure. When the baby came, people kept asking for his name, and while I didn’t want to push, I did drop my idea again a couple more times. Nicole made it clear that she just wasn’t sure about that name.

A couple hours later, Nicole’s best friend, Kat, was driving about 2 hours to see us and our baby while I was out of the hospital, picking up my 18 year old daughter to meet her new brother. When we arrived, Kat was there and decreed that they had decided on a name. I confusedly looked at them and asked which name. “Jack” she said, “I held him and looked at him and he just overwhelmingly seems like a Jack”.

We then told her that that was the one name that I had been pushing for over a week and the tears streamed down her cheeks. I looked at Nicole and could tell by her look that we had made our decision. After adding in both of our father’s first names, Jack Robert James Cameron is now named and ready to take on the world.

What’s Happening Now and What’s Next

I have often wondered in the past three weeks if, since so much of the world had seen our post, at least one or two of my favorite comedians (Bo Burnham, Jim Carrey, Jim Gaffigan) or my favorite actor, Jeff Bridges, had seen what we had made and had got a chuckle from it. I decide to believe that it had.

Two days after the photoshoot began circling the globe, I created an Instagram page called @burstonoutcameron in order to document the further adventures and tribulations of our alien child growing up in a human home. The page has garnered nearly 3000 followers so far and I am having the most interesting time coming up with photo opportunities for my alien children (Yes, our child, Burston recently became a big brother to his xenomorph twin sister, Ridley).

I am also very interested in putting together a documentary or movie about Nicole’s and my love story. I made much of the world laugh with a simple idea, some planning, and minimal execution. Perhaps, I can make even more laugh in the next few years.

Everyone Seems to Want to Know…Did we Make any Money?

The simple answer to that is “No”. We had the opportunity to license the photos and make people pay for them, but that was never our intention. Li Carter had gifted this photo session to us as a baby gift. Murray McNab gifted us a beautiful pumpkin needed for the shoot as well as his time and the location.

The Universe, taking the form of a garage sale, had gifted us the chestburster model. In the same way, I had intended this as a gift of laughter for family and friends. Just because it reached a significantly higher amount of people wasn’t a good enough reason to take back that gift.

What is HAS given me is a new confidence in my ability to tell stories and make others laugh on a much larger scale than I ever thought possible. It has given us a great story to tell young Jack when showing the pictures would be appropriate.

It has cracked my self open to the outside world a bit more and has led to many fun and interesting conversations with both those in my home town and those across the globe. These things are truly priceless and I wouldn’t trade any of them for a big bag of money.

Any last thoughts?

We just want to thank everyone out there who liked or shared our creation, media outlets and individuals alike who reached out with messages of getting enjoyment or being inspired by our work, and all those who came to our defense when others couldn’t look past the blood and guts to see our silly hearts.

Keep finding new ways to create and different ways to spread laughter. And for God’s sake, if your preteen or teen wants to dress up on October 31st and go trick or treating, please let them. Let kids be kids and let them love Halloween like only a child truly can for as long as they can.

Let’s all take the phrase “Stop being silly” out of our vocabulary. A healthy sense of imagination and the ability to pretend are traits that only a few seem to be able to take with them into adulthood. As someone who was lucky enough to accomplish this, I’m here to tell you that it’s totally and completely worth it.

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