A promised “zombie invasion” this past summer came and went with more than a few hitches but without any apocalyptic catastrophe – until it came time to pay the bill. Now, those who paid money to participate in Zombie Voodoo Festival events such as the uber-hyped $10,000 Battle of the Bands contest held in Beaumont on July 7-8 are warning others that cross-country event promoters Ricky Buxton (aka Stefan duBois) and Cherilyn Ferroggiaro of Emerging Magazine took money from the Southeast Texas community and have yet to make good on paying any contest winnings.
In addition to money collected from more than a dozen Battle of the Bands contestants, the promoters also took in entry fees from Hot Zombie model hopefuls, Zombie Run fees for a race that never took place, vendor dues, and ticket sales, yet no one involved in the event has seen a penny of the money collected.
Furthermore, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office told The Examiner that Buxton has a warrant for his arrest stemming from a bad check passed to a Beaumont businesswoman – and this is after Buxton recently spent time in an Orange County jail on a separate theft by check charge, according to Orange County Assistant District Attorney Cory Kneeland.
Zombie Voodoo Fest 2012, promoted by Emerging Magazine figureheads Buxton and wife Ferroggiaro, was scheduled to have four tour stops – one in Southeast Texas, and others in California, Virginia and Michigan. Each event was touted and booked as a multi-day festival paying top-dollar prizes to contestants in a Zombie Run, Battle of the Bands and Hot Zombie contest. Beaumont hosted the premier event, but if the couple’s first foray into the zombie fest business is any indication, participants at the remaining tour stops are in for more of a trick than a treat.
“It seemed too good to be true,” P.J. Disharoon of the Beaumont-based band Angel Siren said. According to Disharoon, a $10,000 payout for a Battle of the Bands contest seemed unrealistic but with an album to make and funds not coming in for the project, the band members decided to give the contest a shot. “There were so many good bands there, I was very surprised when they said we won. Third place was about $2,500, and we would have been happy to get that.”
Disharoon and his fellow band members wouldn’t rejoice for long. A month after winning the top prize, the group had not seen any of the promised payout.
“We waited patiently for 30 days,” Disharoon said. “(Buxton) said we had to wait 30 days for the insurance to pay out the prize money. We were skeptical, but optimistic.”
Pessimism crept in after the 30th day when any payment had yet to be made on the winnings. Buxton’s company, Emerging Magazine, released word the second week of August that the band will not be collecting any proceeds from the elusive insurance money and that the event promoters would be making $500 bi-weekly payments to the band until the $10,000 was paid in full from their own pocket.
The Examiner first revealed that contestant winners, along with the Crockett Street venue, had not been paid in an Aug. 9 article. Zombie Wedding bride Ashley Wells-Barlow said she, too, was defrauded by Buxton and Ferroggiaro, who had promised Barlow and her new husband a honeymoon vacation for their participation in the Zombie Voodoo event. Buxton, who has not responded to a request for an interview, did respond online in a rebuttal to the initial claims made against the couple’s failed venture.
“Anyone desiring to know the actual truth may call me directly (1-888-244-4418),” he claimed. The number, used as a contact for ticket sales and the Emerging Magazine business phone, has since been shut off, although the number still appears on the magazine’s webpage.
Also still appearing on the business webpage is an advertisement for future Zombie Voodoo Fest tour dates, although at least one of those events has met with an untimely end. According to the venue manger at the Bates Haunted Sawmill in Michigan, Buxton wanted to reschedule the Zombie Voodoo event for the spring of 2013.
“We were already feeling kind of iffy about it,” the manager, who didn’t want his name associated with Buxton’s event, said. “If anybody is still buying tickets from him, they shouldn’t be.”
According to the Sawmill representative, several pre-paid contest participants have sought a way to get their money returned to them – to no avail.
“He won’t answer calls or anything,” he said. “I hope they can get their money back, but I just don’t know …”
Beaumont’s Battle of the Bands winner Angel Siren still hadn’t received any payment by the time of this article’s publication, according to Disharoon, who said the band received an online message from Buxton stating that Angel Siren is no longer considered the event’s winner. Buxton’s message to Disharoon states that the rightful winners Skanky Dave and the Bumpin Uglies, and Autumn Stay, who tied for first place.
Skanky Dave vocalist Kyle Davis said his group did receive word Oct. 8 stating that they were now considered the Beaumont Zombie Voodoo Festival Battle of the Bands winners with the implication that $5,000 in prize money would be forthcoming. Davis said he has doubts as to whether Buxton’s promises of a payout are true, though.
“We got the feeling (Buxton) was yanking our chain,” Davis said. “If he did have any money to pay out the prize, then why not pay Angel Siren?”
Davis said he hopes the money materializes, but he isn’t holding his breath.
“There are a lot of people out there trying to take advantage of people,” he said. According to Davis, Buxton had previously told Skanky Dave the group had won studio time in California – another empty promise. “No one ever got anything,” Davis said in conclusion. “I don’t know if we’ll ever get anything, either.”
Word to the wise
Disharoon said musicians need to be wary about prizes that “are too good to be true,” but still calls what Buxton and Ferroggiaro did was inexcusable.
“We’re not naïve, but it was wrong to give people false hopes,” he said. Disharoon said the group now has zero hope of ever getting paid, and civil litigation “is more time and money than it’s worth.”
At this point, Disharoon concluded, “I’m more passionate about trying to warn other people to stay away from this scam than I am about trying to collect any money for myself.
“I think they’ll do it again.”
Buxton and Ferroggiaro were again scheduled to host an event in Southeast Texas, dubbed NxStacy, but it has since been canceled. According to a webpage devoted to the event, the new venue will be in Jacksonville, Fla., with invited guest Grammy-winning The Wanted expected to perform. Examiner entertainment editor Chad Cooper’s connections within the industry have debunked that notion, saying the A-list group is not in the country and not touring at this time.