Most of these words are true.
This would be my third year attending ScareFest – a horror and paranormal convention held in Lexington, KY – but my first as a member of the press. I had planned to cover the event in a professional manner, as I would be representing Horror-Writers.
I quickly remembered that I don’t know what “professional manner,” means. In lieu of upstanding professionalism, I grabbed my wife’s nice camera so I could at least look the part. I didn’t know what any of the settings meant, but learning is a sucker’s game, and I’m no sucker. So, armed with a press pass and a Canon EOS 30D, I made my way to the ScareFest floor.
As a member of the press, I got to get in a little early. While hundreds of people waited in line for the doors to open – like zombies pressing against the glass in Dawn of the Dead – I brushed past and headed to the Black Carpet event.
The Black Carpet is essentially a Red Carpet type event, but spookier. In front of a ScareFest backdrop, celebrities would walk in front of the backdrop, pose, maybe say a few words, then head off to do celebrity things. Like talk about how much they didn’t like me.
In reality, the main difference between the Red Carpet and Black Carpet is that the Black Carpet can turn into a thick, black tar and pull the person standing on it into a hell dimension in the blink of an eye. It’s really quite thrilling.
While trying to get a picture of Kane Hodder and Felissa Rose, a voice rang out from behind the crowd. “Free beer!” I turned and immediately started sizing up the people around me, trying to figure who I could take out to make my way to this fabled “free beer”.
As it turns out, there was no free beer. It was yelled out by Steven Williams. I know him as “X” from The X-Files, but he is also known from his role in 21 Jump Street, and more recently in Supernatural. He thought this was funny, but he made a mortal enemy this day.
Steven was funny and charismatic and honest, proclaiming, “Some of these people think they’re stars: I’m just doing this to pay my rent.”
At some point, Ernest P. Worrell – or rather Son of Ernest – began walking around with a box full of comic books, passing out random issues to everyone standing around. I walked away with Spawn #2. I have a confession to make: I have never read an issue of Spawn in my life. But now that Ernest has handed me one, I suppose I had better start.
Eventually the Black Carpet event ended and we were all allowed to walk the floor. The theme this year was Camp ScareFest, and they did it up right. Camp Crystal Lake could be found near the back of the floor, complete with dead campers and a dock featuring sack-headed Jason Voorhees patrolling with an axe. There was also another Jason popping out of the astro-turf water, because you can never have too many Jasons.
Being a member of the press affords certain luxuries, like getting to walk the floor for roughly 30 minutes before the doors are open to the public. This gave me an opportunity to check out the layout without having to navigate my way through the mass of bodies that would soon descend on the area. It also gave me an opportunity to talk to a couple of the celebrities without waiting in line.
A couple friends of mine were also there, and we spent most of that time milling around. We found ourselves talking to Ari Lehman, who spent most of the time talking about how great his Camp Crystal Lake hot sauce was. “Man, you gotta smell it. It’s made with ghost peppers and garlic.” He popped the top and, sure enough, it smelled spicy and garlicy. I also detected a hint of blood that had been extracted from the lifeless bodies of irresponsible camp counselors, but I knew better than to ask.
We moved on and spotted Rachel True, which caused one of my friends to come very close to hyperventilating. He was basically Jay Baruchel’s character in Almost Famous when talking about Led Zeppelin. He went up and talked to her while me and my other friend hung back, so as not to ruin his moment. “It’s all happening, it’s all happening,” he muttered under his breath.
As it turns out, we ruined his moment anyway. While he was talking to her, she was looking at me. Sorry buddy. I can’t control these powers I have.
After he recovered, we walked the floor a bit more, splitting up if we found something that struck our fancy: one of us to ponder purchasing a “Stab” t-shirt, another drawn in by the Christine display, and so on. In my solo travels, I had seen one of the celebrities walking around the floor. “That’s cool,” I thought. “Just checking out the booths like everyone else.”
I eventually met back up with my friends and we stumbled across this celebrity.
“Hey. What’s up?”
“Do you know where my booth is?”
“Uh…sure. It’s in the back. Just follow this row and you’ll run right into it.”
“Thanks. [Pause] I just got high.”
And off that person walked in the direction of the booth.
We all smiled and nodded and agreed that we loved this place completely.
We eventually wandered up to the Thoroughbred Ballroom to catch the Scream panel. Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard would be there, talking about Scream or whatever else they felt like waxing poetic about. It was something we didn’t want to miss.
It was better than I thought it would be. While Ulrich sat behind the table with his microphone, Lillard wandered the room, speaking hilariously and candidly about Scream and the life of an actor. And Ulrich’s abs. He talked a lot about Ulrich’s abs. The entire thing was hilarious and eye-opening and over far too soon.
My friends took off and I attended a short story workshop with Elizabeth Fields (friend of the website, and overall terrific person). She talked about the power of the short story, and finding power in very few words. I learned to “write what scares you,” and took that lesson to heart. It was a tremendous workshop.
Before heading out for the day, I decided to take one last pass of the floor. It was mostly cleared out by that point, but I got a chance to talk to an odd group for a while. They were a ghost hunting trio: one dressed as 1966 Batman, another as Tim Burton’s Batman and another wearing a Superman hoodie. It’s hard to put the entire conversation into words, because it really felt more like a fever dream than an actual, regular conversation. But I did manage to write down bits of it before my brain shut down. I present to you a random assortment of conversation snippets:
- Superman Hoodie died twice: once by falling off a cliff. I don’t remember the other way, but I do know that it involved a two-week coma and something about throwing a 250 pound man across the room when he woke up. Superman Hoodie was 70 and weighed roughly 160 pounds.
- 1966 Batman nearly cut his finger off with a samurai sword when he grabbed the blade instead of the hilt. He removed his elbow-length gloves to show me the scar.
- Superman Hoodie told me he has diabetes in his leg, and was once doing a paranormal investigation in the basement of a haunted house when something dark flew through him. I do not know if these two events are related.
- Superman Hoodie is 70 years old, has a 37 year old girlfriend and will berate you if you mention retiring. Or not retiring. I get the feeling he would berate you no matter what you do.
- Tim Burton’s Batman told me they were paranormal investigators and showed me their card. I asked if I could have one, but she quickly withdrew the card and told me they didn’t have any more. These were the only words I heard her speak.
It was a strange, perfect conversation to cap a lovely day. I had seen what I wanted to see and bought what I wanted to buy. I would return the following day with a couple simple goals: take pictures of people in costume, look for odd interactions and strike up random conversations when the moment presented itself. My feet were killing me, but I couldn’t wait to get back to the main floor.
As I left the main floor and wound through the building on the way back to my car, I saw Adrienne King and Amy Steel walking down the hall together, sharing a laugh. I couldn’t help but smile.
Tomorrow. There would be more stories tomorrow. I hope you join me.
To be continued…
More convention/travel fun:
Transmissions from HorrorHound Indianapolis 2016
Transmissions from Wizard World Comic Con
Transmissions from the International Cryptozoology Museum