scare a conDISCLAIMER This is the first of a series of articles I am writing about Scare-A-Con and there was too much to put into a single article. If you read this and I don’t mention you but you think I should have, please be patient. Everyone that I interacted with this weekend will be mentioned at some point and their work promoted.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend Scare-A-Con at the Framingham Sheraton in Framingham, Massachusetts. This was the first time I was at a convention as an active participant. Along with my wife, I had a table where I was able to engage with hundreds of attendees, other media members, and guests. I wasn’t totally sure what I was getting myself into, as I am usually just wandering around for hours chatting with vendors, celebrities, and cosplayers with no real base of operation, but it was awesome! This was the most fun and the most productive time I’ve ever had at any convention, and I have to tell as many people as I can about it.

Scare-A-Con is the brainchild of JV Johnson, host of the Beyond Reality Radio show and when we interviewed him he said that he wanted to create something where fans of horror could get together and enjoy the genre they love without fear of judgment or feeling like they were crammed into a crowded venue like sardines in a can. There are so many conventions where the largest displays or biggest spaces are given to the corporate sponsors of the event. I’ve also been to shows where vendors and artists are crammed so tightly together that it is nearly impossible to patronize the vendor while also staying out of the way of passersby. Scare-A-Con has none of these issues; JV has been successful in his vision.

Our booth was located directly across from the professional photo op booth helmed by Krest Winchester of Mr. D Photography. In addition to doing all of the celebrity photographs with fans, they also offered pictures of their “creatures” for fans. The creatures were folks who had incredible makeup work of cinematic quality done by both Krest and Lauren Cunningham. It was incredibly interesting getting to see how the process went, from application to painting to the final result. I was very impressed by their work and how effortless they made it seem.

I did have a few chances to stroll around and chat with some of the vendors, including Rough House publishing. They put the “graphic” in graphic novels as their comics are not for either the faint of heart or those who do not consider themselves to be horror enthusiasts. They’re also not comics to bring home to the kids, either. Lead Roughian and artist Derek Rook manned the booth along with one of the contributing writers Steve Van Samson. Both were welcoming of one and all, chatting with anyone who wanted to chat, posing for pictures, and just being extremely friendly overall.

Another vendor booth that I really liked specializes in horror-themed soaps, Frightfully Clean. They had sharks (to which I am quite partial), Hellraiser Puzzle Boxes, Jason Voorhees hockey masks, green Ecto Cleaner based on Ghostbusters, Waffles (based on Stranger Things) and much, much more! I chatted with Meg who was running the booth and she was an absolute delight! We talked about her inspiration and just general horror stuff. She was great.

To me, maybe the most important part of getting through a convention is making sure you have enough energy to do so and be at your best. For that, I recommend coffee. If you’re a horror fan who drinks coffee (and to be honest, how else are we supposed to get through midnight screenings?) I suggest Deadly Grounds with a variety of horror-based flavors like Hell Hound Roast, Hell’s Fury, or the Dark and Deadly Roast you’ll be sure to be able to flavorfully make it through any horror con. The folks running the booth were courteous and friendly, offering tastings and fixings for several of their coffees, as well as storing most of their wares in two giant wooden coffins with shelves- the perfect aesthetic. I bought three bags because I really liked not only how good the coffee was but also how I was treated. Even though they were incredibly busy they were still able to give everyone quick and personal service.

Perhaps the best part of the weekend was the sheer amount of people I met who were so genuinely awesome. Everyone wanted everyone else to do well. We patronized each other’s booths, lent a hand when it came to carrying or moving things, covered each other when one of us had to step away from our area, and planned future collaborations. One such example of awesome teamwork happened in the first fifteen minutes of us being at the show! We had a small table for our booth and the gentleman next to us, whom we had never met before offered us a larger table because he had a spare. His name is Aaron Wujcik and he’s a watercolor artist who does some phenomenal work. He does exceptional work with black, white and grey but his color work is even more impressive when you account for the fact that he’s colorblind. You can find his work here and if you like what he does, feel free to pick something up, or hit him up for a commission!

We also were able to participate in the First Annual Scare-A-Con Podcaster Awards, and that was one way that we were able to meet a whole bunch of like-minded people who are as dedicated as we are to talking about horror stuff and how it impacts our lives. I’ll be doing a whole article just on the podcasters and shows they represent at a later date, but I need to discuss the awards. About a month ago my wife and I learned that we were up for awards in two separate categories; Best Interview and Best Overall Podcast. I know it’s a cliché, but just to be nominated was an honor. We were both floored. I thought that our interview with the cast of Megalodon had gone well, but never did I think it would be nominated for an award.

As the time grew closer, and we met and chatted and mingled with some of the other folks who were up for awards, we got nervous. There were a lot of funny, talented and knowledgeable folks that were nominated, especially in our categories. We were up against Horror With Sir Sturdy, 3 Guys That Horror Podcast, Radio of Horror, and Super Retro Throwback Reviews. They’re all really good at what they do, so we were eager but also anxious about our chances. Somehow, some way, we were able to come away with the award for Best Interview! We both screamed with excitement and surprise. We were ecstatic that we were taking home a trophy. It means so much that so many people thought our interview was not only good but good enough to beat out everyone else who entered (there were over 150 shows that submitted for awards) so I just wanted to make sure that I mentioned that in this article. Like I said, I’ll be doing another one about all the podcasting folks I met this weekend.

The awards were another of JV’s ideas because podcasters, in his estimation, don’t get enough attention and recognition for all the hard work they do. I mean my show is just some goofy nerd rambling about whatever the topic du jour is and her stunningly handsome husband (me) but we work hard booking guests, doing research and coming up with ways to keep the conversations interesting. There are shows out there that do even more than that. We’re lucky enough to have a skilled producer in Johnny Wolfenstein (The Man With the Velvet Voice and the Hardest Working Man in Podcasting) who not only arranges our show, runs the board, does technical work, and makes us sound good, he also hosts his own show, Trick or Treat Radio. It’s a good thing he’s been hitting the gym because there’s a lot resting on his shoulders.

The thing about horror conventions that those who do not attend horror conventions don’t understand is this isn’t a collection of over-the-top angry and violent people. Horror conventions are a place where fans of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, orientations, and identities can congregate and engage with other fans about their favorite films and actors without fear of judgment or discrimination. One of the best interactions I have ever had at a convention happened this weekend when I was lucky enough to meet two incredibly sweet and kind women named Debbie and Mia who graciously allowed me to share their story. The two of them face daily obstacles for a variety of reasons, including Mia being a transgender woman. The two of them told me several stories about the hate and vitriol they face from the general public and even from those who live in the same community as them.

Debbie told me that though Mia loves horror, she herself does not but enjoys spending time with Mia because though they are unable to get married due to certain limitations placed on them in their home state, they are married in their hearts and minds. They come to these conventions because of the accepting nature of horror fans who don’t see what you look like or any disability you might have; horror fans see you as an equal and the only disagreements are on which characters are the best, or which sequels are better than others. That’s why Debbie loves to attend horror conventions. “Even though people think it’s full of serial killers and maniacs, everyone is just so nice and just accept us as fans, instead of looking at how we’re different. I don’t even like horror, but I love this lady,” Debbie told me, and she leaned over and kissed Mia on the forehead.

At that moment, I felt like the Grinch when his heart grows three sizes. I won’t get into the very intense, personal things that they shared with me other than to say that it’s something no one should have to go through or deal with. It makes me happy that they have a place where they can just be themselves without fear or anxiety. Debbie said that being around her horror family makes her feel safer than when she’s at home, which is simultaneously great to hear, but also totally heartbreaking.

If you take anything away from this article, I hope it’s that as much fun as these conventions are, they would never happen without the tireless and often thankless work of the folks who sacrifice their time and effort and often their sanity to get everything to work out. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but JV, Krest, Alex and so many other folks made it not just enjoyable, but an atmosphere of friendship and camaraderie and togetherness. JV’s vision for what he wanted this show to be – fun-filled with so much to do, but still intimate enough that you can have a conversation with a celebrity like Felissa Rose without being rushed along – was executed perfectly by everyone who was on his team. JV himself was also around and constantly making sure things went well and everyone was taken care of. It was seriously great, and if they’ll have us back, we’ll gladly be there next year and every year after.

Patrick Rahall

Writer of horror books, sports and entertainment articles, and comic book reviews.Host of the Throwdown Thursday Podcast, Angry Nerd and Jedi Ninja.I'm eagerly anticipating the zombie apocalypse to get out of my credit card debt.

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