“Why do you think horror movies are so popular?” asked my friend John. It was Friday evening, October 24, and we were standing in Tobin Bell’s autograph line at Spooky Empire, the semiannual fright fest held in sunny Orlando. I have known John since 1990, when he, a transfer student from Massachusetts, walked into my high school Spanish class and took the only available seat–the one next to me. After high school, we worked together at McDonald’s, and when he moved to Tennessee for college, and then Florida to work in the nursing home industry, we remained friends. He was with me at the Minneapolis Wizard World, as a matter of fact.
And this is what our friendship is like: deep thoughts. Why are horror movies popular? “Fear is primal,” I answered. “We like being scared because it is a release, especially when the object scaring us is revealed to be harmless, like a man in a mask.” (The Atlantic magazine ran a great article on exactly this topic; I’ll recommend it here.) We talked about it more, stepping forward every so often as the incredibly slow-moving line moved forward (with incredible slowness). This is not because the line was mismanaged; there were simply a lot of people in it.
I have seen all the Saw movies, and Tobin Bell was the one person I wanted to see at my inaugural Spooky Empire, which calls itself “one of the largest horror cons in the US.” Horror cons tend to be peopled by B- and C-list celebs, but this one had some moneymakers: Tara Reid, David Guintoli and Bitsie Tulloch (from TV’s Grimm), Derek Mears, Chris Sarandon, some of The Walking Dead cast, most of Rob Zombie’s Halloween cast, and, of course, Tobin Bell. He was very gracious with his time, talking and laughing with attendees. The person in front of me had a Tobin Bell mask for him to sign, and I wanted to ask Tobin how it felt to hold his own face in his hands, but I was afraid it’d be weird. Instead, I handed him my still-in-the-box figure of Billy, Jigsaw’s creepy puppet (which I had already had Cary Elwes sign at DragonCon). Below is the result.
Want a close-up of Billy? Here it is.
Sadly, the household-name-ness did not extend to the authors. I am a writer, an English professor, and a sometime bookseller. In other words, I know literature. As a 25-year fan of horror fiction, I know horror literature. But I did not know a single writer in attendance. (Full disclosure: Carrie Harris was there. She seems pretty big in YA circles, and she got the big-author-convention treatment, meaning she got a panel of her own and her picture was the biggest in the program.) I seem to remember Clive Barker attending a couple of years ago, so I know Spooky Empire can attract true literary stars. I was disappointed that they hadn’t done so this year.
The good thing is that the writers who were there stayed paneled-up. They led not just author talks but actual seminars on writing and publishing, some of which were tailored to specific interests, such as Friday night’s “Writing for Screen and Other Mediums.” Though the name should have been “media” (sorry, writerly tic), it was a good seminar.
Halloween is a cold weather holiday, so it seemed strange to attend a horror convention in a T-shirt and no jacket. Yet I enjoyed the experience. The dealer room seemed small for “one of the largest horror cons in the US,” but some cool merchandise was available. I talked to one dealer who had a collection of vintage costumes, most still in the boxes. Had he had those costumes for 40 years, or did he buy them like that? “I assemble them,” he said, buying a mask here, pants there, the box from some other source. How long does it take him to put together a costume? Over 10 years, for some. He also had an assortment of stuff like we used to order from the ad pages in 70s-era comics and magazines–stuff like X-ray glasses, monster teeth, fake blood, all still in packages, most in mint condition.
These are the dealers I like. Others had mostly new stuff, some of which I see over and over at conventions. This, however, I had never seen.
One suggestion I have for Spooky Empire: better signage. John and I went through the hotel main entrance (Doubletree at Universal), followed the crowd of ghouls and zombies and normal-looking people (who could be homicidal maniacs because, as Wednesday Addams reminds us, “they look like everyone else”), and got all the way to what turned out to be a side entrance to the convention, where a guard pointed back the way we had come and said, “The convention entrance is that way.” A sign to that effect would have kept us from going in the wrong way. Also, a hotel employee was standing out front, directing drivers to the convention parking lot, up the street from the hotel parking lot. I think a sign could have done that job as well.
These complaints are trifles, though. Spooky Empire is as well-run as it is well-known, and I look forward to going again. I won’t get another weekend pass–there isn’t enough for multiple days–but the one-day pass is worth the money. John, who isn’t a horror guy, concurs, saying he enjoyed seeing the celebs and cosplayers. Where will we go next? Dunno. But when we figure it out, you–or, since I’m from North Carolina, y’all–will be the first to know.
See below for a few more Spooky Empire pics.
Look at that disgusting blob! And Slimer, too.
With guests like this, who needs security?
“There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.”
Word to the wise: don’t photo bomb guys who have actual bombs.
Abraham Lincoln, convention goer
Chris Sarandon (Jack Skellington) signs a Nightmare Before Christmas picture for my daughter.
Ken Page (Oogie Boogie) signs the same picture.
Fans chat up Tara Reid.
I’m guessing this is a teacher from the Black Lagoon.
I wonder what Tobin Bell thought of HER.
Hot off the success of the Ultimate horror Weekend, Spooky Empire announces a new show teaming with Halloween Extreme to run May 15-17.
October 15, 2014 by Joe Fauvel
Filed under Animation, Collectibles, Comic Books, Comic Strips, Convention News, Cosplay, Florida, Gaming, Horror, Movies, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Sports, Television, Video Games
Spooky Empire will have some new merch and posters available next weekend! Be sure to stop by our booth located in the vendor room all weekend.
We have 2 new silk screened posters available. The first is a Children of The Corn inspired poster, created by artist Dave Berns and the second is a Nightmare Before Christmas inspired poster created by Retro Outlaw Studios. Both posters are Spooky Empire exclusives, and extremely limited, so be sure to get them before they’re gone. They will not be reprinted once they’re sold out. You can get them both at the merch booth, and you can also meet both artists at the show.
If you haven’t visited yet, the Spooky Empire online store is up.
You can find tons of vintage Spooky Items there and we’ll be adding more next month.
Tickets are still available, www.spookyempire.com
“Where’s Carl?” He’ll be at Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend, Saturday, Oct 25th (ONE DAY ONLY) in Orlando, FL.
CHANDLER RIGGS has just been added to our guest list along with cast members of The Walking Dead.
Visit our website www.spookyempire.com for advance discount tickets and VIP Packages!
The Walking Dead’s MELISSA McBRIDE is making her very first Spooky Empire appearance
Saturday and Sunday ONLY!
Get your advance tickets and VIP packages today and meet “Carol” from The Walking Dead at Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend, October 25-26 in Orlando, FL!
Visit our site www.spookyempire.com for tickets and more details!
are joining Tyler Mane, Dee Wallace and Lew Temple at Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend to represent Rob Zombie’s Halloween!
Meet all 5 Halloween guests all weekend, October 24-26, 2014 at the DoubleTree at Universal in Orlando, FL.
Get your discounted advance tickets and VIP packages today at www.spookyempire.com!
Check out the new flyer.
All Information, including hotel deals, on the weekend can be found at
August 15, 2014 by Joe Fauvel
Filed under Animation, Anime, Collectibles, Comic Books, Convention News, Cosplay, Florida, Gaming, Horror, Manga, Movies, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Television, Video Games, Webcomics
TARA REID will make her very first Spooky Empire appearance this October in Orlando, FL!
TARA REID’s resume of films includes American Pie, Urban Legend, A Return to Salems Lot, The Crow: Wicked Prayer, The Big Lebowski and of course her most popular appearance of late the Sharknado films, Part 1 and 2 and rumored Sharknado 3!
TARA is ready to party with all of you at Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend,
October 24-26, 2014 at the DoubleTree @ Universal Studios.
Get your advance tickets today, VIP Packages will be selling out quickly!
FAIRY TALES AND THE KING OF MONSTERS TOGETHER IN ORLANDO!
ORLANDO, FL – Kick off the summer with one of the greatest fan events to come to Orlando!
Spooky Empire’s May-Hem convention takes place May 30th-June 1st at The DoubleTree at Universal Studios 5780 Major Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819). A three day weekend with something for everyone!
The first of two Spooky Empire conventions in 2014 brings a fantastic guest list covering not just the horror genre but SciFi, Fantasy, Rock n Roll and more!
Celebrate two film anniversaries starting with actors from the original 1954 “Godzilla” film. Akira Takarada and Haruo Nakajima (the man behind the Godzilla mask) make a rare convention appearance together to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the original film and of course the most recent hit the “Godzilla 2014” redo.
The second appearance would honor the 30th Anniversary of “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Meet original cast members Robert Englund “Freddy Krueger”, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss and Ronee Blakley.
“Once Upon a Time” fans get a real treat when cast members make a rare first time appearance together. Meet Lana Parrilla “Regina” (her first convention appearance), Lee Arenberg “Grumpy”, Rebecca Mader “The Wicked Witch”, and Sean Maguire “Robin Hood”. The cast will be available for autographs, photo ops and a Q&A!
To round off this guest list full of headliners is writer and director John Carpenter. John Carpenter’s list of classic films include “Halloween”, “They Live”, “Escape From New York”, “Christine” and countless more.
Spooky Empire always brings a little rock ‘n’ roll to the mix! This year they’ve added “Misfits” members Doyle and Dr. Chud, “The Ramones” own Marky Ramone, and even Ex-“Runaways” members Lita Ford and Cherie Currie.
Wrestling fanactics do not want to miss out on our Friday event “In the Pit with Piper” featuring the one and only “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka! This will be and event to go down in history!
Plus tons more celebrity guests available for meet and greets and autographs all weekend including Disney’s own Pat Carroll (Ursula) from “The Little Mermaid, Jamie Kennedy “Scream” and “Ghost Whisperer”, Laurie Holden “The Walking Dead” and even a gathering of the original “Halloween” cast with Nick Castle, P.J. Soles, Charles Cyphers, Will Sandin, Nancy Loomis and Tommy Lee Wallace!
Spooky Empire is not just about the guests, they have some monstrous events lined up as always. Check out the schedule for events such as : Huge vendor room, live performances, panels and Q&As, Tattoo Festival with special guest artists, Charity Poker Tournament, Monster Museums, films, and for the first time a Dia De Los Muertos Opening Party which takes place starting at 12pm on Friday afternoon.
Closing out the weekend is Spooky Empire’s annual costume contest on Sunday. This year’s contest is sponsored by Orlando’s “Legends: A Haunting at Old Town”. $1,000 in cash prizes and more for winners!
Get your discount advance tickets online now! Just $50 for a 3 day pass ($60 at the door). Daily passes available as well!
Visit spookyempire.com for more information or call the Spooky Empire Hotline at 954-258-7852
Spooky Empire, Inc.