For some, February is a time to celebrate love and Valentine’s Day. But for those with a darker heart, it also means horror is in the air.
The second annual Creep IE Con Horror Convention returns to the Ontario Convention Center on February 4-5 and is expected to draw thousands of horror fans coming out to meet celebrities, go through pop-up hangouts and all Possible spooky and spooky things to buy unique goods from vendors.
The convention is also one of the first of several horror and Halloween themed events to be held throughout 2023 as they are no longer limited to the months of September and October. Horror is now a year-round business in Southern California, fueled by die-hard fans whose spooky celebrations aren’t dictated by a calendar.
“There’s a really cool segment of the convention world and that’s the horror world. It has absolutely rabid fans who really enjoy everything about horror culture,” said Brian Boget, co-founder of Creep IE Con.
“You have so many passionate people attending superhero conventions and comic book conventions, and now these are branching out into very passionate people who love horror,” he added. “Horror conventions have been around for a while but now they’re gaining popularity quickly and it’s a very different scene and it’s really cool.”
Creep IE brings together horror movie stars including the cast of the “Terrifier” films, with actor David Howard Thornton, who portrays Art the Clown in the films, appearing in full costume at the convention on February 4th. Other celebrities scheduled to be there include Skeet Ulrich and Jamie Kennedy, who appeared together in Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher Scream; Ryan Hurst and Tom Payne from The Walking Dead; Bill Mosley and Walter Phelan of House of 1000 Corpses; Devon Sawa from Final Destination and Hunter Hunter; and Richard Brake and Matthew Patrick Davis from the 2022 horror film Barbarian.
Creep IE will also host hundreds of vendors selling all manner of collectibles and artwork, as well as a Fear Farm-produced walk-through haunt, a horror props museum, and since it’s coming up just before Valentine’s Day, it’s a horror speed dating session for the planned weekend.
“We thought February would be a perfect time for this, it’s a week before Valentine’s Day and the Super Bowl, it’s con season starting earlier and people now want to celebrate Halloween and the spooky season all year long,” Boget said.
The Inland Empire event will be followed over the summer when monsters invade at the Monsterpalooza June 2-4 at the Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena. The event, which was held for the first time in 2009, focuses on monsters, make-up art and special effects.
Then summer evil heats up with Midsummer Scream’s return to Long Beach on July 28-30. Thousands of horror fans are expected to flock to the city to visit walkthrough locations, attend a horror film festival, participate in panel discussions and hear what other big venues, like Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, have planned for 2023. This convention started in 2016 and had around 40,000 visitors last year, making it the city’s biggest horror event.
Fall doesn’t cool down for conventions as Horrorcon LA, which made its debut last year, invades the Los Angeles Convention Center again from September 30th to October 1st. If you thought you were finally safe for the holidays, think again because then Season’s Screamings is slated to return to Pasadena in December. It’s a lighter, holiday-themed horror convention that started out as a pop-up shopping mart by Midsummer Scream organizers before becoming a full-fledged attraction in 2021.
Aside from the big conventions, there are also smaller events throughout the year, including pop-up markets like Anaheim’s recurring Witches Brew Night Market and Santa Ana’s Spooky Swap Meet, which will be held April 29-30 at Heritage Square in Los Angeles, and the annual Salem’s Market, a Halloween-themed market that brings live music, costume contests and more to Ontario in October.
“I feel like it’s become a way of life. It’s no longer just a seasonal event. Everyone has their niche and some people love horror all of the time, not just a few months of the year,” said Ontario’s Danny Mui, a horror fan and convention vendor who sells custom etched horror figures on glass at several horror convention events.
He is now preparing his booth at Creep IE
“I think Creep IE found a good niche out there because there wasn’t any convention (in this space) before them,” he said.
Mui has also settled into the Midsummer Scream convention, which was co-founded by David Markland, who has been in the horror business for a long time and helped start one of the original local conventions, Scare LA, in 2013.
“When we first did Scare LA, I was surprised that we had 2,000 people there and that audience just grew,” Markland said. “It’s not just horror, Halloween has its own culture, people who live and breathe all year round. It never ceases to amaze me how many people are interested in this stuff and how it still seems to be growing.”
His Midsummer Scream was such a hit that Markland and his partners turned Season’s Screamings into a full-fledged convention that’s about a quarter the size of Midsummer Scream, attracting ardent horror fans like Los Angeles-based Carlos Lopez.
The 33-year-old was dressed as a bloody Santa Claus and held an ax with a bell in his hand. He was at the 2022 season’s Screamings event, where he said he feels at home among monsters, zombies, and other creatures.
“I love everything about it, the people, the costumes, the haunted houses and all the stuff that you can buy,” he said as he waited in line to enter one of the walk-through mini-venues at Season’s Screamings.
And after getting a few jump scares at the 3D clown hangout at Valley Fright Nights, Lopez said he’s already planning to attend the Creep IE convention.
“Maybe I’ll go to this one as a bloody cupid,” he said, laughing.
And all of this opportunity to buy things like custom costumes, decorations, props and all sorts of other horror gear is a huge part of what makes these horror conventions so popular, said Brea-based Jeff Schiefelbein, owner of Sinister Pointe Productions. and Orange County company that develops haunted attractions and partners with conventions like Midsummer Scream.
“You go to these shows now and there are hundreds of booths with people selling everything from little figurines to scented candles to t-shirts to posters, everything, and the market has never been like this before,” he said. “You would go to these shows and maybe there would be a t-shirt guy. I think shopping is what really draws people in.”
And while there are many local vendors at these conventions, many even come from abroad for some spooky fun.
“People who are horror fans, for them, horror is year-round,” Shawn Fairhurst said while standing in his booth at Knee-High Horror at Season’s Screamings last December. “There’s not just one October or one season for that. That’s what horror movies do to people; there are no conventions for romantic comedy.”
The Las Vegas resident has been selling tote bags, stickers, banners, posters and other horror merchandise at Midsummer Scream for four years and since his inception at Season’s Screamings.
In addition to his booth, Kerrilynn Loftus sold all sorts of gory items and medical paraphernalia at her booth. She traveled from her home in Wisconsin to attend Season’s Screamings.
“The fanbase here is great,” she said. “They have loyal fans. Horror is part of everyday life for people now (and) it’s so much fun, so why not all year round?”
Crawl IE Con
When: 11 am 4-5 February
Where from: Ontario Convention Center, 2000 E. Convention Center Way, Ontario
Tickets: Tickets are $25-$30 for one-day general admission tickets. $50 for weekend general admission passes; $110 for VIP Weekend Passes, which include one-hour early entry to the sales floor and VIP lounge, and skip-the-line access to autograph sessions. All passes can be found on creepiecon.com.