by Jaimz Dillman
Photos courtesy of The Original Guide to Spooky and Spooky Empire
It's no secret the pandemic of 2020 has hit the entertainment industry pretty hard. Nowhere is that more evident than the convention scene which is huge in Orlando, Florida. Cancellations came one after another as the positive COVID cases went up and stay-in orders went out. The con crowds were definitely feeling the void with nowhere to safely meet up, cosplay, shop, or see favorite celebrities. That is until SPOOKY EMPIRE - the dark side of comic con- popped up in December. Creators Petey and Gina Mongelli worked diligently with host hotel Wyndham to create a safe space for vendors and guests alike for a small holiday event enticing those who enjoy horror and mayhem to come out December 12-13th. "We are very grateful that we could put together an event, safely and successfully, with the help of the staff and local community." said Mongelli
What once was billed as a horror convention, Spooky has now turned into a judgment-free zone for all who live on the fringe of "normal". Those creepy loving goth kids who lurk in dark corners and dress all in black. The cosplayers who prefer to roam in latex masks and makeup like their favorite slashers. The celebrities who make the movies we all get chills from. Artists who create one-of-a-kind toys, accessories, clothing, pictures, paintings, and all other sorts of collectibles...here they get their shot at selling unique items you can't find anywhere else. "One of the comments I heard throughout the weekend was something like 'OMG I can wear this here and people get it'. I think I can safely say that this was very reminiscent of why many of us fell in love with this odd freakshow (& I mean that as a compliment) to begin with." said Demmie Von Grimm who also runs the Original Guide to Spooky, a fan-based weekly Youtube gathering of folks who discuss upcoming events, celebrity appearances, and what makes this convention stand out from all others
First time vendor Mylissa Artreche of Vinty Moon Company (vintymoon.com) said, "It went really well for me. Petey stopped by to make sure we were all good and the attendees were really positive. For my first time vending with Spooky, I was very happy." Two ballrooms were provided to house the vendors spread out nicely selling various horror and holiday items- everyone was masked and directional arrows kept the flow of traffic going one way to avoid too many groups gathering together. "Being a long-time vendor at SPOOKY EMPIRE this is one event that I will never forget. We needed it. We're a big family and this made the 2020 holiday season amazing." said Rick Styczynski, owner of 13x Studios, maker of custom hockey masks (13xstudios.com).
Tickets were sold in advance online only with limited numbers available to ensure social distancing would be possible. While there have been a few other smaller cons who pushed forward this year, a total sell-out of Saturday's tickets for SPOOKY EMPIRE proved it to be the most successful convention of the year. Mongelli continued, "This weekend was much needed and we hope that it was a benefit to many, both financially and mentally."
Guests this round were treated to the opportunity to meet Krampus, Alex Vincent from Child's Play, movie host Joe Bob Briggs, Felissa Rose from Sleepaway Camp, Dave Sheridan from Scary Movie and Devil's Rejects, and classic monster Creature From the Black Lagoon himself- Ricou Browning. Vincent said "Always a blast at SPOOKY EMPIRE! Some of the biggest and most respectful horror fans around!"
Being an attendee myself, it almost felt like a regular day with loads of costumed characters roaming the halls, people stopping to take quick photos, and merchandise available you won't find anywhere else. The exception, of course, were the masked smiles, lack of hugs and handshakes exchanging, no celebrity panel q and a's this time to prevent large crowds, and no evening pool parties. For an event that has happened bi-annually for many years, it's also a reunion of sorts with friendships made in hallway conversations, families attending with their kids, and even weddings that have taken place in the past. "This Spooky was, and I think we all can say the same, exactly what we needed after this dumpster fire of a year. Petey and Gina really captured lightning in a bottle... in that THIS was the perfect way to spend a holiday weekend, with the other weirdos who GET you." says Von Grimm.
Plans for 2021 include a late April/May date back at Wyndham for retro-weekend and the bigger event in October at previous host hotel Hyatt Regency. And I know I'm already looking forward to the next round of frightening fun from the Spooky crew! All show, celebrity, and vending information can be found at SpookyEmpire.com