By: Jaimz Dillman
What better way to come back from a pandemic than to blow out the biggest horror and rock 'n roll convention in Florida? And that's exactly what SPOOKY EMPIRE did the weekend of October 22-24 at the Hyatt Regency on I-Drive in the heart of Orlando.
Attendance was already past expectations before the gates even opened, with VIP selling out a few days before. Staff saw a record number of walk-up ticket purchases, as well. People were ready to have their spooky itch scratched! Headliner celebrity guests included Kathy Najimy of Hocus Pocus, Sheralyn Fenn from Twin Peaks, Lance Henrickson of Aliens notoriety, and with lines wrapping through the hotel lobby, Robert Englund of A Nightmare on Elm Street fame.
Panel Q&A's gave folks the chance to ask their favorite celebrities questions they've always wondered. At Englund's panel, which included fans of all ages, when asked what his favorite kill was from a younger "Freddy fan", his response was "What a strange question from a child!" The room erupted in laughter and applause.
The notorious vendor room was bigger than ever, with one-of-a-kind art, and items you'll only find at the dark side of Comic Con. "Spooky Empire was a great ride, once again. I am so humbled and grateful for the staff, volunteers and patrons that make this con the best I have been to. Spooky Empire Attendees and Spooky Empire, Inc. thank you, thank you , thank you," Linda Comstock Janssen of Deviant Dolls said.
Attendees were thrilled to have the con return to Orlando after being in Tampa for a year, and then cancelled due to the pandemic. Costumed in every form of slasher and slayer, even the kids got in on the hacktion with over 20 entries in the kids' costume contest Saturday. Winners were a mini-Chucky, who went home with a custom Spooky car, and an original-creation stilt monster grabbed the trophy. All participants received medals or goodie bags of candy for their courage to get on stage and pose.
Loads of extras were offered through the three-day event. Burlesque troupes entertained Friday and Saturday night, the VIP party was decked out thanks to Cocktails and Screams, and Lee Forrest Design, plus Rocky Horror was a hit, complete with a shadow cast. Lucky guests who grabbed a limited spot to SPX classes learned some tricks of the trade from top professionals, and over 400 entries in the film fest were screened morning to night. Hard-core ink enthusiasts filled the tattoo room as well, with awards given daily for the best permanent souvenir.
Longtime Spooky fan Cyn Sellards said, "I'm so grateful for SPOOKY giving us Halloween back this year. The guests, the panels, the vendors, and most of all being able to be with our SPOOKY family. It's the best time of year!"
Sunday wrapped festivities up with the grand costume contest, awarding over $1,000 in cash and prizes, including two custom guitars from Mohawk crew, styled after The Terrifier and A Nightmare on Elm Street, as guests from the two movies were in attendance to sign their respective pieces. Best in show went to a xenomorph girl and Moth ma'am grabbed best craftsmanship. Best look-a-like was handed to Hellboy and Abe Sapien. As the audience filtered out, ballots were cast for People's Choice, which will be awarded at SPOOKY's mayhem show sometime next summer. The complete competition can be viewed below:
Already looking toward to what's next, a pop-up holiday event has been announced for December 11 and 12 at the Wyndham on I-drive, with favorite vendors and talk of a few select invited celebrities. Getting a little taste of horror in your holidays will tide everyone over until the calendar changes, and we gear up for another round of costumes and chaos.
So get to planning those cosplays and costumes, with this ever-growing event, it almost feels like SPOOKY time is all the time.