The idea almost makes too much sense. Create an event that combines an appreciation for the gory fiction of horror films with the real world of paranormal research.
Turns out that when ScareFest co-founders Jeff Waldridge and Patti Starr came up with the idea to do a horror and paranormal convention in 2006, nobody had done it before — and nobody wanted to.
"Convention insiders, they said it would not work. Everybody kind of frowned on the idea," Waldridge said.
Those opposed to the idea are probably feeling silly in hindsight. The first ScareFest, in Lexington in 2008, accomplished what most conventions can't do in their first year: It was a success right out of the gate.
With a lot of advertising and the luck of landing featured guests Bill Moseley and Sig Heig (from Rob Zombie-directed films House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects) and several key players from the cast and crew of the original Friday the 13th, ScareFest drew roughly 5,000 attendees and, according to Waldridge, helped spawn a slew of copycat horror/paranormal conventions across the country.
ScareFest 6, this weekend at the Lexington Convention Center, is chock-full of seminars, panels, activities and stars from the worlds of TV, film and paranormal programs.
But two of ScareFest's big "gets" come in the form of an acting legend — Malcolm McDowell — and a chunk of the cast of one of TV's most popular shows — HBO's True Blood.
"I know people out there are huge fans of True Blood," Waldridge said. "We went after them and we got them."
Waldridge said that in addition to putting horror and the paranormal into focus, a new feature, the "Portal," will allow for the incorporation of other genres and interests, including gaming, video games, sports entertainers from the world of professional wrestling and other aspects of pop culture.
"Our goal from the beginning was to be the ultimate fan convention in this part of the area, so we're going to dabble a little bit," he said. "We try to overwhelm the fans."
Here are chats with two of Scarefest's high-profile guests.
Trammell's character on HBO's True Blood has experienced more than a few changes. His character, bar owner and "shifter" Sam Merlotte, can morph into almost any creature, and the series' plot has twisted and turned wildly over six seasons.
But the way Trammell sees it, his character might be the one who has stayed true to his roots.
"I think Sam is a person who doesn't change a whole lot," Trammell said. "I think he's sort of a moral center and a grounding element of the show."
Before Trammell landed the role of Sam Merlotte, the Charleston, W.Va., native by way of New Orleans built a solid reputation on the New York stage, earning a Tony nomination for Ah, Wilderness! in 1998.
Since True Blood debuted in 2008, Trammell says, it has helped usher in a renewed interest in mysterious bloodsuckers.
"I think we were as influential as Twilight in bringing back the vampire genre," Trammell said. "Our energy brought all that back."
As True Blood has grown, so have the number of characters, types of supernatural creatures and story lines. Trammell said it's hard to keep track of everything at times (a frequent fan complaint) and he is often surprised at what the show's writers come up with.
Of course, the first thing that caught him by surprise was how often Sam would appear on screen wearing, well, not much of anything.
I didnt really think how much nudity I was going to be doing, Trammell said. You dont think that once you shift and then you shift back, youre miles away from your clothes.
Now, with the show's final episodes planned for next summer, Trammell said appearances at ScareFest types of events will become more rare.
"It's definitely going to be moderately nostalgic," Trammell said. "Now, you know it's ending. It's definitely make it special."
Trammell will appear at ScareFest on Saturday and Sunday.
Getting the chance to see McDowell at a convention is somewhat rare. He said he does about two such events a year. That's because the actor from A Clockwork Orange is an in-demand actor more than 40 years after the debut of that film.
"I've been working pretty hard for the past few years," he said. "It's such a great joy. I'll never sort of understand how they pay me."
At 70, he said, "I'm offered a certain kind of role now, usually the old guy. There's lots of really wonderful television that I've been fortunate to be a part of."
McDowell was supposed to appear at ScareFest last year, but he had to cancel to undergo emergency eye surgery. He said he wanted to make an appearance at ScareFest 6 to make up for his absence last year, and he had heard wonderful things about the event from past guests.
McDowell said he has no intention of slowing down, but he does appreciate the chance to stop and interact with fans.
"When you're doing it, you think you're only doing it for yourself," he said. "If I can have moved anyone by my role, then I'm thrilled. If I can make them laugh, I'm even more thrilled."
IF YOU GO
What: Sixth edition of the paranormal and horror fan convention. Guests include Malcolm McDowell, True Blood cast members Sam Trammell, Rutina Wesley, Jim Parrack, Janina Gavankar and Jessica Clark (Lilith); Sam Witwer (Aidan Waite from Being Human, the voice of Darth Maul on the TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars); director Sean Cunningham (the original Friday the 13th); and the return of Chandler Riggs (Carl from The Walking Dead); and the stars of popular reality shows like Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, Haunted Collector and other paranormal investigators.
When: 5-10 p.m. Sept. 13, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 14, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 15.
Where: Lexington Convention Center, 430 W. Vine St.
Tickets: $15-$25 for one day, $60 for a three-day pass; free for children 12 and younger; free for military, fire, police, EMS and corrections officers with ID on Sept. 13.
Learn more: Scarefestcon.com.
Blake Hannon is a Mount Sterling-based writer.