The ScareFest Horror and Paranormal Convention in Lexington is unique for some pretty big reasons. Not only was the convention the first to combine the fictional realm of the horror genre with the ghostly and spiritual world of real-life paranormal investigation, it has become the largest, independently-owned horror and paranormal convention in the country.
But ScareFest is also unique for small touches like what star liaison Jeremy Stanley and other Scarefest staff will be doing this week. Even in its ninth year, they will be making multiple trips to the Lexington International Airport to pick up all celebrity guests that are flying in. Sure, they could just send a shuttle but Stanley, who was involved with the very first ScareFest when it was simply an ambitious idea, thinks it’s a rare but symbolic gesture most conventions don’t do.
“When we decided to do this, we said we were going to do it all personally,” he said.
ScareFest 9, which takes place this weekend, will feature 50 celebrity guests from the worlds of horror and paranormal investigation, some unexpected stars from the realms of wrestling, hard rock and pop culture, and three days worth of seminars, panels and a variety of activities for all ages.
Back to Camp Crystal Lake
The event’s biggest attraction this year has ScareFest going back to its roots. The very first convention back in 2008 featured 18 guests, and among them were several key cast members from the legendary Friday the 13th franchise. This year, the affectionately dubbed Camp ScareFest will feature the largest reunion of Friday the 13th alumni in the region, including Steve Dash (the original Jason Voorhees), Kane Hodder (the actor who has portrayed Jason the most) all of the female actresses who actually survived the killer’s carnage in movies and Steven Williams (bounty hunter Creighton Duke from Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday), just to name a few. This reunion will also coincide with the debut of the highly anticipated Friday the 13th video game at the convention.
“This is a game that people have been waiting on for 30 years,” Stanley said. “It’s been in development for quite a few years and it’s finally here. People are excited about it.”
ScareFest 9 continues its streak of bringing in cast members from new, well-known and cult horror franchises. Several cast members from director, music star Rob Zombie’s recently released film “31” will be in attendance, including the return of “A Clockwork Orange” star Malcolm McDowell. Representing Wes Craven’s “Scream” films will be actors Matthew Lillard (Stuart) and Skeet Ulrich (Billy Loomis). Ulrich, who also starred in witchcraft horror flick “The Craft” will be a part of a mini-reunion thanks to an appearance from fellow castmate Rachel True (Rochelle). There will be four of the main cast members from “The People Under the Stairs” taking group photos for the film’s 25th anniversary and two actors from Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn,” and that doesn’t even include guests in attendance who have starred in horror fan favorites like the “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchises.
“We try to have really iconic horror represented every year, whether it is one cast member of 10,” Stanley said.
The wrestling connection
One thing that has been an unexpected hit with the horror and paranormal fans at ScareFest is incorporating the word of professional wrestling. This started in the event’s second festival, when it brought in George the Animal Steel, and the convention continues to bring in stars and legends from the wrestling world to the fans’ delight.
“Wrestling and horror, and me being a fan of both myself, have always gone together,” Stanley said. “Nobody really knows why, but it just does.”
The biggest wrestling name on ScareFest 9 certainly has some crossover appeal. Kevin Nash was a star in both as Diesel in the then-WWF and later as one of the original members of the N.W.O. in the WCW. He has gone on to be a successful actor, most notably appearing as the male stripper Tarzan alongside Channing Tatum in “Magic Mike” and “Magic Mike XXL.”
With Stanley’s personal relationship with Nash and his body of work (no pun intended) as both an actor and wrestler, he thought his appearance could fill a festival need.
“Walking around these last nine years, I’ve seen it a lot. The husbands are literally dragging their wives around,” he said. So they decided to look for stars that would appeal to both.
Of course, the fictional realm is only half of the ScareFest equation. The supernatural — and those who explore it, investigate it and obsess over it — will be heavily represented.
Some of this year’s guests include some big draws from the world of paranormal investigation, whether it’s Steve Gonsalves, Dave Tango and Jason Hawes from SyFy channel’s Ghost Hunters, world-renowned demonologist Jason Love (who is flying all the way in from Scotland) and producer and filmmaker Christopher Saint Booth from Destination America’s The Possessed. There will also be some returning favorites in the form of The Happy Medium Kim Russo (The Haunting Of on Lifetime) and Chip Coffey from A&E’s Psychic Kids and Paranormal State.
“We have Chip every year. He’s a ScareFest staple,” Santley said. “I think fans would probably riot if Chip wasn’t there.”
Despite the festival’s focus, Stanley said ScareFest has always been for families and the fans. There will be several parties and events taking place outside of the Lexington Center throughout the weekend, and Sunday is a kid day where children can build haunted bird houses, play games and participate in coloring and costume contests with either free or discounted admission depending on age.
Prior to the festival each year, Stanley said he receives upwards of 10,000 emails with recommendations for future guests and suggestions from fans that organizers always try to consider. And every year, based on the reaction of attendees, they always seem to deliver.
“I think that the fans have that much confidence in us and know it’s going to be a great show because that’s what it all is: It’s fan-oriented,” Stanley said. “We have grown into exactly what we say we are.”
Blake Hannon: firstname.lastname@example.org.