Lexington’s Scarefest has always blended elements of horror movies with the field of paranormal investigation.
But in its 11th year, ScareFest has become more than a celebrity-filled weekend of ghastly and ghostly chills and thrills.
“This weekend has gone from being a convention to almost being a vacation destination for people,” said Nicole Griffith, who has been the co-owner of Scarefest for the past two years along with her husband, Brandon Griffith. “We have people that come in from Australia, that come in from all over the country, to come to ScareFest.”
ScareFest will once again take over the Lexington Convention Center from Sept. 14 through Sept. 16, and we talked to some ScareFest staff to see what hardcore and casual fans of horror and paranormal are the most excited to see.
The draw of “Saw”
The juggernaut horror movie franchise “Saw” and ScareFest practically grew up together, since the first iteration of the groundbreaking film came out 13 years ago in 2004. This year, key players in the franchise like Tobin Bell (Jigsaw), Shawnee Smith (Amanda Young), Costas Mandylor (Mark Hoffman) and director Darren Lynn Bousman (“Saw II,” “Saw III” and “Saw IV”) will be in attendance, along with one non-living character that has fans almost more excited.
“To be honest, people are the most excited about getting their picture with the (Billy the Jigsaw) puppet,” said Nic Brown, media coordinator for Scarefest. “We have a very popular puppet.”
A hostess and host to die for
She may not be in costume, but the very presence of Cassandra Peterson to horror fans instantly triggers memories of the actress portraying the gothic, voluptuous horror hostess Elvira in both her weekly “Elvira’s Movie Macabre” and films like “Elvira: Mistress of the Dark” in the 1980s. As Elvira has become a pop culture icon, Peterson makes regular convention appearances and will once again be a ScareFest fan favorite.
Meanwhile, another person famous for bringing a variety of horror films to the small screen is Joe Bob Briggs, former host of TNT’s “MonsterVision” through the late 1990s. Now, he serves as host of “The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs” on the horror film streaming network Shudder.
“He’s a first-time guest at the Scarefest but he’s getting so much attention from all this,” Brown said. “He kind of made a joke about it that he’s a cicada. Every 17 years, he has a new drive-in show come out.”
A few of of ScareFest’s celebrity guests have practically become convention fixtures over the years.
One of those is Kane Hodder, who has portrayed Jason Voorhees more times than any other actor for the “Friday the 13th” film franchise. Hodder has also more recently crossed into the paranormal side along with fellow Scarefest guest and horror movie goliath R.A. Mihailoff (“Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”).
“He will interact with fans. He is very, very outgoing , very gregarious and he will happily choke you for a photo,” Brown said. “My brother comes every year just to get choked by Kane Hodder.”
On the paranormal end of the spectrum, you have Chip Coffey (A&E’s “Psychic Kid” and “Paranormal State”) once again returning as a convention regular since ScareFest’s earliest years.
Some ghostly returns
ScareFest still holds the distinction of being the largest paranormal convention in the country, and most of the paranormal celebrity guests are not first-timers. These include popular medium Kim Russo (Lifetime’s “The Haunting Of…”), The Tennessee Wraith Chasers, Destination America’s “Ghost Brothers” and a few investigators from one of the seminal paranormal investigative shows “Ghost Hunters.”
The Con is just the beginning
One of the results of ScareFest growing consistently in popularity and attendance every year is how many activities have branched out from the convention itself. People will show up to get autographs from numerous scream queens, paranormal investigators and actors from their favorite horror movies.
“The events are absolutely what makes ScareFest so different than a lot of these conventions,” Griffith said.
Now, they check out VIP parties with elaborate, horror-themed drag shows; check out the family day on Sunday with special vendors and a kid’s costume contest; attend a launch concert Thursday night featuring punk rock and hosted by Dr. Chud from punk icons the Misfits; witness a Kim Russo gallery reading; or go on a special ghost hunt accompanied by the Tennessee Wraith Chasers and the Ghost Brothers to an as-of-yet announced Lexington location.
And in most cases, don’t be surprised if you see some celebrities in attendance at these events.
“The neat thing about ScareFest is our celebrities that come, they know how much fun this is, and they show up at these events too,” Griffith said. “You can have a real conversation with people you see on the big screen.”
IF YOU GO
ScareFest Horror and Paranormal Convention
When: 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16
Where: Lexington Center, 430 W. Vine St.