Murder and mayhem; Ghosts and goblins! A Parthenon of mystical creatures from the paranormal to the supernatural to the extraterrestrial represents humanity’s obsession with horror.
What better way to celebrate a genre so entrenched in our culture than with a convention dedicated to it?
If you’re a fan of horror, you will want to check out these epic horror conventions that take place throughout the US.
Why Horror Conventions?
Horror conventions honor the genre’s status as an age-old fascination and allow fans to meet their favorite horror actors, writers, and producers. Patrons showcase their love of the art form with cosplay, parties, and meetups representing treasured works.
Here are the top reasons to visit a horror convention near you.
Celebrating the Genre
It started with Nosferatu, Dracula, the wolfman, and Frankenstein. Over time, vampires and werewolves were replaced with psycho killers and gruesome chainsaw massacres, which were eventually replaced with chilling psychological thrillers.
Now, horror films run the gambit. Some showcase gory scenes in all-too-realistic ways, while others haunt your mind, making your skin crawl with sound and lighting effects rather than gore.
Horror films may feature a wide range of monsters, from the classic zombies and swamp things to demons, aliens, ghouls, or people turned into deranged killers.
The genre continues to make an impact on society. Horror conventions are weekend-long tributes to a subset of film and literature capturing the darkest parts of the imagination.
One of the top draws of a horror convention is the chance to meet favorite celebrities. Many of horror’s biggest stars have participated in conventions throughout the years. As guests change from year to year, we can’t judge an event on which stars decide to show up, but many try their best to get a wide range of guests from numerous iconic films.
Most conventions offer two ways to interact with your favorite stars: the photo op and the autograph signing.
Attendees pay a premium for the photo-op and are guaranteed a professional photograph with the actor. Keep in mind that these are highly structured, and you will have little opportunity to talk to or interact with the celebrity during the shoot outside of asking for what you want in the photo. Please be considerate and remember that although famous, the person next to you is still a human, and don’t ask them to do anything inappropriate for the sake of your photo.
Guests also sit at tables and sign autographs for lines of guests. The price for these signings varies. Some may be included in your ticket, while others charge a small fee at the table. There is no guarantee that any guest will be available for autograph signing.
Many horror conventions include a horror film festival to celebrate classic films or promote independent filmmakers. Screenings may consist of new feature films, old 1980s “b-flicks,” or winners of a film festival award.
Each convention makes its own decision on which films to screen. Some don’t offer film screenings, while others consider the film festival the main event, with the rest of the horror a bonus.
Fans of horror will love the opportunity to see some classic films on the big screen or get a sneak peek at the newest ideas in the genre.
One of the best things about attending a horror convention is the costumes. Fans get really into it, and it’s stunning to see their creativity flow through them in the form of cosplay.
You’ll see traditional monsters like werewolves, zombies, and Frankenstein, mingle with your favorite horror movie characters like Freddy and Jason, and even see people who create their own horrific creatures.
You’ll be terrified and delighted at the wide range of costumes fans created to celebrate horror’s most popular icons.
Shop the Merch
Horror convention vendors know their audiences. Every convention abounds with vendors offering wares celebrating horror in all forms. You’ll find vampire hunting kits and spell books, horror movie posters and exclusive film merchandise, and loads of books, movies, and other items celebrating all things macabre.
Many vendors offer homemade wares, such as artwork and jewelry with an eerie or gothic feel, while others stick to t-shirts and collectibles. Regardless of your interest, you’re likely to find something at one of the numerous shops to scratch the itch.
Mingle with Fellow Fans
In the real world, your friends may roll their eyes when you get on a rant about how George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is far superior to the more modernized zombie flick Resident Evil. They may veto your movie night picks of bad horror films or Hitchcock classics.
But fellow convention attendees will get it.
They understand your love of all things creepy and unnerving in film and will be happy to discuss the best remakes and worst special effects in scary movies.
Conventions offer an unapparelled opportunity to meet and mingle with people who share your specific interest. Who knows, you may meet a new lifelong friend!
The Best Horror Conventions in the US
Now that you’re pumped to attend your first horror con, here are some great ones around the US you should add to your bucket list!
ScareFest Horror & Paranormal Convention (Lexington, KY)
One of the best things about ScareFest is the slew of celebrities from iconic movies that attend. Fans can purchase photo ops with actors from classic horror movies such as Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes, Friday the 13th, and so many more! The 2022 fest features over 50 special guests ranging from minor characters to high-profile stars like Robert Englund!
Celebrities aren’t the only attraction. Guests can also have their photo taken with iconic pieces of film history, such as the car from Christine, or learn from the pros at one of the many seminars offered throughout the weekend. Fans of horror won’t want to miss this one!
ScareFest typically occurs the weekend before Halloween.
FlashBack Weekend Chicago Horror Convention (Chicago)
Chicago’s biggest horror convention has a unique twist – its mission is to celebrate horror classics and pay homage to the drive-in theater and 35 mm film that made horror movies iconic.
All proceeds from the event go to the preservation of the Midway Drive-in, an iconic theater located about two hours west of Chicago.
Guests include actors, producers, and costume designers from cult classic horror flicks and popular slasher films. Chicago’s most famous vampire, Svengoolie, typically makes an appearance as well.
Flashback weekend also includes the Vampire’s Ball costume party, costume contest, hundreds of vendors, and a variety of panels discussing the iconic genre.
Flashback weekend is an annual event that typically takes place in the late summer.
Spooky Spectacle (Granbury, TX)
Jen Sulak, wedding photographer and artist behind Pink Light Images, regularly attends the Spooky Spectacle horror/paranormal convention in Granbury, TX. Although smaller than most horror conventions, what the Spooky Spectacle lacks in size, it makes up in charm.
Past celebrity guests include Sean Whalen, an actor with numerous horror movies under his belt, including Idle Hands and Halloween II, and one of the actors who portrayed one of the Pinhead characters from the hit series Hellraiser. The special guests discuss what it’s like on the set, including the grueling hours of makeup they had to endure.
Sulak’s favorite aspects of the convention are the chill atmosphere and the panel discussions. She loves the opportunity to hang out with people from around the world who share her passion, and she believes the smaller, niche crowd offers fans better opportunities to ask in-depth questions during panels.
The Spooky Spectacle typically occurs in the last week of September.
Monster-Mania Con (Delaware Valley)
Monster-Mania is so good they often have more than one each year! The convention is held in the Delaware Valley tri-state area every year, moving between Philadelphia, Maryland, and New Jersey. In 2022, Monster-Mania 51 took place in Hunt Valley, MD, just outside Baltimore, while Monster-Mania 52 occurred a month later outside Philadelphia.
Both events featured a wide array of special guests from horror ranging from the classic slasher films, such as a Nightmare on Elm Street, to modern hits like The Walking Dead. The con offers both autographing signings and photo ops.
Although celebrities are the biggest draw to Monster-Mania, it also includes a variety of vendors dealing in macabre gifts and memorabilia and hosts tattoo artists specializing in horror designs.
Monster-Mania typically occurs in Oct/Nov.
Texas Frightmare Weekend (Dallas)
Texas Frightmare weekend, often referred to as Texas Horror Weekend, is one of the largest horror conventions in the United States. Celebrity guests include filmmakers, musicians, and actors in the horror genre. The 2023 convention already announced a guest appearance by John Carpenter, the legendary filmmaker behind horror classics like Christine and Halloween.
Texas Frightmare Weekend is not all about celebrities. Special events include film screenings, exclusive parties, silent auctions, and much more. The convention also welcomes hundreds of vendors showcasing their original artisan keepsakes and genre-specific merchandise such as t-shirts, masks, and other collectibles.
Texas Frightmare Weekend typically occurs in March in the greater Dallas metropolitan area.
New Jersey Horror Con (Atlantic City)
Atlantic City’s horror convention is a combined horror convention/film festival bursting with special events, panels, and celebrity guests.
One of the biggest draws of this convention is the independent horror film festival. Aspiring filmmakers can submit their masterpieces for a chance to win a screening. They may also score the opportunity to mingle with Hollywood producers!
New Jersey Horror Con also includes a variety of guest appearances by celebrities from Horror Classics like Children of the Corn, Friday the 13th, and Scary Movie. Some special guests even agree to come in costume to let fans get the perfect photo shoot!
New Jersey Horror Con typically occurs annually but can be found in either March or September. It has a sister convention, PA Horror Con, which takes place near the end of summer in the Lehigh Valley, PA.
To get in the spirit before the festival, check out their podcast!
Full Moon Tattoo & Horror Festival (Nashville)
Brittany Mendez, CMO of Florida Panhandle and a huge fan of the horror genre, favors the Full Moon Tattoo & Horror Festival held in Nashville annually. Mendez was delighted by the abundance of indie filmmakers, celebrities from horror films, and fan favorite collections present throughout the festival.
Her favorite memory (and keepsake!) is a photo op with actor Bill Moseley, famous for his roles in films such as The Devil’s Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses.
The fun doesn’t end with actors and photo-ops. Full Moon Tattoo & Horror Festival celebrates horror enthusiasts from all walks. Artisans selling horror dolls, handmade jewelry, and terrifying art fill the halls, along with tattoo artists happy to help fans remember the festival with representative body art.
The Full Moon Tattoo & Horror Festival takes place annually in mid-April.
Tampa Bay Screams (Tampa Bay)
Tampa Bay Screams is a newer convention created by actor Sean Donohue in conjunction with his Gatorade Films brand in the early 2010s. Due to the novelty, you may not find as many big-name horror stars, but what the con lacks in celebrity, it makes up in charm.
The convention includes an epic film festival coordinated by Grindhouse Films and several vendors showcasing their horrific wares. The cozy atmosphere allows guests to mingle and interact with guests on a more personal level.
The Tampa Bay Screams Convention doesn’t take place at the same time each year. It occurred in June, August, and April, so check the website for updates if you want to attend.
Horror Hound Weekend (Location Moves)
Horror Hound Weekend is a celebration of independent horror films. The main event is the Horror Hound Film Festival, showcasing shorts and full-length productions from a wide range of independent filmmakers across the country.
The scary movies aren’t the only attraction, though. Horror Hound attracts many big-name celebrity guests – some of the biggest on the list so far! Past guests include Norman Reedus, Jamie Lee Curtis, and John Carpenter!
Horror Hound weekend also includes a costume contest and after-hours party with live music. There’s something for everyone at this fantastic event!
Horror Hound typically takes place twice per year, in March and September. Although Cincinnati and Indianapolis are the primary cities, it has popped up in other places from time to time.
Spooky Empire (Orlando)
Spooky Empire hosts two iconic horror conventions each year, one in the spring and the ultimate Halloween Horror Convention in October. The October event is usually more extensive, though both cons burst with events, celebrities, and vendors.
Past celebrity guests include Christina Ricci, Jason Patrick, and Daniel Roebuck, but the festival offers far more than autograph signings. It features one of the largest zombie walks in the country, a “creators track” for writers and fans of horror literature, and the massive witches’ ball dance party.
The horror conventions also include a film festival, tattoo festival, and costume contest.
(Son of) Monsterpalooza is a horror con jam-packed with panels, film screenings, and special celebrity guests.
Guests have included celebrities such as Peter Weller and Linda Blair, along with various actors from films across the genre. The event also features over 50 vendors selling everything from terrifying dolls to horror sketches. There are even make-up designers to help you transform into an epic monstrosity!
Panels include discussions on make-up, visual effects in film, horror tropes, and in-depth analysis of important films. The 2022 Monsterpalooza con featured Mick Garris, author and mastermind behind Masters of Horror, a Showtime original giving complete creative freedom to some of the genre’s most iconic directors and producers.
Monsterpalooza takes place in the Los Angeles area in October.
Spookala is a horror convention that expands beyond film and tattoos. It’s a celebration of all things horror and even promotes popular true crime podcasts. Guests include actors from horror films, but you may also find professional wrestlers on the docket.
The event also includes a wide range of vendors for your horror shopping desires and musical performances.
Spookala is not held at a specific time but typically occurs in Ocala, Florida. Spookala often hosts a convention twice a year, so there are plenty of opportunities to catch an event. Be sure to check their Facebook page for up-to-date information.
A Fascinating Subgenre of Horror Conventions: The Haunted House Convention
Erin Wilson, the mastermind behind the creative Halloween recipes on ChaChing Queen, discovered a different kind of horror convention, the haunted house convention. Wilson worked as a manager at the largest haunted house complex in St. Louis for many years and attended numerous haunted house conventions as a result.
Her favorite is Transworld’s Halloween & Attractions Show, the country’s largest haunted house trade show, which takes place in St. Louis in February/March each year.
Although Transworld and most other haunted house conventions are geared more towards industry insiders than enthusiasts, they are open to the public, and horror fans can sneak a behind-the-scenes peek at everything that goes into making a haunted attraction come to life.
Wilson estimates that attendees are approximately 70% insiders and 30% enthusiasts but thinks that if more fans start attending, the conventions will add more seminars and classes catering to them. Currently, many of the events are aimed toward haunted house owners, offering tips and advice on running a business and showcasing the latest in animatronic technology. Regardless, rabid horror fans will enjoy the chance to see everything that goes into making a successful haunted house.
Haunted House Conventions usually occur in February/March, giving proprietors plenty of time to plan their events before Halloween.
Horror Conventions to Skip
The World Horror Convention
The World Horror Convention was a celebration of the horror genre in literature. Unfortunately, the convention hasn’t been active since 2016, and although the website is still live, it’s doubtful that the convention will return.
The ShockaCon horror convention used to be West Virginia’s premier horror convention, but unfortunately, they haven’t hosted an event since 2019, and the website now redirects to a gambling website.
Grab Your Ticket to a Horror Convention!
Are you ready to celebrate the scariest movies and most iconic creatures ever featured in film and literature? Grab your ticket to one of the top-rated horror conventions and immerse yourself in frightening fun for the weekend!