Poe Sundays

Spirits of the Dead
by Edgar Allan Poe

Thy soul shall find itself alone
‘Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone —
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy:
Be silent in that solitude
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead who stood
In life before thee are again
In death around thee — and their will
Shall then overshadow thee: be still.
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Midsummer Scream 2018 Recap

Halloween lovers and horror fans (aka screamers) gathered over the weekend at the Long Beach Convention Center to kick-off the unofficial start of the 2018 Halloween season, as Midsummer Scream returned for its third year. This spectacular convention celebrates Halloween, haunts and horror. Here’s a recap of convention highlights:

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Hall of Shadows

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The Hall of Shadows was split this year between haunters, vendors, filmmakers and special effects on one side, and the interactive scare zone on the other, where SoCal’s top haunters previewed their upcoming spooky haunts for fall.

The Hall main stage featured everything from zombie burlesque to the classical quartet Nostalgic Nebula. The flexible and talented Decayed Brigade, SoCal Sliders, returned with a brand new show. My personal favorites were Murder House Production’s Trick ‘r Treat maze and The Haunt Store’s display of those awesome AtmosFX projections.

Six Flag Unleashed showed off their glow-in-the-dark world, with the most talented folks on stilts I’ve ever seen.

Warner Bros. Studio Tours showed off costumes and props from It and The Nun, in promotion of the upcoming Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights, starting in October.

The Show Floor

This year, there was an abundance of creepy and unique creations from some exceptionally talented artists and creators, where screamers could find everything and anything relating to Halloween and horror.

Screamers over 21 were able to get a blue wristband and purchase adult beverages at bar stations around the convention hall, or one of two cash bar attractions hosted by Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place and Slashback Video, courtesy of Bearded Lady’s Mystic Museum.

SoCal Valley Haunters & Classrooms

Thinking of creating your own decorations for Halloween but don’t know where to start? Well, Midsummer Scream had you covered. On the Show Floor, SoCal Valley Haunters taught screamers how to create their own tombstones, carve foam pumpkins, make lanterns and village displays, with the help of Dept. 56. Down the hall, classes on Halloween floral arrangements, budget decorating, yard displays and more, inspired a whole new generation of Halloween designers.

Theater Macabre, Black Cat Lounge, Screaming Room and Second Stage

Screamers flocked to the upstairs second floor, where they could fall in love with rescue kittens in the Black Cat Lounge, or attend haunt shows and theater presentations from Bob Baker Marionette Theater, Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater Urban Death, and many others. Inside the Screaming room, screamers could watch horror shorts and listen to spooky stories. A nice respite for weary feet.

The Grand Ballroom

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The Grand Ballroom, which seats about 2100 people, offered sneak peek presentations on this fall’s upcoming horror theme park and haunted attractions, and two very special panels:

On Saturday, screamers celebrated the 30th anniversary of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark movie, where they were treated to interview clips of cast of the movie and with amusing, funny and witty anecdotes from the Mistress of the Dark herself, Cassandra Peterson.

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On Sunday, screamers packed the room again for the 25th anniversary of Hocus Pocus and hear behind-the-scene stories. After an incredible live performance from The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Hocus Pocus, the panel featured actress Thora Birch, who played Dani, producer David Kirschner, screenwriter Mick Garris, composer John Debney, production designer William Sandell and make-up and special effects artist Tony Gardner.

Elvira, Mistress of Midsummer Scream

mss2 curtesy of NBC
Photo ©NBC

The fabulous Cassandra Peterson spent two days signing autographs at her booth, where Elvira’s Boo-tique and Sweet Hollywood were selling candy, clothing, novelty items and other amazing Elvira wares. I swear this woman has done a deal with devil or something because she does not age! This past year, Cassandra retired Elvira from doing Knott’s Scary Farm and I heard she’s cutting back her schedule, possibly to work on an autobiography?  In any event, it’s so great to see her at Midsummer Scream. I hope she returns next year!

That pretty much wraps up my experience. I’m sure I missed a ton of stuff because there’s just so much to do and see.

Midsummer Scream is now my favorite  horror convention. I have a feeling this show is only going to grow and get better. Highly recommended for Halloween and horror fans.

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Some of the goodies I bought at the show.

 

Craft beer and tombstones

 

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Festival Obscura, a craft beer benefit for California’s oldest cemetery, Sunnyside Cemetery in Long Beach. This amazing sold-out event featured beer, cider, wine, arts and crafts, historians, live music, a killer silent auction, and all the charm that a 108-year old struggling cemetery could muster in the middle of summer.

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Two decades after the former owner was convicted of embezzling over $500,000 from the cemetery’s million-dollar endowment fund, and with no more room to sell future plots, Sunnyside faces a bleak future. Sunnyside is now run by a non-profit board consisting of two employees, family members with loved ones who reside at the cemetery and a dedicated group of volunteer friends. The group has been forced to get creative to raise money for care and grounds upkeep. Aside from the modest funds left over from the endowment and the occasional film shoot, event fundraisers are held throughout the year to help keep Sunnyside afloat.

 

Festival Obscura founders Martin Svab, Co-Owner and Founder of Phantom Carriage Brewery, and Ryan Hughes, Director of Sales for Phantom Carriage helped bring in over 40 of the best of SoCal breweries and wineries. There were unlimited drink pours and event organizers smartly chose to hand out free 4oz commemorative glass to all wristband holders at the end of the event, to ensure no broken glass found their way onto the grounds. Essentia and Hops H20 provided free water to ensure everyone stayed hydrated. Live music provided by The Hollow Legs and Pompous. There were some fabulous art and horror wares available for sale. Friends of Sunnyside and historians set up booths where you could get more information on the cemetery, and I even heard they had a couple of morticians on hand.

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While waiting in long lines for food and the bathroom, people chatted away, shared sunscreen and made new friends. We all reached the same conclusion, craft beer representation was phenomenal, but more food trucks and porta-potties were needed. Ten Mile Brewing graciously allowed festival patrons to use their facilities, located right across the street. People had limited choices in food. I opted for pizza from Duemani Pizza, which was baked fresh and delicious.  I heard they ran out pizza moments after placing my order. Despite those few hiccups, the event was perfectly organized and seemed to be running smoothly.

 

I’ve been to plenty of horror conventions and beer festivals, and this was a delightful marriage between the two industries coming together for a great cause. It’s such a shame to hear of Sunnyside’s woes since the somber little cemetery is steeped in such great history. You can learn so much about Long Beach’s earliest residents just by strolling among the grave markers. Ironically, the lack of proper irrigation has given rise to some spooky looking trees, hovering over those aging marble headstones.  It made for some pretty spectacular shadowy views.

 

All in all, craft beer and tombstones are a winning combination and I hope Festival Obscura will be back next year.

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