Halloween is a year-long celebration for Southern California conventions

Halloween is a year-long celebration for Southern California conventions

For some, February marks a time to celebrate love and Valentine’s Day. But for those with a darker heart, it also means horror is in the air.

The second annual Creep I.E. Con horror convention returns to the Ontario Convention Center Feb. 4-5 and it’s expected to attract thousands of horror fans, who are coming out to meet celebrities, walk through pop-up haunts and buy all sorts of creepy and unique wares from vendors.

The convention is also one of the first of several horror and Halloween-themed events scheduled to take place throughout 2023 as they’re no longer restricted to the months of September and October. Horror is now a year-round business in Southern California, fueled by diehard fans who’s spooky celebrations aren’t dictated by a calendar.

“There’s a really cool segment of the convention world and that’s the horror world. It has completely fanatical fans that really enjoy everything about horror culture,” said Brian Boget, co-founder of Creep I.E. Con.

  • Michael Myers meets Santa at last year’s Season’s Screamings. (Photo...

    Michael Myers meets Santa at last year’s Season’s Screamings. (Photo by Richard Guzman)

  • A shopper checks out one of the hundreds of vendors...

    A shopper checks out one of the hundreds of vendors booths at Midsummer Scream. The horror convention is one of several Halloween and horror events that take place in the area throughout the year. (Photo by Chris Husby Hatbox Photography/Midsummer Scream)

  • Crowds lineup to enter Midsummer Scream, which is one of...

    Crowds lineup to enter Midsummer Scream, which is one of several horror and Halloween conventions happening throughout the year in the area. The weekend convention returns in July to Long Beach. (Photo by Chris Husby Hatbox Photography/Midsummer Scream)

  • The first Creep I.E. Con took place last year. It...

    The first Creep I.E. Con took place last year. It returns to the Ontario Convention Center Feb. 4-5. (Photo courtesy Creep I.E.)

  • Brian and Francesca Boget co-founders of Creep I.E. Con. The...

    Brian and Francesca Boget co-founders of Creep I.E. Con. The horror convention comes to the Ontario Convention Center Feb. 4-5. (Photo courtesy Creep I.E.)

  • Oanh Shockley of Norco, Ca gets a selfie with one...

    Oanh Shockley of Norco, Ca gets a selfie with one of the characters at the Season’s Screamings horror convention at the Pasadena Convention Center Saturday, December 3, 2022. (Photo by Kevin Karzin)

“You have so many passionate people attending conventions for superheroes and comic books and now it’s branching out into very passionate people who love horror,” he added. “Horror conventions have been around for a while, but now they’re really picking up fast in popularity and it’s a whole different scene and it’s really cool.”

Creep I.E. is bringing together horror film celebrities including the cast of the “Terrifier” films, with actor David Howard Thornton who portrays Art the Clown in the movies appearing in full costume at the convention on Feb. 4. Other celebrities scheduled to be there include Skeet Ulrich and Jamie Kennedy, who starred together in Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher, “Scream”; Ryan Hurst and Tom Payne from “The Walking Dead”; Bill Mosley and Walter Phelan of “House of 1000 Corpses”; Devon Sawa of “Final Destination” and “Hunter Hunter,” plus Richard Brake and Matthew Patrick Davis from 2022’s hit horror film “Barbarian.”

Creep I.E. will also host hundreds of vendors selling all sorts of collectibles and artwork, plus a walk-thru haunt produced by Fear Farm, a horror prop museum and, since it’s happening just before Valentine’s Day, there’s a Horror Speed Dating session planned for the weekend.

“We thought February was a perfect time for it, it’s a week before Valentine’s and the Super Bowl, it kind of kicks off the con season early and people want to celebrate Halloween and the spooky season all year round now,” Boget said.

The Inland Empire event will be followed in the summer when monsters invade Pasadena at Monsterpalooza June 2-4 at the Pasadena Convention Center. The event, which made its debut in 2009, focuses on monsters, the art of makeup and special effects.

Then evil really gets heated in the summer with the return of Midsummer Scream to Long Beach July 28-30. Thousands of horror fans are expected to flock to the city to check out walk-through haunts, take in a horror film fest, attend panels and hear what other major haunts, like Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, have planned for 2023. This convention was launched in 2016 and had about 40,000 in attendance last year, making it the largest horror event in town.

Things don’t cool off in the fall for conventions since Horrorcon LA, which made its debut last year, creeps back into the Los Angeles Convention Center Sept.30-Oct.1. If you thought you were finally safe during the holidays, think again because that’s when Season’s Screamings is expected to make a comeback to Pasadena in December. It’s a more jolly holiday-themed horror convention that started as a shopping pop-up market by the organizers of Midsummer Scream before becoming a full-fledged attraction in 2021.

Aside from the large conventions, there are also smaller events throughout the year including pop-up markets like the recurring Witches Brew Night Market in Anaheim and Santa Ana, the Spooky Swap Meet taking place April 29-30 at Heritage Square in Los Angeles and the annual Salem’s Market, a Halloween-themed marketplace that’s bringing live music, costume contests and more to Ontario in October.

“I feel it’s become a lifestyle. It’s no longer just a seasonal event. Everyone has their niche and some people just love horror all the time not just a couple of months out of the year,” said Ontario resident Danny Mui, a horror fan and convention vendor who sells custom etched horror characters on glass at several horror conventions and events.

He’s now preparing to set up his booth at Creep I.E.

“I think Creep I.E. has found a good niche out there because before them there were no conventions (in that area),” he said.

Mui has also set up shop at the Midsummer Scream convention, which was co-founded by David Markland, who has long been in the horror business and helped to launch one of the original local conventions, Scare L.A., in 2013.

“When we first did Scare L.A. I was surprised we had 2,000 people there and that audience has just grown,” Markland said. “It’s not just horror, Halloween has it’s own culture around it, people who live and breathe it year-round. It always stuns me how many people are into this stuff and how that seems to be still growing.”

His Midsummer Scream turned out to be such a success that Markland and his partners turned Season’s Screamings into a full convention, that’s about a quarter of the size of Midsummer Scream, that attracts passionate fans of horror like Los Angeles resident Carlos Lopez.

Dressed as a bloody Santa Claus and holding a hatchet with bells on it, the 33-year-old was at the 2022 Season’s Screamings event, where he said he felt at home among the monsters, zombies and other creatures.

“I love everything about it, the people, the costumes, the haunted houses and all the stuff you can buy,” he said as he waited in line to enter one of the mini walk-through haunts at Season’s Screamings.

And after getting a few jump scares in at the Valley Fright Nights 3D clown haunt, Lopez said he was already making plans to attend the Creep I.E. convention.

“Maybe I’ll go to that one as a bloody Cupid,” he said with a laugh.

And all that opportunity to shop for things like custom costumes, decorations, props and all sorts of other horror-themed gear is a major part of what makes these horror conventions so popular, said Brea resident Jeff Schiefelbein, owner of Sinister Pointe Productions, and Orange County-based company that develops haunted attractions and works with conventions like Midsummer Scream.

“You go to these shows now and there’s hundreds of booths of people selling everything from little figurines to scented candles, the T-shirts, the posters, everything, and the market never used to be like that,” he said. “You would go to these shows and maybe there would be a T-shirt guy. I think the shopping is what really draws people in.”

And while there are plenty of local vendors at these conventions, many are even coming in from out of state to cash out on some scary fun.

“People that are fans of horror, for them horror is year round,” said Shawn Fairhurst as he stood inside his Knee-High Horror booth at Season’s Screamings this past December. “There’s no just October or a season for it. It’s what horror films do to people; there are no romantic comedy conventions.”

The Las Vegas resident has been selling tote bags, stickers, banners, posters and other horror items at Midsummer Scream for four years and at Season’s Screamings since it launched.

Next to his booth, Kerrilynn Loftus was selling all kinds of bloody items and medical-themed props at her booth. She traveled from her home in Wisconsin to attend Season’s Screamings.

“The fanbase is great here,” she said. “They have loyal fans. Horror is part of everyday life now for people (and) it’s so much fun, so why not do it all year round?”

Creep I.E. Con

When: 11 a.m. Feb. 4-5

Where: Ontario Conventions Center, 2000 E. Conventions Center Way, Ontario

Tickets: Tickets are $25-$30 for single-day general admission passes; $50 for general admission weekend passes; $110 for VIP weekend passes, which include one hour early entry to the vendor hall and VIP lounge, as well as front-of-line access to autograph sessions. All passes can be found at creepiecon.com.