At most comic cons, and fan events, one expects to run into people dressed as supernatural entities, extraterrestrials, and mysterious creatures. But at paranormal, cryptozoology, and ufology events, fans are discussing the existence of them – and often gather to actively go looking for them.
And as much as I move about in the world of comic cons, for the past decade or so, I have spent weekends traveling the world to talk as a journalist and researcher about ghosts, demons, curses, aliens, UFO, and monsters. During the day, the world of paracons closely resembles most fan events, and there is quite a bit of cross-pollination between them. There are panels, vendor rooms, and signings by notable authors, television personalities, and occasionally actors from paranormal pop culture. But at night, the activities continue with a skywatch, ’squatch hunt, or ghost hunt in supposedly haunted houses (or asylums, penitentiaries, hospitals, and hotels).
Many paracon attendees skew towards the belief end of the spectrum, but most are an overwhelmingly curious balance of Mulders or later-season Scullys in the “I Want To Believe” or “The Truth is Out There” sense. While there are certainly eccentric characters, they are no more so than the most ardent comic con-goer – which is to say things can get delightfully weird. And though I could tell stories about times I was accused of being a reptilian from another planet, I rarely encounter tinfoil hats or (hardly ever) meet anyone possessed by the spirit of a dead president.
With that in mind, I wanted to offer a breakdown of some of the best paracons out there, worthy of a fantripping adventure. I have not attended all of these, but based my recommendations on reputation, location, or guest list. Whether you’re new to the scene, or the paranormal is an old haunt for you, give these a chance. Enter with an open mind, and an appetite for fun. And if you see me at any, come up and say, “Boo!”
Hosted by Amy Bruni and Adam Berry of Travel Channel’s paranormal show Kindred Spirits, this four-day event is unique for its exploration of Hawaiian ghosts. Along with daytime lectures on the paranormal as it relates to Hawaii, the event includes a walking ghost tour of Honolulu, and evening tour/investigation of spiritual locales in Oahu. There is also a ghost hunt of Hawaii’s Plantation Village (as seen on Syfy’s Ghost Hunters), and a farewell luau. Look, I am all for dark and stormy nights in haunted prisons, or asylums, but sign me up any day for a paranormal/tiki mash-up vacay!
Titanic Séance: A Night to Remember
Combine a historic (and allegedly famously haunted) ocean liner, with a theatrical séance led by an illusionist, and seven-course gourmet meal, and you have “A Night To Remember” upon the RMS Queen Mary. Master Magician and Apparitionist Aiden Sinclair (as seen on America’s Got Talent, and Penn & Teller: Fool Us), casts a striking presence as he utilizes antiques, and artifacts, in a Victorian séance. But is the haunting evening that ensues an illusion or something more … unexplained? This special black-tie affair will be dedicated to the memory of the Titanic, which sank April 15, 1912, and includes cigar rolling, whiskey flights, and a menu inspired by the final first-class meal served aboard the doomed ship. If you miss the event, it is still worthwhile checking out Sinclair’s “Illusions of the Passed” séance on the Queen Mary throughout the year.
America’s Witch City is an excellent destination most times of the year, but Salem Con makes a visit in April especially alluring with its paranormal programming led by Grant Wilson of Syfy’s Ghost Hunters, and recently the host of the must-watch “What The Fetch?!” channel on YouTube. Joining Wilson is noted religious demonologist John Zaffis, who has been involved in countless tales of hauntings and other terrors that were later adapted into movies (and he is the nephew, and was investigative partner, of Ed and Lorraine Warren, made famous by The Conjuring, and The Amityville Horror). The setting for Salem Con is likewise of interest: The historic, and allegedly haunted, Hawthorne Hotel.
The 133-year-old Ohio State Reformatory is a historic prison with a striking exterior, and haunting interior. A combination of Victorian Gothic, Richardsonian Romanesque, and Queen Anne styles of architecture, the facility was meant to inspire inmates to rediscover their spiritual sides. Instead, it has come to be known as one of the most haunted locales in America (though it should be noted that ghosts are notoriously reluctant to fill out surveys quantifying this). But I’ve been there numerous times, and it is an amazing location. ParaPsyCon taps into this history with a six-hour ghost hunt in the foreboding prison, as well as offering programming from psychic/medium Chip Coffey, Steve Gonsalves of Ghost Hunters, and Dalen Spratt of Ghost Brothers.
Ohio Bigfoot Conference
The lineup for this UFO and Extraterrestrial Life event looks out of this world (pun very much intended). George Noory of Coast to Coast AM, Giorgio A. Tsoukalos of Ancient Aliens, Ben Hansen of Syfy’s Fact or Faked, Erich von Daniken, author of Chariots of the Gods, and so many more heavy hitters from the E.T. community will gather to talk about crop circles, abductions, forbidden archaeology, and more. There will also be some epic sky watch opportunities at night.
Roswell is bucket list destination for anyone remotely interested in UFO, aliens, and government cover-ups. The town is inextricably linked with the 1947 incident involving a crashed “flying disc,” or surveillance balloon, according to some. The so-called UFO Capital of the World has responded by throwing an annual festival complete with alien parades, cosplay, and carnival rides. Along with the light-hearted fun, the UFO Festival includes lectures from Roswell investigators Donald Schmitt, and Thomas Carey, as well as notable figures in the community Stanton Friedman, and Travis Walton (whose UFO abduction story was the inspiration for Fire in the Sky).
The Pennhurst Paracon features well-known celebrity paranormal investigators you’ll see elsewhere on this list (John Zaffis, Grant Wilson, Steve Gonsalves, etc), but the main attraction is Pennhurst itself, the state school and hospital that operated from 1908-1987. The site is known for its infamous history of abuse, and neglect. Personally, I find it to be one of the saddest supposedly haunted locales I’ve visited. The event includes panels, and presentations, but the investigation opportunities in areas typically tightly controlled makes this event a must. If ghosts exists, it’s likely that they stalk the grounds of this massive compound.
Celebrating its tenth year in 2019, the Michigan Paranormal Convention has earned a reputation for its top-notch roster of guest speakers from all manner of paranormal fields. This is a veritable who’s who of paranormal celebrities from Ghost Hunters, The Dead Files, Kindred Spirits, Ghost Adventures, Finding Bigfoot, and more. The Michigan Paracon is notable for not placing focus on a ghost hunt, but instead for its presentations, and a social scene where attendees mingle with the speakers at the Kewadin Casino.
Dragon Con is first and foremost known as a Nerdy Burning Man event, where parties and cosplay reign. But in addition to those, and the traditional convention trappings of celebrity signings and vendor floors, the Atlanta event has a healthy paranormal programming track. The event draws notable TV personalities and researchers from the ghost hunting and ufology.
This one is something of a family affair at Den of Geek as contributor Alejandro Rojas is one of the organizers, and yours truly has spoken there. But the Congress also bears the distinction for holding the Guinness World Record for largest UFO conference. The guests are still coming together for the event, but it’s guaranteed to be a great one.
Cryptid Con combines ghostly pursuits and cryptozoology with a comic con-style format that welcomes both the casual fan, the movie nerd, and the die-hard researcher. This year’s event is still being assembled, but it already boasts James “Bobo” Fay and Cliff Barackman from Finding Bigfoot, Nick Groff of Paranormal Lockdown, Ouija board historian Robert Murch, and a lot of other notable names. The event also looks like a lot of fun because of the wild assortment of crypto-crazy vendors.
This annual festival commemorates the 1966-67 sightings of a red-eyed, winged creature (was it a cryptid? Alien? Interdimensional being?), and other supernatural happenings that led up to the collapse of the Silver Bridge. The events are a part of folklore, but the stories of the Mothman don’t end there. While the schedule is still coming together for this event, it is a slice of Americana, complete with speakers, entertainment, tours of the sighting areas, and of course photo ops at the Mothman statue.
Before the year ends, it is certainly worth taking a jaunt across the pond for Sage Paracon at the historic Coombe Abbey in Coventry, England. In the interest of full disclosure, I did speak at last year’s event, but I can recommend Sage with a clean conscience. Coombe Abbey is a gorgeous setting, and the 11th century abbey – since modernized into a luxury hotel on 500 acres of scenic parkland. The location alone is worth a trip, and that’s before you consider the ghost stories, and tales of a murdered monk. In addition to a paranormal investigation of the grounds, organizer MJ Dickson offers a medieval banquet and voodoo party at night, with a group of diverse guests giving presentations during the day.
This content was originally published here.