Midsummer Scream 2018 Wrap-Up

Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, CA

Another last weekend of July has come and gone, and with it this time was the third annual Midsummer Scream Halloween convention, a massive tribute to all things haunted and spooky and scary.  This year marked the largest and most successful Midsummer Scream, as over 22,000 fans of the macabre descended upon Downtown Long Beach across both weekend days to find vendors and exhibitors of the dark arts, panels and presentations on new haunted attractions and behind-the-scenes design methodology, miniature haunted house experiences, twisted entertainment of ghoulish flavor, and plenty of hardcore, like-minded, devoted Halloween enthusiasts.

The third year of Midsummer Scream saw notable expansion, as the exhibition floor and Hall of Shadows grew by 50%, occupying more square footage than ever.  And even then, the large crowds made the convention space feel even more crowded than 2017--a huge sign of just how successful Southern California's premiere Halloween convention has grown in such a short amount of time.  A multitude of fans came dressed in tribute to their favorite horror characters, or in creative cosplay designs, or even mash-up costumes showcasing their own design flair.  The turnout was incredible--a bold statement of love from a community where haunted attractions are arguably the most diverse, prolific, and innovative.

 Comically, part of Midsummer Scream overlapped a conference on the exciting field of electromagnetic compatibility, signal, and power integrity.  One can only imagine what the attending engineering types thought of the demented looking guests who showed up for Midsummer Scream--and that's not even before we move on past Dan!

Comically, part of Midsummer Scream overlapped a conference on the exciting field of electromagnetic compatibility, signal, and power integrity.  One can only imagine what the attending engineering types thought of the demented looking guests who showed up for Midsummer Scream--and that's not even before we move on past Dan!

Midsummer Scream was full of panels featuring big name and independent haunted attraction purveyors from both Southern California and across the country, from Knott's Scary Farm, Dark Harbor, Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest, and Halloween Horror Nights, to Winchester Mystery House and Horror Nights Orlando.  In addition, up and coming and cutting-edge haunters such as the folks from Opechee Haunt, Murder House Productions, Just Fix It Productions, and even the Warner Bros. Studios team brought news on what they were offering for 2018 and also discussed their own challenges and successes in tackling their individual paths toward becoming successful in the haunt scene.  Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights closed with an epic, 2-hour long panel that brought both coasts' Horror Nights creative minds together on stage for the first time ever to discuss their inspirations, work flow, and previews of a couple of new mazes for 2018.

 Mike Aiello of Halloween Horror Nights Orland and Chris Williams and John Murdy of Horror Nights Hollywood gave a lengthy but content-packed presentation for Horror Nights on both coasts!

Mike Aiello of Halloween Horror Nights Orland and Chris Williams and John Murdy of Horror Nights Hollywood gave a lengthy but content-packed presentation for Horror Nights on both coasts!

There was plenty of major news throughout the weekend.  It started on Saturday, when it was announced that beloved, local Van Nuys classic, Boney Island--a family friendly and incredible yard display on steroids that was effectively shut down last year due to selective neighborhood and city pressure--would return this year as part of the Ghost Train in Griffith Park.  The Ghost Train itself returned last year after a year's absence, and this family-friendly twofer will be a hugely popular hit this autumn!

 Walter Magnuson and Peter Overstreet talked about the new theme and plan for this year's Winchester Mystery House Halloween tour.

Walter Magnuson and Peter Overstreet talked about the new theme and plan for this year's Winchester Mystery House Halloween tour.

 The Knott's Scary Farm panel spoke about bringing new levels of immersive activity and unadvertised show moments to last year's Scary Farm and introduced a bit of what to expect for this year.

The Knott's Scary Farm panel spoke about bringing new levels of immersive activity and unadvertised show moments to last year's Scary Farm and introduced a bit of what to expect for this year.

 Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest spilled all the beans on this year's event and brought some creatures to help reinforce their mission to scare.

Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest spilled all the beans on this year's event and brought some creatures to help reinforce their mission to scare.

 Dark Harbor had the most entertaining panel of the weekend, with their icon characters like the Ringmaster and The Captain providing their usual witty and inappropriate banter.

Dark Harbor had the most entertaining panel of the weekend, with their icon characters like the Ringmaster and The Captain providing their usual witty and inappropriate banter.

Knott's Scary Farm also shared news of a new scare zone coming to the park this fall--Forsaken Lake, to be located around the Silver Bullet area.  Winchester Mystery House announced a completely revamped Halloween walk-through tour featuring edgier hard scares this year.  Warner Bros. outlined their Horror Made Here Halloween studio tour, which is making the leap to a full premiere scale attraction.  Magic Mountain announced not one but two new mazes and three new scare zones this year for their Fright Fest overlay--Sewer of Souls and Condemned on the maze side; Witches Lair, The Shadows, and City Under Seige on the scare zone side.  Meanwhile, Dark Harbor may have pulled off the most shocking reveal of the weekend when they announced the acquisition of new production designer and former Knott's Scary Farm superstar creative, Jon Cooke, to reimagine ALL of their mazes.  

 The creative and production team behind Warner Bros. Studio outlined their ambitions for this year's Halloween studio tour overlay.

The creative and production team behind Warner Bros. Studio outlined their ambitions for this year's Halloween studio tour overlay.

Midsummer Scream also had panels focused on tribute.  Retrospectives on the career of Elvira and the cult Halloween classic, Hocus Pocus, drew in throngs of guests over the weekend.  An expose on the Trapped mazes at Knott's Scary Farm also provided some great insight (and hilarious Daniel Miller impressions by Knott's Jeff Tucker).  In addition, panels on young designers, representation in the LGBT+ community, and new trends in immersive attractions provided some great inspiration for up and coming haunters who might be in audience.

 Cassandra Peterson and Jeff Tucker discussed the career of Elvira.

Cassandra Peterson and Jeff Tucker discussed the career of Elvira.

 Rick West moderated a panel on young and emerging haunters, speaking with Sam Kellman of Opechee Haunt and Aurora Persichetti of Murder House Productions.

Rick West moderated a panel on young and emerging haunters, speaking with Sam Kellman of Opechee Haunt and Aurora Persichetti of Murder House Productions.

 A large group of creative minds was on hand to discuss new trends outside the box in immersive horror attractions.

A large group of creative minds was on hand to discuss new trends outside the box in immersive horror attractions.

Guests who were more interested in dynamic attractions could find plenty over at the Hall of Shadows, which effectively occupied its own hall after sharing part of the exhibition floor space in previous years.  The Hall provided a thrilling, mysterious atmosphere that offered 13 different miniature haunted house attractions, a bar, a scare zone put on by Six Flags Fright Fest, and a pair of incredible Halloween displays--one celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and the other celebrating the whimsical and charming spirit of Halloween.

The mini-haunts were larger than ever this year--over double in square footage over past years.  This helped with capacity, but eager fans still packed the lines and yielded long waits.  The front-of-line-yielding Gold Bat VIP passes were invaluable for those on a time crunch.  But the most popular mazes still had substantial waits even for the short lines--showing just how strong the haunt line-up was. 

The presence of so many independent haunters was also exceptionally empowering.  They were proof that anyone with sufficient creativity, drive, and resourcefulness could create a wonderful haunted attraction of their own, and they were likely inspirational for guests who might be thinking of pursuing this dream on their own but apprehensive about how daunting the task might be.

 The Hall of Shadows was indeed shadow-y.

The Hall of Shadows was indeed shadow-y.

 Fright Fest provided a fun scare zone for those entering the Hall of Shadows.

Fright Fest provided a fun scare zone for those entering the Hall of Shadows.

 Murder House Production's Trick 'R Treat fan tribute maze was one of the highlights of the weekend.  And it provided guests who missed the one-weekend-only maze last year with a chance to see what they missed.

Murder House Production's Trick 'R Treat fan tribute maze was one of the highlights of the weekend.  And it provided guests who missed the one-weekend-only maze last year with a chance to see what they missed.

 Spooky Hollows was another consistent performer, bringing in lengthy lines all weekend as well.

Spooky Hollows was another consistent performer, bringing in lengthy lines all weekend as well.

 Camp Calavera, by Scareventures, had a great classic Scary Farm feel and great actors who nailed their scare timing.

Camp Calavera, by Scareventures, had a great classic Scary Farm feel and great actors who nailed their scare timing.

 Séance: The Nightmare Begins, presented by the Dreich Society, had one of the most consistently long lines of the weekend.

Séance: The Nightmare Begins, presented by the Dreich Society, had one of the most consistently long lines of the weekend.

 Opechee Haunt's Donnie Darko experience was a fantastic ode to the cult classic and a preview of part of their full sized haunt this October!

Opechee Haunt's Donnie Darko experience was a fantastic ode to the cult classic and a preview of part of their full sized haunt this October!

Of course, being a convention, a primary amenity was the presence of hundreds of vendors and exhibitors selling various Halloween-related wares.  From costumes to masks to special effects to props to art to tutorial classes and more, the exhibition floor sprawled over thousands of square feet--even spilling onto the Hall of Shadows side!  

This area was packed throughout the weekend, with the only respite coming during the Gold Bat-only first hour of the convention (10am - 11am) and the closing end of day moments.  Otherwise, the aisles were crowded with heavy pedestrian traffic--even though they had been widened over the previous year.  If that doesn't show the continued potential for growth, I'm not sure what does.  The convention producers expanded the the floor significantly, and it still felt more jammed than last year.  That's how many more people showed up!

 The exhibition hall was very busy most of the weekend.

The exhibition hall was very busy most of the weekend.

 Vendors of all types could be found on the main floor and into the Hall of Shadows side.

Vendors of all types could be found on the main floor and into the Hall of Shadows side.

 The Knott's Scary Farm booth had an incredible set dedicated to its new scare zone, Forsaken Lake.

The Knott's Scary Farm booth had an incredible set dedicated to its new scare zone, Forsaken Lake.

 There were classes and activities too for those inclined to do some Halloween crafting.

There were classes and activities too for those inclined to do some Halloween crafting.

Midsummer Scream offered chances for fans to meet celebrities in the realm of spooky.  Autograph sessions were available with people like actress and model, Leeanna Vamp, actress Linda Blair, actor Phillip Friedman, and more.  Meanwhile, notable names like Cassandra Peterson (Elvira) and Thora Birch (Hocus Pocus and a host of other movies) were present for panels and/or meet-and-greets. 

 LeeAnna Vamp had a booth all weekend for merchandise and autographs.

LeeAnna Vamp had a booth all weekend for merchandise and autographs.

 Kimberly J. Brown ( Halloweentown ), Cassandra Peterson (Elvira herself) and Thora Birch ( Hocus Pocus  and more) pose for a photo.

Kimberly J. Brown (Halloweentown), Cassandra Peterson (Elvira herself) and Thora Birch (Hocus Pocus and more) pose for a photo.

Of course, it's not a con without the incredibly talented and committed fans who attend.  Midsummer Scream was created for haunt fans by haunt fans, and the fans certainly showed up.  One of the best parts of the event was people watching and taking note of the creative costumes, cosplays, and characters guests showed up as.  Whether they be original horror creations or tributes to famous characters, the costuming and make-up talent was clearly on display.

 "Shard," an original guest creation, was one of many ghastly sights roaming Midsummer Scream.

"Shard," an original guest creation, was one of many ghastly sights roaming Midsummer Scream.

 It's not a horror con without a Krampus, of course.

It's not a horror con without a Krampus, of course.

 Monsters and characters of all shapes and designs seemed to come out of the woodwork.

Monsters and characters of all shapes and designs seemed to come out of the woodwork.

 Some elegant and seductively spectacular.

Some elegant and seductively spectacular.

 Others intense and and intimately ornate.

Others intense and and intimately ornate.

Don't care about mazes, panels, or people?  Well, Midsummer Scream was still brimming with plenty of shows for haunt fans of all inclinations.  The Decayed Brigade slider troupe provided another thrilling set of shows that pushed the envelope of sliding even further, literally adding new dimensions to their routine. 

 The Decayed Brigade put on three different shows each day of Midsummer Scream.

The Decayed Brigade put on three different shows each day of Midsummer Scream.

 The jumps and stunts were athletically impressive.

The jumps and stunts were athletically impressive.

 The acrobatics were amazing too.

The acrobatics were amazing too.

 And they brought out new props too, such as this ramp.

And they brought out new props too, such as this ramp.

 They made the technically difficult look routine.

They made the technically difficult look routine.

 Almost literally bending over backwards to put on a great show!

Almost literally bending over backwards to put on a great show!

The Peepshow Menagerie astonished and perplexed with twisted, perverse entertainment.  Entertainers like Mudd the Magnificent and Twisty the Clown lightened the mood.  And we haven't even gotten to performances by Zombie Joe's Underground Theater and Force of Nature Productions, or Horror Buzz's "Screaming" Room, or the Theater Macabre.  The offerings were practically overwhelming--far greater than any person could completely tackle across the weekend!

 Mudd the Magnificent put on magic tricks and illusions.

Mudd the Magnificent put on magic tricks and illusions.

 Cecil the Sad Clown appeared to be a guest at first, but later appeared on the Peepshow Menagerie doing the saddest but most hilarious striptease ever.

Cecil the Sad Clown appeared to be a guest at first, but later appeared on the Peepshow Menagerie doing the saddest but most hilarious striptease ever.

Midsummer Scream wasn't without its hitches.  Parking and local traffic continues to be an issue--endemic to the Long Beach Convention Center and Downtown infrastructure itself.  Guests who didn't arrive early reported spent up to and sometimes over an hour snarled in gridlock just trying to get to parking.  Even on Saturday, traffic was starting to back up before the 10am start time.  This is beyond the Midsummer Scream producers' control--unless they move to a different venue.  There was ample communication to arrive early, use ridesharing, or plan out parking in advance (researching nearby lots and then walking over was helpful).  But for those who had to spend a significant amount of time waiting behind the wheel, the experience was surely frustrating.  

The throngs of guests could also make things uncomfortable inside as well, as swells of fans exiting the Main Stage likely made the fire marshal pretty nervous when they crossed against long lines of people waiting for the next panel.  This is more a case of something falling victim to its own success, though.  As the event continues to expand, the numbers game will be more and more of a challenge.

The food selection might have used improvement also.  Though there were some food trucks parked outside the venue, they required the inconvenience of exiting the secured zone to visit, requiring a security stop when re-entering.  Dining establishments inside were restricted to the Convention Center concessions, which had very slow and unreliable service.  Although again, this was not the direct fault of the organizers, it was an area that might be improved upon in the future, perhaps by adding an area on the exhibition level where food trucks might be allowed to enter and park and provide additional nutrition capacity.

 The end of a busy Midsummer Scream weekend.

The end of a busy Midsummer Scream weekend.

Overall, however, those few critiques hardly blemished what was a fantastic event for the Halloween and horror community.  Just as we did last year, we'll dive deeper into each of the features at Midsummer Scream over the next week and change, from the each day's panels to the Hall of Shadows to the exhibition floor and guests to the entertainment line-up.  Midsummer Scream officially kicks off the Halloween season in Southern California, and though we're still a couple of months away from the actual haunts starting operation themselves, we hope the coverage this week will get you in the mood and whet your appetite for spooky things to come!

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.