Written by Tony Northrup

There are so many different types of conventions these days. If you’re a fan of something, chances are you’ll find a convention going on for that interest. Comic-Con, WonderCon, Crypticon, horror, scifi, TV, toys, Star Wars, Harry Potter – everything from video games to … I Love Lucy!

Last year, while sitting in my home in the dead of winter, cozied up by my fireplace, I began thinking of how much I would love to get to one of these conventions, preferably something to do with my favorite genre…horror. I went online, and lo and behold there was one practically in my own backyard, well in Minnesota at least. Turns out they hold one in the twin cities every year now for the past 8 years. Crypticon, is a horror/sci-fi convention created and coordinated by Nick Kaufman, who puts on one of the most impressive horror/sci-fi conventions in the Mid-West/Northern Plains area. As I searched through the Crypticon webpage my excitement grew. There were so many fun things listed to do, including meeting many of the celebrities I had seen and admired from a few of my favorite films. That was it, trip planned, and I couldn’t wait.

As the year progressed, the seasons changed, my excitement was building, until finally September 2013 rolled around and it was time for my 3 day excursion. Along with my friend Roy Ramirez, I headed east to Bloomington, Minnesota. We were both excited, but uncertain as what to expect. The great thing was, I was going with a press pass, representing our hometown newspaper: Tri-county Sun/Observer, which allowed me many …in’s…that the general public didn’t have.

This year Crypticon was held at the Doubletree Hilton in Bloomington, MN. The hotel was very accomodating, and made the experience a great time for all. There was so much to see and do, and the festivities officially began at 5:30pm, Friday evening of September 27th, and ran through Sunday the 29th. There were so many panels, from, “So You Want to be a Paranormal Investigator?” by Jenny Gurney, collectors selling merchandise, and numerous celebrity panels. Just so much to do and so little time to do it in! With so many great actors to meet, take pictures with, and listen to during the celebrity panels, I was in heaven.

First on my list of interviews that weekend was actress, Sybil Danning (Howling 2, Halloween, Grindhouse: Planet Terror, and many more). I was able to speak with Sybil for quite awhile … thanks Sybil! This proved to be enjoyable, as well as interesting. Sybil answered my many questions, as well as giving her own insight and advice for those wanting to become an actor. “Be prepared to sacrifice, work hard, believe in yourself, stay strong, and REALLY want it. When one door closes, go through the window, and when that closes, go down the chimney.”

I asked her what it was like working with actor Christopher Lee (whom she had worked with five times in her career). She replied, “Chris told me the best advice about acting. Be true to yourself, your character, love your character, and your audience will love that, and love you, and he (Christopher Lee) was wonderful to work with“, she says. Later that evening, fans could take The Haunting experience blood run, have fun at a BBQ, and then enjoy the scares of going through a haunted house.

The last Celeb Panel of the evening was the Ladies of the evil dead, featuring the three leading ladies from the horror movie classic from the 80′s The Evil Dead, actresses Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss and Theresa Tilly, with F/X man, Tom Sullivan. They shared with us several interesting stories about the filming of that classic film. My question to their panel was “What was it like filming in the deep woods of Tennesse?” Their collective answer was unanimous: “It was very cold, had to stay healthy, bleeding, no plumbing, no heat, middle of nowhere, exausting, and brutal!“, Tom Sullivan said “The challenge was not to put the actors in any danger. Betsy’s make-up and mask somehow became stuck on her face and I had to go up from the bottom with a razor to cut it off, not pleasant.” There were some very interesting questions being asked of this panel.

While I roamed through the event, I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Sullivan a little more on a casual basis, which was really interesting. I also met Don Coscarelli (the director of the Phantasm films), and Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Halloween, Hatchet 3). She was a sweetheart, and I had the opportunity to interview her on a more extensive level as well. Caroline told me she “prefers doing horror films over drama or comedy because it is more exciting, and more of a challenge for an actor to be scared.” She also said her experience on TCM 2 and Hatchet 3 was “best experience of her was like being a kid.

As I walked with Crypticon creator Nick Kaufman for an hour, as he busily checked on this and that, we finally got to take a break and have a quick interview about the event.
TN – How many years has Crypticon been going on?
NK – Eight years.
TN – How did you get started/involved with Crypticon?
NK -” My partner, Chazz DeMoss and I use to publish comic books. We did the circuit, conventions, doing horror comics and magazines, and from there the name… Cryptic… became Crypticon. We wanted to do something that was all about horror and the movies. Doing horror conventions, there’s nothing like it. My wife helped at first, and my family. From there it was word of mouth, MySpace, Facebook, and it was tough to get started.”
TN – What is the average amount of people that come to Crypticon?
NK – 1,000 people…maybe more.
TN – Is it difficult to get the celebritites involved and that process?
NK – Very difficult. More popular the actor, the bigger chances of them canceling due to filming. Television actors are always best to get.
TN – What future plans do you have for Crypticon?
NK – Fans come first, more celeb guests, and get bigger…meaning the convention itself. Final thought – “Crypticon to me is, when fans meet that icon they grew up with…that rush they get. Brings out the little kid in them.

Later that evening there was a screening room where one could view several Independent horror films and Short films. Those staying as guests at the hotel could also be part of a Hotel Decorating Contest where all weekend long, if you were entered, you could have your hotel room decorated in any horror theme you like. The more decorative, the more scary, the better chances you could win. Judges would visit each room throughout the weekend, and guests of the hotel could as well, all while enjoying drinks and appetizers, having a great time.

Saturday, the second day of the event was really busy. This time it was a full day of fun events, celeb panels, and contests, with the Zombie Prom later that evening. There was a Monster Car Show in the parking lot full of horror themed cars, even the Ecto-1 replica car from the film, Ghostbusters. The first panel we made it to was actor, C. Thomas Howell (E.T., The Outsiders, Red Dawn, The Hitcher). He was extremely friendly. When I asked “What was it like working on the classic film, E.T.?” he replied, “I was 12 years old, I didn’t know who Steven Spielberg was, but he was very nice, it was a mind-blowing and amazing experience.” C. Thomas is still acting to this day, but also has a magic act he performs quite often. Who knew?

Next on the agenda was the Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi) panel. I could not wait for this! I met Billy Dee in 1985 in California, when I was 13, and he received his star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. I told him this story and he bent down from the stage and shook my hand, as he put it, “Well, nice to see you again,” and gave a big smile. He would not answer any questions about the upcoming film, Star Wars 7, however, he gave a wink and a smile, I’m sure that was a clue. There were other celeb panels that day, but with SO much going on, you just can’t get to all of them. There were also Halloween Costume Contests, Silent Auctions, plenty of vedors selling tons of horror collectibles. The big event came later that evening.

That night was the big Zombie prom amazing event. The Prom took place in a large ballroom with a movie screen playing the best of the best in zombie scenes from classic horror films, as well as from the the hit television show The Walking Dead. There were two DJ’s spinning the coolest dance hits, costumed horror characters walking around for picture taking with, the room was decorated with everything scary, including a casket you could have your picture taken in. A lot of fun, and even the celebrities came to party with everyone. If you didn’t feel like staying, one could always revisit the decorated party hotel rooms, where eventually even the celebrities ended up as well. It was a wonderful time, everyone dressed up, and it was everything a Zombie Prom should be.

On Sunday, the third and final day of the convention, events started at noon until 5 pm, and there was still plenty to see and do. Our first panel of the day was actor, Ted Raimi (The Evil Dead trilogy, Spiderman trilogy, Xena, and many more). I was fortunate enough to interview Ted on Friday, and he was truly the most kickback, very funny, and enjoyable celeb I’ve ever met. At his panel he told us he loved working with Charlton Heston, and Harrison Ford the most (he included some great behind the scenes stories on both actors). Ted does his own stunts, sometimes in very brutal conditions, such as while filming The Evil Dead 2 and prefers movies over television roles. He was very funny, and a great story teller.

After visiting celebrity panels with Derek Mears (Friday the 13th, Predators) and director, Don Coscarelli (Phantasm films), and the Horror Make-up Contest, it was time to pack up and head home. We met so many wonderful people, made new friends, and even some of the celebrities cried when it was time to go, because they too, had made some new friends. I said my good-byes, and thanked Crypticon creator, Nick Kaufman, for what was without question, the best weekend I’ve had in a long time. I look forward to returning next September in hopes of seeing old friends, making new ones, meeting new celebrities, and making all new memories.

With all of the fun, excitement, celebrities, costumes, contests, parties, collectibles, and the amazing time I had, I think the best way to describe Crypticon is… surreal. I’ve met a lot of celebrities in my time, but these celebrities were especially nice to everyone! They didn’t mind talking to you, visiting, answering the many questions, taking pictures with you, and even partying with you. They were truly a great and amazing group of people to meet on such a personal level. Everyone at Crypticon was friendly, polite, courteous, helpful, and fun to be around, from the celebrities, to the workers at the convention, to the hotel staff, to the fans. I mean the fans were truly some of the best people I’ve ever met. There was no drama, no problems, no disturbances, nothing to bring anyone down. It was a fun, happy, positive, and enjoyable experience. The staff of the convention made sure everything ran smoothly, helped when needed, and went that extra mile to make sure everyone was having a great time. Nick Kaufman, the creator and master of ceremonies, truly puts in his all to make this such a fantastic and well organized event.

I don’t think I saw him sit down once all weekend. I asked different fans at the convention how they felt about the event and everyone agreed on one thing: This event is all about the fans. We grew up with these celebrities, watching their films and television shows, we had their collectibles as kids, and now we can have them again..for a price, of course. We dressed up for Halloween as children, and now as adults we can walk around and be that character for a weekend and no one will judge us for it. You can be what you want at Crypticon. You can relive your youth, and everyone who was there were all there for the same reason: to have the best and scariest time you could possibly have! Everyone left Crypticon satisfied, memories to cherish, and … now starts the countdown for Crypticon 2014!


Guests at Crypticon 2013: Billy Dee Williams, Corey Dee Williams, Stephen Costantino, Dan Payne, Don Coscarelli, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Christopher Lutz, Derek Mears, C. Thomas Howell, Ted Raimi, Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss, Theresa Tilly, Sybil Danning, Tom Sullivan, and Caroline Williams.

I want to give a huge thank you, to all the celebrities who took their time to let me interview them, for coming to this year’s Crypticon, and for giving the fans the best experience ever. Thank You, to the staff at the Doubletree Hilton in Bloomington, for making it a pleasant visit, and especially a big thank you to Nick Kaufman, and all of the Crypticon staff and crew, for bringing this amazing event to our area.

Posted in Festival by Tony Northrup on November 3rd, 2013 at %I:%M %p.

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