By Charly Shelton
Every summer, the Halloween haunt season kicks off as haunters around the country prepare to begin to build their Halloween horror prior to welcoming guests in the last few weeks of October. As haunters enjoy their last days of “free time,” a convention is held in Long Beach for haunters to share skills, get together and have a “swinging wake.” This is Midsummer Scream, and it has finally returned after being postponed two years due to the pandemic.
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, we all knew that conventions weren’t going to be happening anytime soon. Of course, 2020’s Midsummer Scream was canceled entirely. The following year, amid ongoing health concerns and fears from both attendees and vendors, it was elected not to offer a full convention. Midsummer Scream presented “Awaken the Spirits,” a smaller version of the show held at the Pasadena Convention Center rather than the Long Beach Convention Center, its usual home. And while “Awaken the Spirits” was a wonderful return to form and had many of those favorite aspects that guests had come to love, it did feel like a smaller, less engrossing version of the full convention. Now this year, for the first time in what feels like forever, the convention is back to full strength including a full Hall of Shadows featuring mini walkthrough haunts and slider performance demonstrations.
Midsummer Scream is a convention for haunters, those who create and put on haunted house walkthroughs and other displays for Halloween, as well as fans of horror and monsters and haunts in the life. In LA, where the film industry reigns supreme, many of the special effects experts, makeup artists and set builders spend a few weeks of their off time every year building intricate and fun displays for Halloween. So to have the benefit of their experience, as well as that of longtime haunt organizations like Universal Studios Hollywood and the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, come to one place to share their knowledge and camaraderie is a unique experience.
The convention was held last weekend at the Long Beach Convention Center to sold-out crowds. Attendees met with horror icons of stage and screen, as well as big names in the haunt industry like John Murdy of Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights. Murdy was on hand for a presentation about the upcoming Halloween Horror Nights event that will begin Sept. 8 at Universal Studios Hollywood. He announced another haunted house theme – “Scarecrow: The Reaping.” This is based in history, in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. When farmers across America abandoned their farms, scarecrows were left as silent sentinels watching over the dead fields. So in the plot of the house, the scarecrows have decided to make this land their own and increase their numbers in the same way they were made in the first place – by making more scarecrows. But whereas humans made scarecrows, now scarecrows make humans into scarecrows. Murdy unveiled some character concept designs for the killer scarecrows, as well as several of the rooms that guests will walk through, explaining the in-depth research he did to get the sets and props just right for a 1930s farmhouse in the middle of the country.
Murdy also welcomed famed guitarist Slash, who has collaborated with Universal on multiple houses over the years. Slash is now known for his work with the Universal Monsters series of houses, of which another installment is set to debut this year. The attendees to the panel were treated to a listening party of some of Slash’s previous work for Universal haunted houses as well as a preview of a track that will be used for this year’s “Monsters Collide” house.
Beyond panels and how-to demonstrations of makeup effects and prop building, attendees of the convention could shop for the spookiest Halloween gear to get ready for the season, or meet some horror characters as other guests and vendors dressed to the nines in their horror best. There was even a tattoo booth where guests could sign up to receive a tattoo on the spot.
This year’s show was a fantastic return to form and now, having attended once again, we didn’t realize how much we really missed it. The full show is a highlight of the summer and, just as we are all getting sick of the 90-plus degree weather almost every day, this convention is a reminder that fall is coming, sooner than you think, and it’s time to gear up for haunt season.
Seeing as this year’s show did sell out, it may be wise to sign up for the Midsummer Scream mailing list for anyone interested in attending next year. Be on the lookout for a ticket sale reminder when tickets become available.
For more information, visit MidsummerScream.org.