October 1, 2016

Chesapeake Public Library, Chesapeake, VA

By Classic Camp

Thirteen is a number that conjures up fear, bad luck, and superstition. Hotels often don’t even list a thirteenth floor for fear of repelling customers. Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number thirteen. This fear may stretch as far back as the time of Jesus Christ and the day of the Last Supper when Jesus was accompanied by his twelve apostles, one of whom, Judas, betrayed Him. Perhaps this is why the number 13 is considered “unlucky.” Or perhaps it is because most Wicca covens have thirteen members.

Yet, in some circles the number thirteen is considered good luck, such as in Italy, where the phrase fare tredici literally translates to “to do thirteen” and means “to hit the jackpot.”

Such is also the case with fans of horror movies and Halloween, which is what made the thirteenth Monster Fest at the Chesapeake Central Library in Chesapeake, Virginia so much more special on October 1, 2016.

This year’s event had the usual collection of panels discussing horror movies, booths filled with memorabilia for sale as well as horror movie hosts, and plenty of cosplay, including a costume contest.

The panels this year covered some interesting and favorite topics for Classic horror fans. It started in the Bay Window Area with “EC Comics: Classic Comics, Classic Scares” by Dan Johnson of Cemetery Plots who covered some of the horror comics throughout history, including Tales From the Crypt, Vault of Horror, and Haunt of Fear. Then Pamela K. Kinney, Dee South, and Bryan Novak covered the 13 scariest monsters in the history of literature and 13 more from the history of film, both of which included input from the audience. Finally, Bain Kelly covered “Kid Scary vs. Adult Scary” and why we love scary media.

Meanwhile, in the Old History Room, panels started with “Frankenstein: Horror’s First Franchise” by Tony Mercer, which explored the original Universal movie series. Then Debbie Painter examined the career of Boris Karloff in horror in “Veddy British Monster: Boris Karloff.” And finally, event organizer, Rob Floyd, looked at Ballyhoo in horror movies from such directors as William Castle.

Outside during the panels, the Cemetery Boys played hard-hitting rock music, while giving away a box full of books. This is where I picked up a copy of "The Cross of Frankenstein" by Robert J. Myers, a novel that continued the Frankenstein story beyond the Universal classic movies. Next to the Cemetery Boys, was a food truck providing snacks and small meals. The Italian Ice was excellent.

And speaking of snacks, most booths hand out free candy to visitors, especially small children. The booths also sell memorabilia, action figures, books, videos, horror related crafts, and comic books. Comics seemed to cover more area this year, and indeed I picked up a 1979 issue of Godzilla, King of the Monsters comic, and two issues of Werewolf by Night. Some were also selling some rare comic issues this year as well, including the first issue of Spiderman to feature Green Goblin for several hundred dollars.

Craft booths featured jewelry for women and girls, as well as burnt carvings on wood planks of various horror icons, such as one of Cthulu. Action figures featured several kaiju, Munsters, and other monsters.

Several horror movie hosts also made their way to Monster Fest this year. As usual, local legend, Dr. Madblood made his way with Uncle Felonius, and his talking sponge, Brain. Uncle Felonius, aka, Craig Adams, also runs and displayed his Fuzz and Stuffing puppets. A preview of Madblood’s upcoming annual Haloween special was also featured during the event, and the special will also be available online for free streaming on the WHRO Channel 15’s website, a PBS affiliate. Dr. Gruesome also made an appearance this year, complete with his gray wig, black mustache, and multi-color haired assistant. I purchased a DVD with a collection of Dr. Gruesome’s wraparounds. Bowman Body was also scheduled to make an appearance, but had to cancel for personal reasons.

Other booths included the Rocky Horror Picture Show acting troupe that appears every other week at The Naro classic movie theater during airings of the famous film, and the Horror Writer’s Association. One of the most unique booths this year was one making balloon animals of famous monsters. A fire-breathing dragon stood on their table advertising Mars Con 2017, and a giant representation of Godzilla made from balloons was prominently featured on the floor. The booth itself was also making monster balloon animals and balloon hats for kids, and the line for this booth was longer than any other this year.

Finally, people walked around in costume as always at the Chesapeake Central Library, and competed in the costume contest in categories for children under 18, and adults 18 and over. Luckily, there was only one Harley Quinn costume this year, but there were several creepy clowns. Some of the smaller kids appearing with their parents made for some great comedy, like one child who was the blonde-haired child from Poltergeist, and her mother appeared as the television, so she could say, “They’re here.” There were also a wide variety of zombies, including asylum zombie members. And of course, super heroes, and Star Wars characters galore made appearances. One person even made a Boba Fett out of real metal.

But the main event of this yearly affair is the costume contest, and this year was no exception. All of the above-mentioned costumes competed, but the winners were a troupe who came as Alice in Wonderland characters, with Alice herself in zombie form. Prizes provided by the booths were awarded to three members of the kids’ categories and three more to the adults.

But Monster Fest did not end there. While the library closed at 5 pm, it later opened back up for Fantasmo Cult Cinema Explosion. A double feature of movies is routine for Fantasmo, and this year’s event did not disappoint. The first feature was the original James Whale classic version of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. This was likely to connect with the panels on Frankenstein and Boris Karloff earlier in the day. Because this was the thirteenth anniversary of Monster Fest at the Chesapeake Public Library, the second feature was Friday the 13th, Part 3, which is the one where slasher Jason Voorhees obtains his signature hockey mask.

There were also give-aways raffled off at the movie portion of the event, and I scored a Friday the 13th baseball cap, and my daughter won a Halloween Barbie doll. Snacks are also part of any movie, and there was microwave popcorn, candy, sodas, and other snacks available to patrons. 

With that, the event finally ended around midnight. Patrons went home in the dark, some having already changed in their jammies, hearts awaiting next year’s Monster Fest 14.