Orlando’s Spooky Empire: a horror convention through the eyes of a newbie


It was a horror-filled weekend for yours truly, I saw Jordan Peele’s Us on Saturday, followed by my first trip to Spooky Empire on Sunday. The Orlando horror con runs twice yearly, so the question is: was my experience good enough to warrant a return trip in 7 months?

Despite my love for all things horror, I had never been to any convention up to this point. I went into this completely blind. I began by checking out the website and by following Spooky Empire on social media, starting about two months ago.

I don’t know if all conventions do this, but Spooky Empire rolls out their celebrity guest roster a little at a time. Social media posts kept attendees updated along the way, and it was fun to follow.

Finally, the big day arrived! My sister Kim and I arrived forty minutes before the Sunday event began, stood in a short line, and chatted with other attendees. It was fun to be able to talk to people about horror movies. Most of my friends don’t share my obsession, so being around like-minded people was refreshing.

Once admitted, we had about an hour to kill, so we visited the vendor room, where tons of vendors sold cool horror gear, like shirts, posters, Pop Vinyls, movies, etc. It was basically a horror flea market, and we made it about halfway through before it was time for our photo ops.

Spooky Empire – Henry Thomas

We reviewed the pricing in advance, and it varied somewhat. An ET group photo, featuring all four celebrities and up to two convention-goers was $150. We opted for a photo with Dee Wallace ($50) and Henry Thomas ($60). For an additional $10, we purchased reprints so we could each go home with an 8 x 10 photo.

When we got into the very small photo room, we were able to observe the ET actors posing with other patrons. We were only about six feet away from them, and given that I have always loved Dee and Henry, I enjoyed watching them laugh, smile, and pose with fans.

I didn’t expect any interaction at all, since the entire time blocked out for photo ops was only about ten minutes to get through everyone. But, when were put in front of the back drop with Dee, she was very warm and friendly. She shook our hands, asked our names, and, of course, looked beautiful in the photo. Henry Thomas was a little more shy, but still very friendly.

Spooky Empire – Cujo Panel – Jaimz Dilman, Dee Wallace, Danny Pintauro, Daniel Hugh Kelly

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We were told we could come back to get our photos, so we wandered around observing the costumes for a few minutes. Then we walked to the meeting room where the Q&A sessions were held so we could observe the Cujo panel discussion. We were able to get really good seats, close to the front.

Our new friend Dee was there, along with movie son Danny Pintauro, movie husband Daniel Hugh Kelly, and moderator Jaimz Dilman. Attendees lined up to ask questions, and all three of the actors were engaged and entertaining.

After eating lunch, we went to the autograph room, where you can see all of the celebrities present, even if you don’t purchase an autograph. I didn’t have the cash for autographs, but Kim went celebrity crazy and ended up buying them from Henry Thomas, Danny Pintauro and Daniel Hugh Kelly (Dee Wallace had already finished when we got there, so we didn’t have the option for hers). As with the photos, prices varied. The best part about the autograph experience was the fact that all three of the celebrities chatted with us, they didn’t just sign and send us away.

Danny Pintauro’s autograph price of $30 included a photo using your own camera, so that was an added bonus. He was absolutely delightful, and seemed happy to be there, meeting the fans.

Spooky Empire – Danny Pintauro

After our very enjoyable visit to the autograph room, we finished going through the vendor area, and then it was time to head home, photos in hand, broke but happy.


My only negative experience was the fact that I did not know photos and autographs were cash-only. It may be on the website somewhere, but I didn’t see it noted. It was also not noted in the free program we were given. This may be something that regular convention-goers just know, but we did not. There was an ATM in the building, which was a plus, and, thankfully, the vendors did accept cards.

The Spooky Empire staff and volunteers were fantastic. Every single one we encountered was knowledgeable, friendly and professional, and the convention seemed to run smoothly. The celebrities we were able to interact with were a very pleasant surprise. I had heard that some celebrities can be standoffish and not very interactive, but this was not the case.

Spooky Empire left a very favorable impression on two slightly older horror movie geeks, and we are already eagerly waiting to find out who the celebrity guests will be for the October convention, which I am told is bigger, with a higher guest count. I can’t wait!

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Have you been to Spooky Empire (or any other horror convention)? What were your impressions? Let me know in the comments section.