Midsummer Scream returns to the Long Beach Convention Center July 28-30. / Photo by Jessica Peralta
Midsummer Scream returns this week to scare up some good times at the Long Beach Convention Center, July 28-30.
The haunt community’s biggest annual shindig will feature hundreds of vendors, dozens of panels, and the creeping three-day terror of the Hall of Shadows.
Halloween Every Night talked with event co-founder and co-producer Rick West about what could happen in the dark this year.
Halloween Every Night: What’s the big, new thing for this year that we should talk about first?
Rick West: I think the big, new thing that is so apparent to me, is how much more normal this year feels as we move forward further out of the pandemic. Of course, we plan and program Midsummer Scream to be bigger and better each year – but it’s been very apparent to me that it’s all feeling more and more normal again – and I think that is a huge step in the right direction for everyone mentally and emotionally. And it’s a fantastic recovery that we’re witnessing for the haunt and horror communities in general, which benefits not just us as a convention – but all haunted attractions and events that will reap those positive benefits over the coming weeks and months, you know?
As far as the show itself goes – we have over 350 vendors on the show floor, which is more than we have ever had before. You can spend the entire weekend on the show floor and still not see every vendor or booth space; that’s both daunting and exciting. Our programming is more robust than it’s ever been, with several live performances and productions planned throughout the weekend, including Exorcistic: The Live Musical, which is a full-blown stage production that folks have the opportunity to check out a couple times during the weekend. We’ve never brought a stage production in its entirety to Midsummer, so that’s definitely new.
And of course, I would be remiss not to mention the Hall of Shadows, which is a cornerstone of Midsummer Scream. The big news with that, is that it’s going to be open all three days for the first time. Friday, July 28 is a preview night, but the Hall of Shadows has historically been closed for that. We have an extra load-in day this year, so we are taking advantage of that and opening the Hall of Shadows to guests on Friday night, too. Everyone is very excited about that, despite how exhausting that’s going to be for the haunters.
We have a really fantastic array of displays, walk-through haunts, and attractions this year that everyone should be really stoked about. It’s a generous mix of solid returning favorites, and many new participants, including Wicker Manor – an elaborate home haunt that’s making the journey from Denver, Colorado – our first out-of-state haunt ever in the Hall of Shadows.
CalHauntS is presenting our Dungeons & Demons entry experience into the Hall of Shadows. They have been incredible partners, creating that portal experience for the past five years. This is going to be their last year handling the hall’s entryway, so when you guys are at Midsummer Scream this year and you see folks in their CalHauntS shirts near the Hall of Shadows, take a moment and thank them for all of their hard work and years of dedication to the event.
HEN: How might the writers’ and actors’ strikes affect panels, if at all?
RW: That’s a great question, and it’s been something our team has watched very closely since before the WGA went on strike earlier this year. Since there is a long planning period that we engage in with the studios and other organizations when producing Midsummer, we are able to see things like this on the horizon and put in all of the available precautions so that our show is impacted as little as possible. Of course, we do have more celebrities making appearances these days than in years past – so there is definitely a possibility someone may feel obligated to pull out of the show. In that case, will do our best to transparently notify our guests as soon as that happens. We don’t see it being a huge issue for us this year, especially since we’re not owned by a studio as a parent company or anything like that.
HEN: What’s new with the Hall of Shadows this year?
RW: I’ve already spilled some of the beans – but considering how massive the Hall of Shadows is, there’s always more to discuss. One of the new additions this year is well-known cosplay photographer, Rawl of the Dead, having a zombie apocalypse photo booth in the hall – and he’ll be taking complimentary photos of cosplayers and guests all weekend long – we’re really thrilled to have Rawl onboard. Mr. Floats is coming to the Hall of Shadows with a large CarnEVIL Games area, complete with creeping characters and Pennywise himself. We know fans will love that installation. And our friends from Fear Farm are going huge this year – they always knock it out of the ballpark.
This year, Fear Farm is presenting a huge walk-through attraction – Ravenfall Castle – which ties nicely into our Dungeons & Demons theme. In addition to the walk-through experience, guests will find that one of the stone ramparts of Ravenfall Castle has sustained heavy battle damage, which has left a large opening in the structure. Inside, guests who are twenty-one years and older will find the Hole in the Wall Tavern, where they can mingle and enjoy themed libations as they share tales of their own harrowing adventures.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg – those who love the Hall of Shadows are going to be happy campers all weekend. All of our haunters and participants are super excited and already packing their attractions up for the journey to Long Beach. It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year already – but it’s GO time again.
HEN: What trends are you noticing that you’re trying to incorporate, or seeing within the already established parts of the haunt community?”
RW: I don’t know that it’s a trend, per se – but we have a lot of anniversary milestones being celebrated this year at Midsummer Scream. Knott’s Scary Farm turns 50 this year, and we’re very excited to have them back with us to talk about their legendary event. Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain is celebrating its 30th year this coming season – that’s another big milestone we’re excited about sharing with our guests. And then there’s the Winchester Mystery House, which has just started its centennial celebration – they’re joining us to talk about the attraction’s 100-year history and give fans a glimpse of things to come with their new Halloween event this year. So, lots of big milestones seem to be the trend this year – we had nothing to do with those planets aligning, but we’re absolutely happy to give them the stage and spotlight!
We have more studio partners than ever before, which is a really great win-win situation for everyone. Lionsgate is participating with us this year to host a Saw X presentation, which has horror fans buzzing – no pun intended. And I’m really excited to have The Walt Disney Studios with us for the first time, as they are going to give fans a wonderful behind-the-scenes presentation about their new Haunted Mansion film, which opens in theaters everywhere the same day Midsummer Scream begins, July 28. History shows that we have a massive crossover of fans between the haunt and corror community and Disney. Midsummer Scream has hosted numerous Haunted Mansion-related panels in the past, all of which have been some of our most-attended presentations to date. I thought that our Haunted Mansion 50th anniversary panel in 2019 was literally going to be it – we’ve tapped that attraction so many ways and so many times, we honestly haven’t revisited the subject – and then along comes a new Mansion movie. So, we invited the folks at Walt Disney Studios to participate, and they have been fantastic to work with for the past several months in prepping for this. That’s definitely one of the personal highlights for me in putting together this year’s show.