1. I have never been to a con where everyone in attendance was so dedicated to the theme of the con.
Since most cons have become so broad in topic (pop culture cons, sci fi cons), I often find that while I have a broad topic in common with people, we may not actually have much in common. (For example, we both like sci fi, but maybe different shows, or maybe one likes movies and the other books, etc.)
But everyone at this con was united by a desire to learn about the paranormal, and even though Bigfoot, UFOs, and ghosts may not seem like the same thing, there’s so much overlap in studies of them, and so much information trading to gather clues, that everyone had a reason to talk to everyone. I spoke to a lot of people who had no interest superheroes or fiction, and who I knew had no interest in such things, but we had so much we wanted to talk about anyway that I had a blast talking to everyone. Panels aside, I also learned more about Centralia and other weird encounters, and people wanted to hear about the real life story that inspired Miasma (in After Dark) as well as other weird occurrences I learned about while I worked at the Republican-Herald.
2. Oh, the story fertilizer!
As Ascension Epoch fans know, we love discovering new real-life occurrences to inspire our writing. There’s hardly a better place to collect it. From tons of non-fiction books to old issues of Fate magazine… Mike and I were debating story ideas the whole 5-hour drive home.
3. Vendor tables in the panel room!
At another con this could have been a disaster, but at this particular con, having a vendor table* in the panel room was awesome. Often, Mike and I are not interested in each and every panel at a con, so we’ll pick one or two and one of us will leave the table to attend and come back later to report to the other what they missed.
But at the Butler Paranormal Con, we had wanted to see practically every panel and so did everyone else. The place got quiet as a library as almost everyone — attendees and vendors alike — listened with rapt attention to the speakers.
*Complete with the most comfortable chairs I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting in at a con.
4. The majority of panels were some of the best and most thorough I’d ever attended at a con.
I compare them to creator panels as opposed to celebrity panels. At a lot of cons, you see celebs who played characters, but you mainly get their (admittedly cool) stories of being on set or their impressions of a show. I usually find creator panels more interesting, because you find out what changed along the way, or why decisions were made, or what they intended and what came through in the end product. There weren’t really “creators” at this con, but there were certainly experts, and it showed.
There was one panel that was more celebrity than expertise per se, and that may be chalked up to age/lack of experience. That speaker was from Ghost Hunters Academy, and he hasn’t been studying the paranormal for as long as the other speakers, but since he’s been on a popular TV show, he had an obvious draw for the general public. He spoke more about his TV and film projects than the actual findings discovered during the course of his projects. But as he continues his projects and documents more strange occurrences, he may become the paranormal tour de force that the other speakers and researchers were.
Kudos to Ronald Murphy, Brian Parsons, Stan Gordon, and Thomas White on giving me new perspectives on the supernatural. I learned not only about cryptids, legends, and sightings, but also about the how to study them, cultural and historical contexts for them, and even some philosophies to apply to the studies.
But the Butler Paranormal conference had really good food at the right price. Meatball sub with chunks of Parmesan cheese on top for less than $4? Yes, please! There was a range of affordable and tasty choices, from fruit and cheese to chili dogs, and I deeply appreciate that. I though the soda was a quarter or two too expensive, but I’ll forgive the con for that so long as they keep the food menu the same in future years.
*Sci Fi Valley Con in Altoona is the other con where I look forward to eating what the con has to offer.
In short, it was a blast.
Mike and I are very thankful to those who took a chance and bought our books, to everyone who said they liked my art (woot!) and to everyone who stopped by to talk to us about their own experiences or fascinations with the supernatural.