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Spooky Empire mastermind Petey Mongelli spills his guts

We sit down for a talk with the father of the one of the country’s largest horror convention



Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend

Friday-Sunday, Oct. 25-27 | DoubleTree at Universal Orlando, 5780 Major Blvd. | 888-690-4695 | spookyempire.com | $50-$65

Orlando loves Halloween. While other cities enjoy the typical traditions and neighborhood events – house parties, taking the kids trick-or-treating – we go all out. In addition to the parties and the candy-grubbing and the haunted houses and costume contests, we are also home to three of the largest Halloween-oriented events in the United States: There’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party for the little creeps, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights for the older crowd, and then there’s Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend, the alpha gathering of all things and people horror-related. For three blood-soaked days, the DoubleTree at Universal Orlando will be packed solid with costumed madmen, slasher-film legends and vendors selling nightmarish paraphernalia.

According to Petey Mongelli, the mastermind behind the operation, which got its start in 2003 in Fort Lauderdale, Spooky Empire is the mother ship for the nation’s sprawling horror culture. He says the market for horror events is massive and growing – so much so that in 2011, Spooky Empire introduced a Memorial Day weekend convention, called May-Hem, which has also become an annual affair.

We sat down for a few minutes with Mongelli to talk about the work that goes into putting together such an endeavor, and why he thinks horror is more than just a niche market.

Orlando Weekly: How did you get the idea to start an entire convention based on horror?
Petey Mongelli: We were actually planning a rock & roll convention at first, and the market was really bad at that time. So we were listening to a lot of Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper and KISS. It was all horror-related music, so we were like, “Why don’t we just do the whole show on horror movies?” So our main thing was to try and find the actors that were in all the horror movies.
That was the hard part, because when we started doing it, there were no other horror conventions out there that were fully developed. So it was rough. We’d actually look up where the movies were filmed and we’d dive into the telephone books to try and find all the actors.

How do you feel when people describe horror as a niche market?
Well, I don’t know if it is a niche market, you know? It’s a tough market, for sure, because people think it’s scary. But Halloween’s the second-biggest holiday out there, and people are starting to realize that. Disney had Unleash the Villains [horror-related event] on Friday the 13th and it was overwhelming. I think their eyes opened up and they said, “Wow, man! This whole horror-scary-thing is out there for everybody!”
Horror is a great market for everybody, and everybody likes to celebrate Halloween. I mean, who doesn’t like candy?

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