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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



What do you think usually turns the average Joe off from exploring horror culture?
I think people are scared. People are terrified to see what it is at first because they don’t realize how much fun it is. You always have those people who say, “Oh, well, I just don’t like scary movies,” but they like to dress up. And they like to celebrate a holiday. People just like to come together and explore their favorite movies.

What has been the hardest part in ensuring Spooky Empire is a success year after year?
Just trying to keep it fresh. That’s the hard thing. Trying to not do the same thing every year. We’re always trying to throw something in there that’s fresh and new. We’ll see so many conventions out there that just do the same thing every single year. We just try to do something fresh every time … and I think that’s what makes people come back year after year.

What do you think is the thing that makes this convention so successful?
I think the parties at nighttime. The celebration of everybody coming together,
hanging out, getting a couple cocktails and drinking. That’s really been the saving grace. Everybody really loves that atmosphere of coming together. A lot of people who come to the show, that’s their family now. So it’s like a family reunion every year.

Do you think Orlando realizes how big the horror market is?
Well, I think Orlando’s eyes are opening. Like I said before, Disney World is doing it, and Universal Studios is, too. All three of us are the largest horror/Halloween celebrations in the United States. Disney’s thing is great, Universal has the largest gathering of haunted houses, and we’re the largest horror convention. It’s all done right here in Orlando. We’re doing the numbers, you know?

What would you tell somebody who was having reservations about attending a convention full of blood and guts?
If you like to have a good time, this is the place to do it. It’s an atmosphere where everybody just has a great time. There’s so much stuff going on, and you don’t just have to be a horror fan to come. People just love seeing everything … the dealer room, you can get tattoos if you want ’em, the museums, the Q&As. There’s something for everybody at the show.
There are so many people who come to our show and are not into horror movies, and they have an amazing time. So I guess I would say that.

Can you tell me a little more about the Tribute to the Haunted Mansion walk-through experience you’re doing this year?
Well, it’s kind of a surprise. It’ll look similar to the props and stuff that are used in Disney’s Haunted Mansion, but it’ll be our take on it. That’s all I can really say for right now. 

Any other highlights for this year’s convention?
We have the creepy car show, where there are about 20 hearses, the big poker tournament, the zombie walk, which is amazing. If you’ve never seen it, it’s just over-the-top!

I have to ask: favorite horror flick?
I love the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. We’re very excited to be having the reunion this year [the original 1974 cast will reunite during this year’s Spooky Empire Ultimate Horror Weekend], so I’d have to say they’re my favorite. But I still love some of the cheesy movies like Motel Hell and the Leprechaun series.

All immortal American classics. Thanks for your time, Mr. Spooky.

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