Photos courtesy of Midsummer Scream.
As Midsummer Scream returns for its second year to the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center July 29 and 30—this time with the Queen Mary hosting an epic, large-scale haunt—attendees may not realize event founder David Markland is also the man behind Los Angeles’ Halloween convention culture, having previously created the popular Scare LA.
Markland, who has lived in Hollywood for 15 years, has always appreciated the October holiday’s participatory aspects.
“It’s very hands-on. You get in costume, you go out to get scared,” he said.
Why Halloween in July? As Markland explained, he conceived Midsummer Scream and its predecessor, ScareLA, as a sort of a “Halloween Up Fronts”– a reference to the television business trade show where networks preview new offerings to advertisers.
“We weren’t setting out to make it a trade show but to make it for fans of Halloween. At any hour, there’s different types of entertainment,” Markland said, including makeup application, tombstone-making sessions and black cat kitty adoptions.
There is also the Saturday night after-party. Last year, Oingo Boingo performed; this time—a Dark Harbor haunt on the neighboring Queen Mary.
This year’s Midsummer also sees an expansion of Hall of Shadows from eight to 14 haunted house attractions. Panel discussions will include the creators of the recently phased-out “Twilight Zone Tower of Doom” at Disneyland’s California Adventure.
“It’s a last chance to say goodbye,” Markland said, regarding the cult favorite ride.
Given Markland’s career trajectory, his Halloween conventions are a logical fusion of his work experience. Raised in Ohio and Connecticut, Markland came to Hollywood 15 years ago with big dreams of becoming a screenwriter. He veered into event production for MTV, ESPN and other clients.
In 2007, he started Creepy L.A., a site devoted to the City of Angels’ fun, wacky and weird side.
“I also wanted a place to log all the Halloween things in town,” said Markland, who’s blogging connected him with such like-minded individuals as Esotouric literary tour guides Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, and Richard Carradine, head of the long-running supernatural social group Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles (GHOULA).
A veteran exhibitor of ScareLA and last year’s inaugural Midsummer, Carradine, author of the haunted Disneyland book “The Park After Dark,” remembers Markland discussing his idea for a Halloween convention years before he launched ScareLA in 2013.
Markland’s notion, Carradine said, was inevitable: “You had a building sub-genre of haunted house amusement park attractions. Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, Magic Mountain— everybody was capitalizing on Halloween.”
Carradine, who is returning to Midsummer this month to promote his new book, “The Haunted Amusement Parks of Southern California,” said a key part of Markland’s ethos is inclusivity of all Halloween-related streams, embracing GHOULA and other oddball entities like Wicked Lit, a group adapting short horror stories into theatrical experiences; and Captured Aural Phantasy Theater, which stages Golden Age comic book stories like old radio dramas.
“To him, it’s not just haunts that’s Halloween, ghost stories is Halloween, ghost tours is Halloween,” Carradine said.
When Markland debuted ScareLA, nothing like it existed in Los Angeles. HauntEx, a haunted house attractions trade show, folded by the mid-2000s while the long-running Monsterpalooza celebrates entertainment-world creature characters and movie makeup.
After falling out with ScareLA co-partner Lora Ivanova, Markland moved forward — with nearly his entire ScareLA team intact— to launch Midsummer Scream last July. (ScareLA now persists without Markland, hanging its witch’s hat at Los Angeles Convention Center in August.)
Supervising Producer Claire Dunlap said 2016’s Midsummer, which took four months to plan, went well —even as Markland’s former convention became competition.
“It was overwhelmingly positive. Sure, there’s crossover and much of the target audience is the same but we got to do it unhampered,” said Dunlap, Markland’s longtime partner, who applied her skills producing award-winning community theater to helping run the family friendly convention. About 8,000 people attended — roughly the tally of Markland’s third ScareLA.
Markland explains how Long Beach is ideal as epicentral from Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County—home to many amusement parks hosting Halloween haunts.
Advanced sales have already surpassed last year’s convention, he said.
“You make the event that you want to go to. I was just out to make an awesome Halloween event. All the things came together phenomenally.”
To learn more about Midsummer Scream, visit the website here.