We spent our weekend watching serial killers roam free, taking photos of zombies and strangling Jason Voorhees. No, we weren’t living the horror movie dream, we were selling our books at Horror Con UK in Rotherham.
This was the con’s second year of running and our first of attending. We picked up our mate, Dave, who was trading under his prop/SFX company, From The Shadows, at midday on Friday. Satnav said it would take three and half hours, leaving us plenty of time to get there by 5 p.m. The hall was open until then for people to set up the night before. We were so confident we’d be there on time that we actually stuck to the speed limit. So Fate decided to punish our good behaviour (as she always does. Bitch) by providing plenty of traffic jams and 40 mph zones. We pulled in to the Magna Science Centre at 4:52 p.m. Some speed limits may have been…ignored.
Wishing all sorts of unholy hell on the god of traffic jams, we hurried in and tried to find our tables. The woman at reception directed us to the big hall, as we didn’t even know which hall we were in. After wandering for a bit, trying to spot our names or someone in charge, Dave asked a trader who pointed us in the direction of Gill, who was running it. She led us to our tables and let us bring our stuff in.
We’d originally planned to just dump our stuff and find a pub, but decided we’d rather have longer in bed in the morning, so set up our tables. Everyone else had covered their merchandise with cloths. As this was only our second con and our first two day one, we didn’t think to bring cloths. Safe in the knowledge nobody would ever want to nick our books, we left to check into our Welcome Inn. It turned out, a lot of people from Horror Con were at the Welcome Inn. After such a stressful drive, the only way to save the evening was to find a nice pub. Lynx found one called The Droppingwell three minutes down the road. It became our local for the weekend. Dave’s friend, Sam, joined us.
For once, we decided to behave like adults and left the pub at 10:40 to get an early night. Then ended up watching horror films until gone midnight. Best intentions and all that jazz. We stumbled into the Magna Science Centre at 8:45 a.m. and were bored by 9. The doors didn’t open ’til 10. Another author came over to chat to us to see if we had the traders passes we were supposed to. We didn’t. We then spotted a guy with a bunch of them and plotted to mug him. Several hours later, we realised we actually knew this author on Twitter – Mark Cassell, who wrote The Shadow Fabric. Plotting to mug a man for lanyards is probably one of the milder things we’ve done when first meeting someone.
Jack and James, who are two thirds of our favourite ghost hunting team, had a table in the Red Hall. Jack was selling his first book, Winter Smith: London’s Burning, a zombie novel, which is excellent. The guys from Hellbound Media were also there. We first met them in Bristol Horror Con in October and lured one half of them, Mark, into friendship with Love Hearts.
Things were slow at first, but the crowds soon arrived. There were so many fantastic costumes, which made us realise how lazy we are. They put all that effort into it and we admire them for it. We can’t be arsed. We barely bother putting makeup on, let alone all the makeup effects they went to. Some days, for us, making an effort means lint rollering the pet hair off our clothes. At the end of our row of tables was a bar, so we were hoping for drunk purchases the customer would regret in the morning. Sadly it didn’t happen. We also had a bowl of sweets to tempt people to our table. Most declined and it felt creepy offering them to kids. We almost felt like we should have had the Child Catcher van behind us and adopt witchy voices: “want some caaanndy little child?”
Our Twitter friend, Roger came all the way from Liverpool to meet us, which was brilliant. He bought us a drink, so thanks Roger! We met a guy called Steven from ASSAP (Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena). We probably should’ve tried to impress him with our ghost hunting expertise. Instead we told him all about Calamityville Horror and uttered the words “Worst. Ghost hunters. Ever.” But he bought a copy of Deadly Reflections so he obviously wasn’t put off.
Two photographers came to our table while Lynx was absent and they asked if they could photograph Cat. She agreed and after quite a few photos were taken, one of the photographers showed her a photo. Cat “That’s a rare decent photo of me!” Then she noticed her corset had slipped down a bit and some cleavage had made a bid for freedom. A red leopard print bra is not the best thing to wear under a black corset. She also got yoghurt in her eye in front of a customer. It seems our Calamityville level of professionalism stalked us to the con.
We’d hoped to spot Kane Hodder walking around, but sadly didn’t. At 6 p.m., we went to snag him for a photo, only to see him disappear out the back. There was only one way to end a day of selling – in the pub. This time, Jack, James and Mark Cassell joined us. It’s surprisingly exhausting standing behind a table all day being sociable when you’re used to sitting in a shed not speaking to anybody. The six of us were all knackered in the pub and called it a night at 10:30 p.m. We then watched another horror film.
After another bad night’s sleep, we shuffled into the hall at 9 and were ready for a nap at 9:30. Sunday was much quieter. We didn’t sell anything for the first two hours and trade barely picked up. It wasn’t just us who weren’t selling anything. A lot of traders seemed to have the same problem. We kept ourselves amused by minding Dave and Mark’s tables and drawing penises on guitar plectrums for Dave to sell – dick picks. One guy wanted a pick with shaved testicles on it. Cat happened to draw manscaped testicles on her picks. It was a proud moment when he bought her pick. The Red Hall was in the main entrance, so while on the Saturday it got the crowds coming through, on Sunday, the crowds were let in through a different door, so the Red Hall was dead all day. We would’ve moved all the traders into the one hall for that day, or at least into the corridor outside the big hall.
We’d spotted Kane Hodder walking back to his table so scuttled after him, only to see him disappear out the back. Cursing the fates, we returned to our table. At 4ish, we hadn’t sold anything for a couple of hours, so went to queue at Kane’s table, taking our Friday the 13th box set for him to sign. We were so nervous – our hearts were pounding, our mouths were dry. We’d already met Freddy Krueger and now we were finally about to meet the longest running Jason Voorhees. Luckily, the couple in front of us eased the tension with dick jokes with Kane, so we joined in. Yes, we made dick jokes with Kane Hodder. We are absolutely not sorry about this.
When we got to the front, Kane asked if we were underage, what with all the dick jokes. He didn’t believe us when we said we were 33. He was wearing his Hollywood Ghost Hunters T-shirt so we told him about Calamityville and said we’d seen the episode of Ghost Adventures where they teamed up, and mentioned the time we met the Ghost Adventures Crew in Vegas. Kane “Did Zak hit on you?” Us “No.” Kane “You’re kidding? Really? He didn’t hit on you?” Us “Billy chatted to us for ages.” He seemed shocked. As Cat lined up the camera, Kane had the back of Lynx’s neck in his trademark grip. He usually strangles people in photos, or does the Jason head squeeze. So we pretended to strangle him while he hugged us. After the photo, he squeezed us tight and wouldn’t let us go. The people queuing laughed the longer it went on. Bear hugged by Kane Hodder – what a way to end the weekend.
And then Cat nearly got locked in the toilets with 70s/80s B Horror movie icon Linnea Quigley. Security were locking up and Cat and Linnea happened to be in neighbouring toilet cubicles. They commented on how fun it would be to get locked in the centre all night and Linnea was all for it. Then she said how much she loved Cat’s outfit. Cat repaid the compliment. Her dress was gorgeous and she has such an amazing figure. And she’s the same height as us! We always think of Hollywood sex icons as being tall but nope. She was lovely. She asked what Cat was selling at the Con so she said we were horror writers and Linnea thought that was really cool. Not as cool as being a horror icon! We just sit in a shed all day making things up between bouts of napping and feeding the cats.
We had a fantastic weekend and met loads of great people. Our only criticism is that we had to pay £35 extra to have two traders at our table, whereas at every other con, you get a table and two chairs automatically. We’d argued this when booking and were told we were paying for the extra trader’s pass. Pretty sure the lanyards and laminated passes don’t cost £35. When you factor in two nights’ accommodation and petrol, it makes it much harder to make a profit. And as traffic wasn’t going through the Red Hall on the second day, those traders should’ve been moved. Thanks to everyone who bought a book/pen/jewellery, or who took the time to speak to us. Thanks Roger for the drinks and coming all that way to meet us, and thanks Peter for keeping us company at the end of the event and for helping us load our car. And to Dave for being our awesome travelling companion and con buddy. We get to do it all over again in two weeks time for Sanitarium Horror Con. We’ve only just finished unpacking and now we have to pack again as we leave for Paris on Thursday. The catacombs are calling us.