In 2008, Troy Bowers retired from captaining a fishing boat in Alaska. His retirement plan? Start a horror convention.
“He does it for fun,” says Jasen Mortensen, the head of public relations for Crypticon. “As soon as this stops being fun for him is the year he stops doing it. There’s nothing about making huge profits or what’s going to bring in the most revenue; it’s very much a pet project for him.”
Mortensen is more than a flack for the largest horror convention in the Pacific Northwest—he is a fan, who first attended Crypticon eight years ago, in its third year. A writer and lover of the horror genre, he was naturally drawn to the convention, and fell in love. “The first year I went, it was at a Holiday Inn,” he says. “The celebrities were in the parking garage. It was pretty small and dark and dimly lit. It’s grown quite a bit since then.”
The three days of Crypticon have since moved to the DoubleTree in SeaTac, where organizers convene panels, celebrity interviews, and a film festival. The event, which will next take place May 4-6, 2018, is still modest as conventions go, with about 5,000 attendees forecast for the 2018 convention. In comparison, Burbank, Calif.’s Monster-Palooza garnered a record-breaking 12,000 attendees this year.
That relative intimacy, though, is part of Crypticon’s appeal, Mortensen says. “As a con goer, it was a lot more personal,” he says. “You could spend time talking to the celebrities and you didn’t have to pay. Autographs were cheap, everyone was friendly. It was the right size to have people I was interested in seeing, but it was small enough to actually enjoy it.”
The convention is also unique for its location. The dark, foreboding trees, looming mountains, and oppressive gray skies of the Pacific Northwest have long been fodder for the unseemly and paranormal. In an area where Sasquatch sightings and Twin Peaks-ian intrigue is part of the local culture, there is a lot to talk about. This is likely why some of Crypticon’s most popular panels are the ones about true crime—most notably, serial killers. Our region is known for producing some of the most unfathomable murderers in the country’s history. In fact, the stretch of Highway 99 where the convention is located is where Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, picked up a lot of his victims.
Crypticon also draws on Seattle’s community of filmmakers and love of cinema. “There’s a special place in cinephile hearts for horror movies,” Mortensen says. “A lot of first memories for these people are those old monster movies they saw as kids. With Seattle’s big film community, it’s hard to ignore the horror genre.” One of the con’s biggest events, movies run back-to-back from dusk until dawn, and panels that help amateur filmmakers learn how to make movies include some of the biggest names in the industry to serve as inspiration. For this year’s event, in May, for instance, the con had booked the legendary George Romero, director of Night of the Living Dead. Unfortunately, he called the weekend of the convention to cancel for health reasons. He passed away July 16.
Crypticon is an experience for all fans of horror. But more than that, it’s an intimate fan experience without a deep-pocketed organizer—it’s truly centered around its attendees. Proof of that is that most Crypticon attendees, like Mortensen, are returners. “We refer to the people we see every year as the Crypticon family,” Mortensen said. “There are large groups of people that have become really good friends over the years.”