At most comic cons and fan events, one expects to run into people dressed as supernatural entities, extraterrestrials, and mysterious creatures. But at paranormal, cryptozoology, and ufology events, fans are discussing the existence of them – and often gather to actively go looking for them.
And as much as I move about in the world of comic cons, for the past decade or so, I have spent weekends traveling the world to talk as a journalist and researcher about ghosts, demons, curses, aliens, UFO, and monsters. During the day, the world of paracons closely resembles most fan events, and there is quite a bit of cross-pollination between them. There are panels, vendor rooms, and signings by notable authors, television personalities, and occasionally actors from paranormal pop culture. But at night, the activities continue with a skywatch, ’squatch hunt, or ghost hunt in supposedly haunted houses (or asylums, penitentiaries, hospitals, and hotels).
Many paracon attendees skew towards the belief end of the spectrum, but most are an overwhelmingly curious balance of Mulders or later-season Scullys in the “I Want To Believe” or “The Truth is Out There” sense. While there are certainly eccentric characters, they are no more so than the most ardent comic con-goer – which is to say things can get delightfully weird. And though I could tell stories about times I was accused of being a reptilian from another planet, I rarely encounter tinfoil hats or (hardly ever) meet anyone possessed by the spirit of a dead president.
With that in mind, I wanted to offer a breakdown of some of the best paracons out there, worthy of a fantripping adventure. I have not attended all of these, but based my recommendations on reputation, location, or guest list. Whether you’re new to the scene, or the paranormal is an old haunt for you, give these a chance. Enter with an open mind, and an appetite for fun. And if you see me at any, come up and say, “Boo!”
Spirited Away Paranormal and Psychic Event
Brooklyn, New York
Feb. 4, 2020
Paranormal Historical Investigation at Morris-Jumel Mansion
New York, NY
Feb. 15, 2020 (and recurring)
The Morris-Jumel Mansion in Manhattan is one of the crown jewels of the haunted Big Apple. Notable investigators from Hans Holzer to Zak Bagans have looked for paranormal activity here, and now you can as well. The mansion offer bi-monthly investigations of “Manhattan’s Oldest House,” which also includes some tips, theory, and history. There are also snacks! While this is a recurring event, it’s an especially fun way to celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend.
St. Augustine Lighthouse Ghost Hunt
St. Augustine, Florida
March 7, 2020
Houghton Lake, Michigan
March 7, 2020
I haven’t attended this one, but it’s dedicated to Murray “the paranormal pooch,” who prevented his human dad from committing suicide. So that’s worth an entry right there.
Spirits of Hawaii
March 22-24, 2020
Hosted by Amy Bruni and Adam Berry of Travel Channel’s paranormal show Kindred Spirits, this four-day event is unique for its exploration of Hawaiian ghosts and spirituality. An intimate affair on the Big Island, limited to 20 attendees, this year the focus is on spirituality. Along with daytime lectures, the event includes cocktail parties, a sunset meditation, and private tour of Hulihe’e Palace. There is also a visit to the Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park, the Painted Church and Cemetery, and Kona Living History Farm. Look, I am all for dark and stormy nights in haunted prisons, or asylums, but sign me up any day for a paranormal/meditatitve/tiki mash-up vacay!
March 26-29, 2020
Regarded as a beloved paranormal community event, “Phenom” returns after a couple year absence with an impressive line-up. The guests this year include Jason Hawes from Ghost Nation, Dave Schrader from The Holzer Files, paranormal icon John Zaffis, prolific researcher Jeff Belanger, medium Chris Fleming, and the Perron Family fictionalized in the movie The Conjuring.
Haunted In Havana: A Paranormal Weekend at Belvoir Winery
March 27-29, 2020
History and Haunts Expo
April 4, 2020
Midwest Parafest 3
April 5, 2020
Titanic Séance: A Night to Remember
Long Beach, California
April 14, 2020
Combine a historic (and allegedly famously haunted) ocean liner, with a theatrical séance led by an illusionist, and seven-course gourmet meal, and you have “A Night To Remember” upon the RMS Queen Mary. Master Magician and Apparitionist Aiden Sinclair (as seen on America’s Got Talent, and Penn & Teller: Fool Us), casts a striking presence as he utilizes antiques, and artifacts, in a Victorian séance. But is the haunting evening that ensues an illusion or something more … unexplained? This special black-tie affair will be dedicated to the memory of the Titanic, which sank April 15, 1912, and includes cigar rolling, whiskey flights, and a menu inspired by the final first-class meal served aboard the doomed ship. If you miss the event, it is still worthwhile checking out Sinclair’s “Illusions of the Passed” séance on the Queen Mary throughout the year.
The Haunted Savannah Paracon
April 17-18, 2020
Suicide Awareness Event At Ashmore Estates
April 17-19, 2020
The Littleton ParaCon
Littleton, North Carolina
April 25, 2020
Bayou City Paranormal Symposium
April 25-26, 2020
May 2-3, 2020
The 133-year-old Ohio State Reformatory is a historic prison with a striking exterior, and haunting interior. A combination of Victorian Gothic, Richardsonian Romanesque, and Queen Anne styles of architecture, the facility was meant to inspire inmates to rediscover their spiritual sides. Instead, it has come to be known as one of the most haunted locales in America (though it should be noted that ghosts are notoriously reluctant to fill out surveys quantifying this). But I’ve been there numerous times, and it is an amazing location. ParaPsyCon taps into this history with a six-hour ghost hunt in the foreboding prison, as well as offering programming.
Ohio Bigfoot Conference
Salt Fork, Ohio
May 2, 2020
May 14-16, 2020
Woodbridge, New Jersey
May 16, 2020
Running for seven years, the Paraunity Expo gathers the power of multiple Travel Channel paranormal series: Kindred Spirits, The Dead Files, The Holzer Files, and Kindred Spirits, while also including Daryl Marston from A&E’s Ghost Hunters.
Contact in the Desert
Indian Wells, California
May 29-June 1, 2020
The line up for this UFO and Extraterrestrial Life event looks out of this world (pun very much intended). George Noory of Coast to Coast AM, investigator Leslie Kean, Dr. J Allen Hynek’s son Paul, author Whitley Strieber, Ben Hansen of Ghosts of Morgan City and Fact or Faked, and so many more heavy hitters from the E.T. community will gather to talk about crop circles, abductions, forbidden archaeology, and more. There will also be some epic sky watch opportunities at night.
Fort Mifflin Paranormal Expo 2020
June 6, 2020
Ghosts of the Eastern Seaboard Paranormal Cruise
June 20-27, 2020
Departing from Cape Liberty, New Jersey
Cruising from the New York region to Nova Scotia, and Maine, this Strange Escapes tour features multiple paranormal lectures, as well as a gallery reading by psychic Chip Coffey, and a ghost tour/excursion in St. Johns. There are also cocktail parties, a shore day, and tours of Halifax’s Atlantic Maritime Museum, and Fairview Cemetery – both connected to the Titanic tragedy.
Roswell UFO Festival
Roswell, New Mexico
July 3-5, 2020
Roswell is bucket list destination for anyone remotely interested in UFO, aliens (and government cover-ups). The town is inextricably linked with the 1947 incident involving a crashed “flying disc,” or surveillance balloon, according to some. The so-called UFO Capital of the World has responded by throwing an annual festival complete with alien parades, cosplay, and carnival rides. Along with the light-hearted fun, the UFO Festival typically includes lectures from Roswell investigators Donald Schmitt, and Thomas Carey, as well as notable figures in the community, such as Travis Walton (whose UFO abduction story was the inspiration for Fire in the Sky).
Mountain Gypsies Gathering
Roan Mountain, Tennessee
July 3-5, 2020
The Gettysburg Battlefield Bash
(To benefit Pa Wounded Warriors & Heroes 4 Higher)
July 24-26, 2020
Kansas City, MO
July 31-Aug. 1, 2020
Aug 7-9, 2020
Cryptid Con combines ghostly pursuits and cryptozoology with a comic con-style format that welcomes both the casual fan, the movie nerd, and the die-hard researcher. This year’s event is still being assembled, but it already boasts sasquatch researcher Jeff Meldrum, James “Bobo” Fay and Cliff Barackman from Finding Bigfoot, Nick Groff of Paranormal Lockdown, the cast of Mountain Mounsters, and a lot of other notable names. The event also looks like a lot of fun because of the wild assortment of crypto-crazy vendors.
Michigan Paranormal Convention
Sault Ste Marie
Aug. 27-29, 2020
Celebrating its eleventh year, the Michigan Paranormal Convention has earned a reputation for its top-notch roster of guest speakers from all manner of paranormal fields. This is a veritable who’s who of paranormal celebrities from Ghost Hunters, Kindred Spirits, The Holzer Files, Ghost Nation, Ghost Adventures, Finding Bigfoot, and more. The Michigan Paracon is notable for not placing focus on a ghost hunt, but instead for its presentations, and a social scene where attendees mingle with the speakers at the Kewadin Casino.
Sept 3-7, 2020
Dragon Con is first and foremost known as a Nerdy Burning Man event, where parties and cosplay reign. But in addition to those, and the traditional convention trappings of celebrity signings and vendor floors, the Atlanta event has a healthy paranormal programming track. The event draws notable TV personalities and researchers from the ghost hunting and ufology.
International Bigfoot Conference
Sept. 4-6, 2020
International UFO Congress
Sept 9-12, 2020
This one is something of a family affair at Den of Geek as contributor Alejandro Rojas is one of the organizers, and yours truly has spoken there. But the Congress also bears the distinction for holding the Guinness World Record for largest UFO conference. The guests are still coming together for the event, but it’s guaranteed to be a great one.
Michigan UFO Con-tact
Houghton Lake, MI
Sept 11-12, 2020
Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Sept 19-20, 2020
This annual festival commemorates the 1966-67 sightings of a red-eyed, winged creature (was it a cryptid? Alien? Interdimensional being?), and other supernatural happenings that led up to the collapse of the Silver Bridge. The events are a part of folklore, but the stories of the Mothman don’t end there. While the schedule is still coming together for this event, it is a slice of Americana, complete with speakers, entertainment, tours of the sighting areas, and of course photo ops at the Mothman statue.
Society of Psychical Research 43rd International Annual Conference
Leicester, England, United Kingdom
Sept. 20-22, 2020
Sept 23-25, 2020
The long-running Scarefest event is a horror con that equally celebrates the paranormal. The guest list is still forming, but currently includes Tony Todd, and the cast of The Blair Witch Project.
Sept. 25-27, 2020
Van Meter Visitor Festival
Van Meter, Iowa
Sept. 26, 2020
I have admittedly never attended this event, but am quite enamored of the lore surrounding it. The small-town festival situated south of Des Moines is dedicated to a series of 1903 eyewitness accounts of a 9-foot-tall bulletproof, horned, bat-like creature (who shoots light out of its horn). The so-called Van Meter Visitor supposedly disappeared into a mine but has been seen into modern times.
Minnesota ParaUnity Convention
Oct. 1-3, 2020
This event is a new one to me, but touts an impressive lineup across the paranormal board. There are lecturers on the areas of cryptozoology (Loren Coleman), aliens (Chuck Zukowski, John E.L. Tenney), psychic phenomena (Chip Coffey, Chris Fleming), and a lot of ghosty folks, such as Grant Wilson, Amy Bruni, Dustin Pari, and actor/ghost hunter Chad Lindberg from Supernatural.
Chicago Hauntings Ghost Con
Oct 2-4, 2020
Hosted by the Chicago Hauntings tour group, and noted paranormal author Ursula Bielski, the Ghost Con is more than a decade strong as an “all paranormal” event with speakers, workshops, ghost tours, and ghost hunts. Details are still coming together for this year’s event, but keep an eye on the site.
Vulture City ParaCon
Oct 2-4, 2020
Little Traverse Bay Parafest
Oct 9-10, 2020
Fort Wayne Fright Fest
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Oct. 16-18, 2020
Horror meets paranormal (and real-life ghost hunters meet Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson) at Fort Wayne Fright Fest. Along with modern horror icon Kane Hodder, Boris Karloff’s daughter Sara, and Cryptkeeper John Kassir, the event includes a diverse roster of paranormal authors, and investigators from TV, with a variety of expertise.
Texas Bigfoot Conference
Oct. 16-17, 2020
Secret Haunted Journey to Ireland
Begins in Dublin, Ireland
Oct. 26 – Nov. 3, 2020
Oct. 30 – Nov. 9, 2020
Coventry, England, United Kingdom
Nov 5-8, 2020
Before the year ends, it is certainly worth taking a jaunt across the pond for Sage Paracon at the historic Coombe Abbey in Coventry, England. The Abbey is a gorgeous setting, and the 11th century abbey – since modernized into a luxury hotel on 500 acres of scenic parkland. The location alone is worth a trip, and that’s before you consider the ghost stories, and tales of a murdered monk. In addition to a paranormal investigation of the grounds, organizer MJ Dickson offers a VIP dinner and Ghostly Great Gatsby Gala at night, with a group of diverse guests giving presentations during the day.
Nov. 8, 2020