FrightReads Book Festival Offers Fun For All Ages


Donning coveralls and a proton pack, a Charm City Ghostbusters cosplayer posed for pictures. Meanwhile, magician Niox Mayhem walked on broken glass, his skeleton face paint remaining stoic throughout the stunt. Authors specializing in supernatural and spooky stories regaled bookworms looking for their next purchase.

These were just a few of the scenes on display at the FrightReads Book Festival, held at Benfield Sportscenter on September 30 and October 1.

An annual affair, FrightReads is an all-ages horror and Halloween event featuring authors, crafters, celebrities, panel discussions, music and other activities.

Laurel author Edward Swing participated in the event because of the focus on books, as opposed to some comic conventions that highlight actors as the main attraction. Books from Swing’s three series covered his table, including his “Pantheon” series.

“I was thinking about superheroes, and if somebody like Batman or Superman or Iron Man were around in ancient Greece, that would form the basis of, essentially, mythology,” he said. “So, what if the mythology we know was that — somebody who had what we consider superpowers in our modern day. So that’s the basis of this series. It doesn’t go into superheroes as much as some of the immortals who have been around for thousands of years and how their exploits have created the myths we know today.”

Mythology was a common subject at the event. On the opposite side of the Millersville venue, Ari Lehman, the first actor to portray Jason Vorhees in “Friday the 13th,” discussed the mythology of Jason and how his character changed from one film to the next. Ultimately, Lehman said, the slasher had some redeeming qualities.

“People love a classic monster — Frankenstein or the werewolf,” Lehman said. “People always bring up Michael Myers. Michael Myers is way more evil than Jason … Jason loves his mom, so he has a certain kind of morality.

“Obviously, it’s righteous vengeance gone way too far, but at least we can relate to him,” Lehman said. “If you tried to put Jason on a psychiatrist’s couch, he’d just take the couch and hit the psychiatrist with it.”

A different serial killer is the subject of the “Agent Raines” series, penned by Melissa Caribou Annen. Her newest book profiled a different type of psychotic behavior.

“A young woman is trying to escape her mother, but then she finds out she has a stalker,” she said. “So, no freedom there.”

For all the gloomy talk about stalkers and slashers, the atmosphere at FrightReads was jolly.

“It’s exciting to get to meet other local authors and meet people who read books that are genred in the mystery-horror realm,” Caribou Annen said. “It’s definitely a great opportunity getting to see all these amazing actors as well.”

That sentiment was shared by author Brad Cox, who showcased his novels, CDs from his band Skitzo Calypso, and his poetry, which combined elements of his songs and his dystopian science fiction.

FrightReads also offered a panel with actors from “Clerks,” a discussion with makeup and special effects performer Jeremy Ambler of “The Walking Dead,” and music from Lehman’s band called First Jason.

While authors networked with their peers and fans, they also reflected on themes in horror fiction and in their own work. For J.A. Barrios, that meant examining the origin story of purgatory in “Tenebris: The Unholy Darkness.”

“Lucifer is the [considered the] most beautiful creature of existence whereas the devil was this monstrous being, and they are supposed to be the same entity, but what if they were two different rulers in the same world?” he said. “My newest book, ‘Ravings of an Unsettled Mind,’ is a collection of short horror stories that are mostly inspired by personal experiences with depression and things I’ve seen a lot of my loved ones go through, so kind of taking real-life horrors and turning them into something more traditional.”


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