Mad Monster lures horror and sci-fi fans across the state line

What do Jason Voorhees, Eddie Munster, The Demogorgon, Lando Calrissian and Ric Flair have in common?

They (or the actors who played them) are some of the guests at this year’s Mad Monster Party – the horror and pop culture convention that has called Charlotte home since 2012. But after spending the past two years at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel, it has moved: to the Hood Center at York Technical College in Rock Hill, S.C.

“We always referred to our show as ‘the Carolinas’ Horror/Pop Culture Convention’ and have drawn nearly as many fans from South as North Carolina,” says Eben McGarr, the L.A.-based producer/director and magazine publisher who co-founded the event. “We’ve had a really hard time finding a venue capable of or interested in accommodating us in North Carolina, so when York County invited us to consider a move, it made sense.”

The move has allowed the Con to stretch. This year marks the debut of the Creepy Carnival, which includes rides like the “Fearis Wheel” and the “Carousel of Clowns,” as well as dunk tanks, a fortune teller, and a sideshow. Of course, that’s in addition to the annual film festival, charity auction, Miss Mad Monster Pageant, scaraoke, costume contest and a corral of classic movie cars in the “Roadkill Goreage.”

What attracts most fans is the chance to meet iconic film and TV stars, and listen to stories about the genre’s most memorable movies.

Billy Dee Williams, best known for playing Lando Calrissian in “The Empire Strikes Back,” says conventions are one of his favorite things to do. He didn’t make any horror films (“Not in the literal sense. Some of them were horrific,” he adds), but “Star Wars” holds a lot of clout among the Con crowd. He’s glad his work made a lasting impression.

“If you’re an actor, you’re always expecting whatever you do – especially if it’s an important endeavor – to move your career forward in a wonderful way,” says Williams, who turns 80 in April and filmed the “Dirty Dancing” remake in North Carolina last year.

Aside from painting, working on a coffee table book, and voiceover work, Williams says he’s offered parts, but generally “I’m not really interested in doing something at the moment.”

For returning guest Sid Haig, conventions have become a part of a career resurgence that began with Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown” in 1997 and was cemented by the role of Captain Spaulding in “House of 1000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects.”

Although at 77 the character actor is still trying to break the bad-guy mold for good, he’s in no hurry to ditch his horror fans.

“Not only are they completely loyal, but they don’t have a lot of issues,” he says, discussing Mad Monster in particular. “Everybody is easy-going. There’s not a lot of drama. Things are run properly. (I come back because of) that, and the fact that I like the people in the area.”

Mad Monster Party

When: 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: The Hood Center, 375 S. Anderson Road, Rock Hill, S.C.

Tickets: Single-day tickets are $25-$30 Friday and Sunday, $35-$40 Saturday. Three-day passes are $60-$70; VIP tickets are $199 (online-only). Kids 12 and younger are free. Tickets include the Creepy Carnival, but carnival-only admission is $10 Friday and Sunday and $13 Saturday.

Details: www.madmonsterparty.com.