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What it was like opening day at Midsummer Scream in Long Beach

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Long Beach is once again the summer hotspot for fans of all things spooky as the Midsummer Scream Halloween and Horror Convention took over the Convention Center on Friday, July 28 and continues through Sunday, July 30.

“I pretty much live for this every summer. If you love anything scary, you’re here this weekend,” said Reseda resident Omar Cruz, who said he’s come to every Midsummer Scream event since it began in 2016.

Dressed up as a frightening and bloody clown, he was one of thousands of people who attended the first day of the annual scare-a-thon, which is expected to attract about 40,000 people to the area.

ALSO SEE: Midsummer Scream returns to Long Beach with monsters, mazes and more — here’s what you need to know

The weekend includes as horror movie festival, walk-thru mazes, a horror-themed marketplace with more than 300 vendors, live music, cabaret performances, panel discussions, celebrity guests, activations that showcase video and board games and more.

  • A performance of “Exorcist the Musical” during Midsummer Scream at...

    A performance of “Exorcist the Musical” during Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday,...

    Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday,...

    Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday,...

    Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday,...

    Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday,...

    Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday,...

    Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Various masks available during Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach...

    Various masks available during Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday,...

    Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Pennywise poses for a photograph during Midsummer Scream at the...

    Pennywise poses for a photograph during Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Miss Midnight poses for a photograph during Midsummer Scream at...

    Miss Midnight poses for a photograph during Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday,...

    Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Various masks available during Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach...

    Various masks available during Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Derek Riggs signs autographs during Midsummer Scream at the Long...

    Derek Riggs signs autographs during Midsummer Scream at the Long Beach Convention Center on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

With doors open from 6-10 p.m. on Friday, the first day is the shortest of all three convention days. Yet this year, the Convention Center seemed to fill up as soon as doors opened and it was largely in part because for the first time ever the widely popular Hall of Shadows, a darkened zone that houses walk-through mazes designed by amateur and professional haunt creators, was open for the duration of the event instead of just Saturday and Sunday.

And people lined up to get their scare on right away at mazes like Rancho Cucamonga-based Straite to Hale Productions’ Unhinged Housewarming, a classic haunted attraction inspired by the Winchester Mystery House.

Using tactics like air guns, slow-moving ghosts, a creature that jumps off the wall and a swamp created by green laser lights and fog, it was one of the scariest of the handful of walk-through haunts within the zone.

“This house is filled with ghosts who have the desire to acquire more souls into the house to join them,” said Ron Hale, one of the co-creators of Straite to Hale. “We’re just here because we love horror; we love this crowd.”

One of the most visually impressive haunts was Fear Farm’s Ravenfall Castle. The entrance looks like an old castle and it holds the record for the tallest façade ever at Hall of Shadows, standing at 24.5-feet.

Once inside the castle, people will have to survive the walking spirits that follow you and scream at you as they roam the dungeon. Look out for something about to grab you from above and maybe something grabbing at your ankles as well.

But bravery is rewarded here since there is also a bar attached to the castle.

“We’re going for a little bit of scare and a lot of fun. We love to get a good jump out of everyone,” said Terry Boker, one of the creators of the Phelan-based attraction, where they attract about 6,000 people every year to their home haunt in October.

While in the past the Hall of Shadows has been filled with local haunts, for the first time the convention invited an out of state haunt from Colorado called Wicker Manor. It takes guests into an old mine which was the site of a horrific accident in the 1800s, and things start to go wrong right away as they are led into an elevator that seems to quickly fall out of control. If you survive the very realistic-feeling elevator fall, well, there’s still some angry spirits to deal with inside the mine.

Besides adding another day to the Hall of Shadows, Midsummer Scream also hosted a full theatrical production for the first time ever. It’s a musical, but not just any musical, it’s one based on one of the most frightening films of all time: “The Exorcist.”

The power of theater may compel to you sing and dance thanks to “Exorcistic: The Live Musical,” which is a nearly two hour rock musical parody. It follows the humorous cast of a theater company who is putting on a musical about the film, but the cast becomes possessed in the process. There are demons, priests, and of course a lot of music and interaction since the actors often walked into the crowd.

“It’s crazy, it’s a comment on the theater in America, it’s a comment on film parodies and it really is a love letter to ‘The Exorcist’ because it really does possess you,” said Alli Miller-Fisher, producer and co-director of the musical.

Another new experience this year is “The Boogeyman,” which was inspired by the new Disney film. Located on the second floor of the convention center, the attraction is an escape room that’s completely dark. Patrons enter in pairs and one partner, who can see the room through a night vision camera, has to figure out clues and communicate to the person roaming in complete darkness about where to find certain items in under three minutes in order to escape.

“You’re pretty much walking around in pitch black with the boogeyman roaming around in the room,” said Jeff Schiefelbein, who designed the experience for Midsummer Scream and has long worked with the convention. “I think the more experiences we have the better. Midsummer is known for all their experiences and interactive things. We just keep trying to up the game here every year at Midsummer and bring more activations and more experiences and more things for people to really immerse themselves.”

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