Paranormal Conventions 2019: Best UFO and Supernatural Conferences

[An earlier version of this list appeared on Den Of Geek]

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!”


APRIL

Titanic Séance: A Night to Remember
Long Beach, California
April 13, 2019
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.

MAY

ParaPsyCon
Mansfield, Ohio
May 4-5, 2019
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 from psychic/medium Chip Coffey, Steve Gonsalves of Ghost Hunters, and Dalen Spratt of Ghost Brothers.

Ohio Bigfoot Conference
Salt Fork, Ohio
May 4, 2019

UFO Fest
McMinnville, Oregon
May 16-18, 2019

Paraunity Expo
Woodbridge, New Jersey
May 17-18, 2019

Contact in the Desert
Indian Wells, California
May 31-June 3, 2019
The lineup for this UFO and Extraterrestrial Life event looks out of this world (pun very much intended). George Noory of Coast to Coast AM, Giorgio A. Tsoukalos of Ancient Aliens, Ben Hansen of Syfy’s Fact or Faked, Erich von Daniken, author of Chariots of the Gods, 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.

JUNE

Alien Con
June 21-23, 2019

JULY

Roswell UFO Festival
Roswell, New Mexico
July 5-7, 2019
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 includes lectures from Roswell investigators Donald Schmitt, and Thomas Carey, as well as notable figures in the community Stanton Friedman, and Travis Walton (whose UFO abduction story was the inspiration for Fire in the Sky).

Hawaii Paracon
Honolulu, Hawaii
July 19-21, 2019
This one is interesting because it touts itself as the first major convention that approaches the paranormal from a cultural aspect, how Native Hawaiians, Asians and other indigenous cultures acknowledge, understand, and share their take on the phenomena that fall beyond the physical senses. 


Pennhurst Paracon
Spring City, Pennsylvania
July 19-21, 2019
The Pennhurst Paracon features well-known celebrity paranormal investigators you’ll see elsewhere on this list (John Zaffis, Grant Wilson, Steve Gonsalves, etc), but the main attraction is Pennhurst itself, the state school and hospital that operated from 1908-1987. The site is known for its infamous history of abuse, and neglect. Personally, I find it to be one of the saddest supposedly haunted locales I’ve visited. The event includes panels, and presentations, but the investigation opportunities in areas typically tightly controlled makes this event a must. If ghosts exists, it’s likely that they stalk the grounds of this massive compound.

AUGUST

Michigan Paranormal Convention
Sault Ste Marie
Aug. 22-24, 2019
Celebrating its tenth year in 2019, 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, The Dead Files, Kindred Spirits, 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. 

Dragon Con
Atlanta, Georgia
August 29-Sept 2, 2019
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.   

SEPTEMBER

International UFO Congress
Phoenix Arizona
Sept 4-8, 2019
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.

Cryptid Con
Lexington, Kentucky
Sept 7-8, 2019
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 James “Bobo” Fay and Cliff Barackman from Finding Bigfoot, Nick Groff of Paranormal Lockdown, Ouija board historian Robert Murch, 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.

The Scarefest
Lexington, Kentucky
Sept 12-15, 2019

Mothman Festival
Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Sept 21-22,
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.

OCTOBER

Little Traverse Bay Parafest
Petoskey, Michigan
Oct 11-12, 2019

NOVEMBER

Sage Paracon
Coventry, United Kingdom
Nov 7-10, 2019
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. In the interest of full disclosure, I did speak at last year’s event, but I can recommend Sage with a clean conscience. Coombe 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 medieval banquet and voodoo party at night, with a group of diverse guests giving presentations during the day. 

If you'd like to add your event to this list, please email press@paranormalpopculture.com

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