Tampa Bay Screams brings ‘kid-friendly’ horror fan gathering

Published Jun. 1|Updated Jun. 1

Tampa Bay Screams Horror Convention is returning for its seventh year, bringing memorabilia, a film festival and actors from some favorite horror movies for pictures and autographs.

The convention, which insists it is a “kid-friendly event,” celebrates the genre with a huge lineup of vendors selling DVDs, posters, shirts, costumes and horror-related items. It runs from noon-5 p.m. June 11-12. Admission is $20 online, $30 at the door, free for kids 10 and younger.

Sean Donohue, a filmmaker who created the convention in 2016, said the actual horror of COVID-19 put a wrinkle in their plans, causing the 2020 convention to be canceled. They then put on two conventions in 2021.

“Obviously it wasn’t good that we had to cancel in 2020 but people were so bottled up and ready to get out that in 2021 we had our most successful year,” Donohue said.

He said the event is family-friendly, though maybe not for every family.

“There are a lot of people that love this kind of thing,” Donohue said. “The films in the film festival will be clearly labeled so some of them are probably not too kid-friendly, but the cosplay and the merchandise can be a lot of fun for a kid.”

Stephen Geoffreys, shown here in his role as high school misfit turned vampire "Evil Ed" in the 1985 horror film "Fright Night," will make an appearance at the Tampa Bay Screams Horror Convention June 11-12.
Stephen Geoffreys, shown here in his role as high school misfit turned vampire “Evil Ed” in the 1985 horror film “Fright Night,” will make an appearance at the Tampa Bay Screams Horror Convention June 11-12. [ Tampa Bay Screams ]

Celebrities slated to appear include Stephen Geoffreys, who played the high school misfit-turned-vampire in 1985′s “Fright Night,” as well as Felissa Rose from the 1983 cult-horror film “Sleepaway Camp” and Dave Sheridan, who played the bumbling serial killer in the Keenen Ivory Wayans comedy “Scary Movie.”

Local celebrity Grady Stiles III, the son of the famous “Lobster Boy” who was murdered in Gibsonton in 1992, will also be there. Stiles has retold the harrowing story of a family headed by one of the 20th century’s most famous freak show attractions on shows like AMC’s “Freak Show” and “Carnie Killers.” He, like his father, was born with ectrodactyly, a congenital disorder that makes hands and feet resemble claw-like appendages.

In a 2014 interview with the Huffington Post, Stiles said he may have inherited the family’s disability, but he was happy that he didn’t inherit his father’s temper and alcoholism. In November 1992, his father was murdered in his home in Gibsonton in eastern Hillsborough County by a family friend with gang ties in a case that made international headlines.

Though there won’t be an official costume contest, expect to see lots of attendees in cosplay at Tampa Bay Screams. The film festival will play genre films continuously both days, including movies such as “Craiglon Incident III Annihilation,” which was shot in the Tampa Bay area.

If you go

Tampa Bay Screams: The horror convention will have a film festival, celebrity appearances and lots of vendors selling horror-related items. $20 online, $30 at the door, free for kids 10 and younger. Noon-5 p.m. June 11-12. Ramada Hotel and Suites, 1200 N West Shore Blvd., Tampa. tampabayscreams.com.