Monster Party Gras celebrates macabre

Photo provided by Mad Monster -- Among those scheduled to apprear at Mad Monster Party Gras in New Orleans are, front row, from left, Peter Criss, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Bruce Campbell, John Kassir (voice of the Crypt-Keeper) and Kyle Turley; and back row, Kim Coates, Theo Rossi, Mark Boone Jr., Ron Perlman and Tommy Flanagan.
Photo provided by Mad Monster -- Among those scheduled to apprear at Mad Monster Party Gras in New Orleans are, front row, from left, Peter Criss, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Bruce Campbell, John Kassir (voice of the Crypt-Keeper) and Kyle Turley; and back row, Kim Coates, Theo Rossi, Mark Boone Jr., Ron Perlman and Tommy Flanagan.

New Orleans loves a good scare.

The city’s many haunted houses and voodoo legends draw visitors by the thousands, and the upcoming Mad Monster Party Gras looks poised to cement the Big Easy’s reputation as a capital of the supernatural.

As the twisted offspring of a horror movie convention and a particularly wild Halloween party, Mad Monster Party Gras combines celebrity autograph sessions and panels with costume contests, a creepy puppet exhibit, a horror-themed burlesque show and more. And it all takes place at the Sheraton in New Orleans this weekend, opening on that most superstitious of days, Friday the 13th.

This celebration of the macabre is the brainchild of Eben McGarr and Joe Moe, creators of Mad Monster magazine. McGarr has put on similar events in Charlotte, N.C., and is looking to creep into two new states next year, but revealed that New Orleans was always near the top of his list.

“I mean, New Orleans, voodoo capital of the U.S., on Friday the 13th … It was just too good to pass up,” McGarr said.

Fans will be able to meet horror movie stars like Bruce Campbell (“Evil Dead,” “Army of Darkness”) and Ron Perlman (“Hellboy,” “Pacific Rim”) as well as hard rockers Peter Criss (formerly of KISS) and Nivek Ogre (Skinny Puppy) and many other guests. Campbell may be the frontrunner for fan favorite at the show, and McGarr thinks he lives up to the hype.

“Bruce Campbell is one of the greatest panelists you’ll ever see,” McGarr said. “He’s a tour-de-force … Whenever Bruce does a Q&A, I always try to wander in to hear it because it’s always gold.”

McGarr believes that Mad Monster draws big star power because it focuses on making sure the celebrities have as good a time as the fans.

“The thing that makes our show different is that the celebrities actually want to come to our show,” he said. “We make it as fun for them as possible and showcase their personal interests. Jeremy London, from ‘Mall Rats’ and ‘Party of Five,’ directed a horror film called ‘The Devil’s Dozen,’ which we are hosting the East Coast premiere of in New Orleans … we really try to make this fun for all participants. We don’t treat it like a cookie-cutter event.”

All of those celebrities make for prime autograph opportunities, but McGarr said attendees who want something really special should check out the vendors first “… because they’ll find memorabilia that they’ll never find anywhere else,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of artisans who come to our show that create wonderful custom pieces of work, and once it’s sold, it’s gone.”

Thrill seekers will want to check out the Unholy After Party, a collaboration between Mad Monster and the infamous New Orleans horror attraction, The House of Shock. McGarr said that working with the House of Shock crew was a big draw for him.

“I’ve always wanted to go to House of Shock . … They’re one of the most notorious haunts in the world,” McGarr said.

For less hardcore fans who may just want to get into the Halloween spirit a month early, Mad Monster Party Gras offers plenty of spooky and fun events, like the Miss GNAW’lins pageant and the Fan of a Thousand Faces costume contest, each of which boasts a $500 grand prize, and more movie screenings than you can shake a chainsaw at.

“There’s a little bit of something for everybody … so if you’re into monsters and pop culture, come on out,” McGarr said. “We’re hoping to make this an annual show, and as long as New Orleans demonstrates that they want it, we’ll keep bringing it back.”