Back in the mid-90’s, I spent a lot of time online hanging out in the AOL Horror Chatroom. It was in that chatroom that I first learned about many of the horror movies and icons I’ve come to love over the years. It was an unfiltered place of horror admiration and I feel like those hours that I spent communicating and learning is what drives my horror passion twenty plus years later.
The one thing I remember the most about the AOL Horror Chatroom is the flood of instant messages that would follow upon logging in. It would be seconds within your name showing up and random strangers would message you wanting to know if you had a copy of Evil Dead. Everyone was looking for bootlegs because the original Evil Dead had been out of print for years and was one of the most sought after films in the horror community at the time.
I had no idea what Evil Dead was. I recalled the Evil Dead 2 VHS box art because it really stood out on the shelf, but I didn’t recall ever seeing the original Evil Dead in any video store. So, being naturally curious and trying to absorb all things horror, I began to ask around about what made Evil Dead so special. The response I got is probably not too unlike what you’d get today. It’s a wonderful movie that creates an amazing world that is anchored by a strong lead actor. Evil Dead became my Holy Grail and it took me two years to track down a copy, but the movie lived upon to the hype and it became a franchise that I loved. Of course, while waiting for that copy of Evil Dead to find its way into my hands, I watched Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, and my love for the character of Ash and Bruce Campbell was born.
Fast forward seven or eight years, and being a horror fan in the mid-2000’s sucked. Torture porn was king, the 80’s revival had yet to kick off, and Hot Topic wasn’t selling Friday the 13th t-shirts and cereal. Things were bleak and outside of some quality DVD releases from Anchor Bay, there wasn’t much for old school horror fans to get excited about. So, when I saw an announcement that Bruce Campbell would be making an appearance at Mission Valley Theater in Raleigh, North Carolina, I just about lost my mind. Here was a bonafide horror icon, live and in the flesh, signing copies of his latest book and screening his latest movie, The Man with the Screaming Brain. I wasn’t going to be able to attend the film screening, but I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to meet the legend himself so I bought my ticket and showed up an hour early to the theater.
My ticket got me a copy of Bruce’s latest book, Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way and they had a merchandise table set up selling a copy of his first book, If Chins Could Kill. Despite already owning a copy and the audio book, I decided to buy a second copy since I left mine at home for him to sign.
To be honest, things were pretty low key. There were probably a couple hundred people in attendance, and we simply got in line and were walked into a theater where the staff had set up a table for Bruce to sign at in front of the screen. We stood by waited for our turn, and one-by-one walked up to get our stuff signed and have a few seconds with Ash himself.
A few months prior to this signing, I had received a new Kodak digital camera which had the capability to record video. For any young readers, this may sound a little weird, but it was damn near cutting edge technology in 2005. They wouldn’t allow us to take pictures with Bruce, so I decided to ask the usher managing the line if he’d record a video. He was shocked to find out my digital camera could even record video and after a few seconds of instruction, he recorded my nervous walk towards Bruce Campbell and even offered some awkward commentary.
So, you can’t hear what I said in the video, but it was pretty standard fair. Bruce mentioned Brandon was a popular name at one time, and we discussed how he mentioned that in his book. We also discussed the whole etiquette of handshaking at these events and that was about all we got to while he signed my two books. He was nice, professional, and it was a pleasure getting to meet a horror icon.
Fast-forward to 2016 and I found myself invited to Wizard World Chicago. I had just finished watching season one of Ash vs the Evil Dead and the main cast was going to be in attendance. I decided to buy the Bruce Campbell VIP pass, that way I could meet Bruce again and get a good photo with him.
I arrived very early in the morning on Friday, August 19th and I met up with my friends once their plane arrived from Memphis. We toured the town a bit, got checked into the Hilton, and then finally made our way out to the Donald E. Stephen’s Convention Center to see what Wizard World had lined up before the madness was about to begin.
I enjoyed the atmosphere from that first night because we could leisurely walk around, talk, and didn’t have to worry about all the crowds. We also didn’t all three have different photo ops and autograph appointments to keep, so we really did bum around as a group and got to spend some quality time together. It was during this time that I ran across the booths housing Ray Santiago (Pablo from Ash vs The Evil Dead) and Dana DeLorenzo (Kelly from Ash vs The Evil Dead). Both Ray and Dana were having a blast and seemed to be thrilled to be in attendance and I decided to walk over and get a table side photo with Dana.
Now, I’ve met quite a few celebrities over the years, and many of the interactions were mediocre at best, but meeting Dana DeLorenzo was a treat. She was incredibly kind, seemed genuinely interested in talking Evil Dead, and was just a fun, bubbly person to be around. She spent a good fifteen minutes talking to me and I’m one of those people who usually just grab my signature and walk away, not wanting to inconvenience the celebrities. She offered to take two pictures with me and even suggested she choke me in one, which I thought was funny since I had just met Chuck Palahniuk a month earlier who had insisted on choking me. I guess, I just have a neck that people want to choke.
While browsing the convention floor, I also saw that the Evil Dead 2 workshop cabin would be making an appearance over the weekend. This excited me to no end, because just a few days prior to flying to Chicago I was reading about this awesome find. You can read all about it here, but in a nutshell, Evil Dead 2 was filmed here in North Carolina. The filming location is in the middle of an overgrown cow pasture and the original cabin has collapsed. However, the workshed was still in decent shape and standing. Well, the property where the filming took place was scheduled to be harvested for trees, and thus all that remains would probably be destroyed.
Well, one Evil Dead fan made a trip down from Pennsylvania to salvage whatever Evil Dead related memorabilia they could. They meticulously labeled every plank of wood from the shed and then organized it so that they would reassemble it at different locations like conventions.
Being that I had made this Wizard World trip all about Evil Dead, and since I had no idea if I’d ever get a chance to stand next to this movie icon, I immediately placed getting photos at the cabin at the top of my list of things to do. While taking photos and examining everything up close, the guy running the booth let me wear one of his custom chainsaws for a few photos to really make the Evil Dead experience that much better.
The final part of my Wizard World trip was meeting Bruce Campbell again. This took place twice, once for the photo op and once for the autograph.
I stood in line for the photo op for well over and hour, but it was one of my favorite memories of the entire trip. I stood making small talk with a woman in her forties in front of me, who was not what you’d think a typical Evil Dead fan to be. She looked like a soccer mom and was as normal as could be, but deep down inside she loved horror films. We discussed an assortment of movies and then the conversation died down for a bit, I’ll never forget her looking around at the line of people smiling at me and saying, “Yep, these are my people.” It made me feel special and it reminded me of why I love horror movies so much. Sure, the scares are great, but it’s always been about the community for me. We tend to be outcasts and weirdos, and we come from all walks of life, but we all bond over these movies that most of society deems taboo. Like all fandoms we have inside jokes, references only we get, and strong opinions on what is good and what isn’t. But at the end of the day, horror fans tend to be some of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life, and that’s a statement a lot of people would find hard to believe. My only regret during this experience was not exchanging numbers or social media with that Evil Dead fan. I would have loved to continue our horror movie discussion past that hour long wait in line.
Now Wizard World runs their professional photo ops like an assembly line, which is honestly probably the only way to do it quickly and efficiently. You walk in, make a pose, and walk out quickly. Bruce Campbell however was barking directions when you walk in. He suggests a pose to make and then you do it, smile, and move along. I walked up, and he sized me up, and said, “Big guy, eh? Let’s put up our dukes” and I didn’t argue and my picture came out fine. Not my best photo ever, but it was a nice way to remember the day.
A few hours later, I got a chance to get a photo autograph. I picked an Army of Darkness photo, with Bruce holding up his boomstick. My wait was only thirty minutes this time, and I approached The King and we exchanged pleasantries. He asked where I was from and I told him North Carolina and mentioned how I had met him once before eleven years earlier. He said he remembered that signing, I doubt it, but it was nice of him to say. He signed my picture and I went on my way. Sadly, this was my first big convention and I made a mega rookie mistake. Bruce signed my photo with a silver paint style marker, and I only gave it thirty seconds to dry before sticking it in a plastic sleeve. When I went to pull it out a few hours later, everything smeared and my photo was ruined. I learned the hard way to make sure everything is dry before putting it in plastic sleeves.
It’s wild to think that I watched Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness in 1996/1997, and Evil Dead in 1998. It’s been over twenty years now, that I’ve been a fan and I’ve met Bruce Campbell twice, stood next to the cabin from Evil Dead 2, and met one of the nicest cast members from Ash vs The Evil Dead. Currently, I’m finishing up watching season two of Ash vs The Evil Dead before heading onto season three. I really doubt we’ll ever see Bruce Campbell return to the role of Ash and I can’t blame him, it’s been one hell of a ride so far. I just wanted to share a few of my memories with my fellow horror fans here at 90sHorrorReview.
Here are some additional photos of the Evil Dead 2 Workshed: