Ladies and Gentlemen: the Dark History Convention is in town! This event is scheduled to arrive annually to Champaign. It is a two-day event that consists of various guests, including John Borowski (filmmaker), Maureen Hughes (author) and Charles D. Mosiant (comic book artist). All specialize in knowledge of organized crimes, tragedies and topics related to the “darker side” of our history.
Many of these artists have researched the lives of horrific historical figures including H.H. Holmes, one of the first documented serial killers, who set up shop in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and Jack the Ripper, the still-unidentified serial killer that terrorized London in the late 19th century.
Others cover topics such as the Shelton Gang’s relation to Al Capone. The Shelton Gang gave Capone and his men a run for their money. As a bootlegging gang, this Williamson County-based gang ensured that the poor souls affected by Prohibition were given means to avoid a strictly sober existence.
Even more writers and artists add to this diverse mix by providing tales of sinister figures from our more recent memory. Albert Fish, a notorious serial killer and cannibal active in the early 20th century, carries a long list of crimes against children. “Handsome Johnny” Rosselli, a mobster for the Chicago Outfit, was involved in various conspiracies, including a plot by the CIA to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
It is important to note that the organizers of the Dark History Con have been very clear about the purpose of this event: “Lest we forget, it is the victims of these events that are the most important to remember. We do not glorify any of these people or events. They are, however, part of our history, a part that is very important to remember and learn from.” President of Dark History Con Brian Ward has echoed this response by emphasizing the positive effects that can be gained by educating others on dark history.
On a brighter note, the Dark History Con will also feature Minda Powers-Douglas, Robbin Terry and Jim Heater. Minda Powers-Douglas is in charge of the Cemetery Club and has written numerous novels about the history and function of cemeteries and how they reflect a culture’s attitudes towards death. Powers-Douglas is a fountain of knowledge in regards to cemeteries across the nation and symbols adorning headstones.
Terry, on the other hand, is in possession of two haunted establishments, including the infamous Ashmore Estates, an alhmshouse turned psychiatric hospital in Coles County, IL. He currently resides in his other haunted location, the R Theater in Auburn, IL. Terry plans to bring the Original Mystery Machine, originally owned by Hanna Barbera Studios and will have plenty of stories to share while he poses alongside the iconic van.
Jim Heater is a radio host for the show Paranormal Geeks. The show presents many guests, ranging from historian Ursula Bielski to metaphysical and paranormal expert Rosemary Ellen Guiley. The show truly does live up to its name, inspired by the book written by Sharon Day and Julie Ferguson in an effort to bring together all those even casually interested in UFO and Bigfoot sightings, or the possibility of haunted houses and hospitals, into a fun-loving group.
Clearly, the Dark History Con is also pursuing this line of thought. Feeling curious about some of the world’s most notorious criminals or wanting to learn more about the lesser-discussed parts of our history? You’re not alone. The Dark History Con offers a perfect cocktail of artists, authors, filmmakers, scholars, collectors and investigators excited to share their knowledge and experiences with Con-goers.
Whether a dark history fanatic or hater, it’s clear that this convention will be an interesting experience. For a full list of guests, visit www.darkhistorycon.com.
Prepare for Halloween a bit early this year by attending the Dark History Con, which arrives at the Fluid Events Center (601 N Country Fair Dr.) in Champaign on September 19 (10 a.m. – 12 a.m.) and 20 (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.). General admission is $5 and tickets can be purchased at the Dark History Con’s website.