Wizard World Comic Con came to Nashville’s Music City Center yesterday, kicking off a weekend of pop-culture panels and celebrity appearances that promise to delight nerds from Middle Tennessee and beyond.
The first day of programming got the convention off to a slow but charming start. Pop-culture journalist Aaron Sagers joined Frankie Harris, who owns Nashville Ghost Tours with his wife Kim, to discuss Nashville’s ghost stories in a panel called “Paranormal City.”
Sagers, seated next to the titular doll from the upcoming horror film Annabelle, spoke on his interest in the “entertainment component of the paranormal” and how pop culture and mass entertainment influence paranormal beliefs and the way ghost stories are retold.
“Every town has a different personality when it comes to their ghost stories,” Sager said. “I want Nashville to creep me out.”
For Harris, that personality is, perhaps unsurprisingly, steeped in country music and civil war history.
“Tragedy and country music kind of go hand-in-hand,” he said before sharing his favorite Music City hauntings.
According to Harris, Tootsie Bess, the legendary owner of the Lower Broad fixture Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, had been given a hatpin to protect herself–or enforce order–from the honky-tonk’s rowdy clientele. Typical of spirits that haunt by “repeating what they were doing when they were alive,” Harris said that whenever a fight breaks out in the Orchid Lounge, people feel pinpricks in their back.
The ghost story that Harris says Nashville is most known for is the eternal screaming match between State Capitol architect William Strickland, who is entombed in his life’s work, and his bitter rival Samuel Morgan, the “Merchant Prince of Nashville,” who is buried at the opposite end of the same building.
Elsewhere in Music City Center, a panel of three local artists fell apart quickly when the projector display failed.
As A/V techs scrambled around them to little avail, Charles V. Burnett and brothers John and Mickey Masters, uncomfortable talking about their own art and process, ignored their increasingly beleaguered moderator’s attempts to corral discussion back to the topic of what drew them to make “horror” art.
“You’ve got stuff in your head that’s gotta come out,” said Bennett, whose recent art–eerily cartoony drawings of amalgamated blobs of multiple humanoid faces–he says was influenced by the creature that was growing inside his wife’s belly.
Mickey Masters’s offering looked like a black coffin lid with a skull protruding from its center. He called it “something that would hang on lucifer’s mantle.”
John Masters—the most talkative of the three who headed the panel’s steadfast march into utter incomprehensibility—displayed canvases with surrealist images like a five-necked brachiosaurus with televisions for heads, or a human body exploded into its constituent parts, like how you might see your car’s engine displayed in the owner’s manual.
William Shatner, the Star Trek actor and all-around ambassador for people with halting patterns of speech, is scheduled to speak at 3:00 and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Prolific character actor Alan Tudyk; Eliza Dushku, a veteran of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse; WWE stars Kane and the Bella Twins; Walking Dead alumni Michael Rooker and Jon Bernthal, and Lord of the Rings actor Sean Astin are also scheduled to appear this weekend.
LeVar Burton, the once and future Reading Rainbow host who played Geordie LaForge on Star Trek: The Next Generation is also among the con’s celebrity guests.
Wizard Entertainment’s national tour of comics conventions expanded to Nashville last year.
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