San Diego Comic Con and the Haunted Hotel

That headline almost felt like an Indiana Jones title! Hey, everyone: as we gear up for San Diego Comic Con next week (!!!), I wanted to create a series of blog posts about the show, my favorite things to do in the Gaslamp district, and how to survive what usually adds up to five days on non-stop fandom. But first, an ode to my favorite hotel in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter: The Horton Grand.

While spots like the Hilton Bayfront, Hard Rock, and any nearby Marriott tend to be what attendees dive for first, the Horton Grand is a long-time staple of the Gaslamp that is absolutely worth a visit during your time at Comic-Con — if you manage to find a second away from the Hall H line or any of the offsites, of course.

the lobby, via tripadvisor

The Horton Grand is located on Island Avenue, between 3rd and 4th ave, right next to Fluxx,which is set to be a pretty active location for after-parties this year with parties from Geek & Sundry and Nerdist. The Horton Grand  was once two separate hotels — the Grand, later renamed the Horton, and the Brooklyn — and were merged together in 1970 after being saved from demolition by. The hotel often has fan events going on during the day, but even walking in to admire the gigantic glass windows and classic 19th-20th century architecture. The staff is friendly, the courtyard offers a wonderful place to rest, and the classic bar makes you feel like you’re grabbing a quick drink in another era entirely.

via California Through My Lens

The real reasons to stay, though, are the ghost stories. The rooms are nice, but half of the experience of staying at the big HG is the fact that — even as you’re riding the elevator up to your room — one feels a sense that something supernatural is afoot. As you pass each level, a vintage display appears in front, like a time capsule from years long gone. Old books, typewriters and dresses are arranged carefully within each display, as if they were once part of a young debutante’s glamorous wardrobe closet.

[kad_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAXbN8ANegs” ]

 

The ghosts themselves — so legends say — are mostly friendly. Still, haunted or not, the ghostly charm of this hotel is all in the look. Take the staircase down to the bar to come face to face with a portrait of a woman whose visage makes you wonder if she might be the esteemed Ida Bailey, who ran a brothel nearby and once owned most of the land that the hotel sits on today.

Bailey herself is said to be one of the ghosts within the walls of the Horton Grad, and if that’s so, it makes sense: for a place that practically screams “I am Totally Haunted,” the atmosphere is as friendly as Disney’s very own Haunted Mansion. This may be because of the ex-landlady herself: some guests have recalled encountering Ida’s spirit, and came away feeling a “warm and welcoming” presence.

Another popular tale is that of Room 309, where a ghost believed to be a guest by the name of Roger Whitaker allegedly takes up residence. Activity in 309 is said to be high and frequent, with “strange occurrences” reported as recently as this past May. Over on Yelp, a guest named Jimmy C reported that his stay in Room 309 was more than he expected. Jimmy writes: “I know it sounds like I’m making this up but I have 2 guys who witnessed all this with me. One was when trying to get back into our room it was locked with the door chain from the inside. I checked it 3 times and saw the chain locking our door. The 4th time I closed the door, and opened it again, and sure enough the chain was off.”

There are two versions of Whitaker’s story told today, though the latter is more widely believed.  The first is that Whitaker was killed decades before anything had been built where the hotel stands today, and was buried there. The second told the story of a young gambler with a knack for cheating who ran out of luck: after swindling the wrong guys, Whitaker ran for his room – 309 – and hid in the armoire, only to meet an unfortunate end when his attackers found him and shot him to death inside of it. Yikes.

 

While I can’t fully say that I believe in ghosts, the spooky-scary is always a fun and exciting topic at face value. If you’ve got the chance, stop by the Horton Grand, grab a drink, and keep an eye out so that Roger doesn’t try to snag your glass.

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SDCC 2016: 6 Twitter Feeds to Follow During the Con

Welcome to the Monday before Comic Con International: San Diego! Are you constantly panicking about potentially having forgotten something or not completed a deadline before the con? That’s cool. All of us are. Heck, I’m taking it pretty easy this year and I’m still a mess.

To ease some of your potential anxiety and/or build up your excitement for the weekend, I was originally going to tweet out a quick list of great feeds to follow during the con — but then I realized that each of these Twitter feeds (and the people behind them) bring something very unique to the table, so I’ve decided to jot up a slightly-less-quick list with their specialties and other notes. Here are my top picks for Twitter feeds you should be following by Wednesday of this year’s San Diego Comic Con!

1. Parks and Cons

I have no idea how, but the folks behind @ParksandCons are constantly highlighting events at theme parks, conventions, and events all over the place, and their coverage is awesome. Wanna see pictures of what’s going on around the Gaslamp ahead of the con?  Follow them for early updates and a chance and finding out where all the good swag is.

2. Crazy 4 Comic Con

Tony Kim is @Crazy4ComicCon. He’s constantly engaged with upcoming events at the convention, and heads up a few great panels. Tony knows SDCC inside out because of his well-researched expertise and his knack for making friends with literally every human on the planet.

3.  Hall H Line

These crazy kids are already trekking around the con area for first-looks at this year’s Comic-Con! @HallHLine is part comedy, part informative, and all fun. This account is great for when you’re stuck in any line, really, because they go above and beyond to engage with the folks that follow them.

4. The Nerdy Girlie

Megan Gotch is one of my favorite bloggers on the planet because of her positive attitude and her incredible taste in the visuals that accompany all of her work. Her account, @TheNerdyGirlie, shares helpful blog posts and on-the-go tips for Comic Con. Think of this account as a series of reminders for things you’d otherwise forget and regret later! BONUS: Megan’s annual SDCC Instagram Photo Hunt looks like so much fun.

5. An Englishman in San Diego

@EnglishmanSDCC is exactly what he sounds like: an English guy who really, really, really loves Comic-Con. Leonard hosts A Cup O’ Tea SDCC, a weekly podcast all about Comic-Con, and is constantly updating his followers on special things to check out during the weekend. He’s also hilarious, and a blast to follow.

6. Friends of Comic Con

If you’re looking for seasoned SDCC attendees who can help you out without any old-blood snobbery, @FriendsofCCI is the account to turn to. There’s a constant stream of great tips, news updates, and other helpful things to know about surviving the weekend, so this account is a must-follow if you’re a first timer.

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SDCC 2016: 5 Apps For Summer Con Survival

Here it is, folks: June. With the thick layer of unexpected heat comes California’s massive summer con season, which includes hits like San Diego Comic Con, Anime Expo, ColossalCon, and many more. With busy days and varying schedules, the average con attendee might not use every app on their phone — but there are plenty that I’ve found helpful, and I wanted to share those before “con season” truly began to set in.

NerdOut! – Connect With Your Community

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NerdOut (Apple/Android) is a self-described “mobile nerd event calendar”, and thanks to a community of editors, it is easily one of the best guides to local events for anyone looking to familiarize themselves. Specific, big panels for conventions, as well as great after parties and cosplay gatherings, can often be found in this app. NerdOut is easy to use and has been my go-to for evenings at my favorite conventions for months.

Plant Nanny – Water Consumption

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One of the biggest reasons that people leave conventions on stretchers (or rather, the least horrible reason) is dehydration. Plant Nanny (Apple/Android) is my daily app for monitoring my water intake, and it functions as a cute game as well. Players are given a plant to raise, and the less water that planet gets (according to your diet plan) the quicker it dies. Since the plantsare adorable, that kind ofguilt can weigh on you enough to go grab a glass. It’s not intrusive, but it often does the trick when I need to keep my water up, and that;s important at a con where it’s very easy to forget.

CosPlanner – For The Meticulous Cosplayer

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I’m not big on cosplay, but when I do decide to dress up, I try to do it to my best ability. CosPlanner (Apple/Android) is a greatresource for organizing your costumes, planning out and budgeting for future projects, and effeciently performing that final check before packing your costume away for the convention.

Lyft – Or Any App For Quick Transportation

Shanghai, China. February 13th 2014. Driver images for UBER marketing content.
Shanghai, China. February 13th 2014. Driver images for UBER marketing content.

This one is optional, but I always try to have an app handy for quick transportation back to my hotel from the con. Whether you’ve had a long day in a bulky costume or you’re crawling back from the evening’s festivities, it’s always best to take a car so that you get homesafe and stress-free. There are plenty of apps out there, so choose the one that’s best for you.

The Official Convention App

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Many conventions are building their own apps that include their full maps and schedules, ways to plan out your day, and even (with some) the ability to connect with other convention goers during the convention. One of my favorite examples of these apps would be New York Comic Con’s official app, which went the extra mile last year and included a way for attendees to report any unsafe activity, and allowed them to call for help from convention staff discreetly. Check the convention’s website ahead of time to see if they don’t have an app. In the event that they don’t, plugging the schedule PDF into a good reader will help you locate events and schedule points in a slightly less maddening manner.

As we head into convention season, I hope this guide helped you have an even better time than you were already going to have. Enjoy the rest of your 2016 con season!

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Milestone Media’s Grand Return at SDCC 2015 is Extremely Important – Here’s Why

I don’t work 9+ hours a day/5 days a week solely for the press badge that I get every year at SDCC, but it does feel like something of a reward for all of the hours spent when I get to witness real-life milestones in the comic book world. Such was the case this past weekend at the final press breakfast for DC Comics, where legends such as Jim Lee, Grant Morrison, and Dan DiDio spoke on the coming events in DC’s post-Convergence world. Morrison’s wide-range storytelling is being held together as a web of worlds inside of his brilliant noggin, and I cannot wait to read some of the new titles, especially Titan Hunt.

But the real highlight of the breakfast (with love for DC and the amazing bacon strips that the hotel staff served, respectively) was the amazing return of Milestone Media, the trailblazers of the 90’s that were responsible for the creation of Static Shock, Icon, and Hardware. Milestone stood for diversity and representation throughout the 90’s, and their return brings promise of diversity not only in their heroes, but their creators as well. The company’s focus on stories told from the perspective of LGBT heroes, heroes of color, and superheroines makes them a valuable imprint for DC, in a time where the demand for diversity from fans like you and I has been amplified to a point where it can no longer be ignored.

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I was so ecstatic to speak with Milestone co-founder Derek T. Dingle, who spared the time to share insight on what the company is looking for in new creators, and their goals for the future.

Fast-forward to 4PM that day, when the hilarious and talented Orlando Jones took the stage in Room 9 to introduce the founders of Milestone once more. The panel, open to the public this time, took fans through the history of Milestone Media, detailing the tragic story that led to the company’s revival. Original co-founder Dwayne McDuffie, whose career spanned such a good deal of my younger years (from Static Shock, to Justice League Unlimited, to Teen Titans and so much more), passed away in 2011 at the young age of 49. The devastation of this loss left a company in limbo until McDuffie’s memorial service (attended by company heads Dingle, Reginald Hudlin and Denys Cowan), when a fan approached the co-founders and explained how much Milestone meant to them as a person of color.

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Static Figurine shown at SDCC 2015

The realization hit them like a brick wall: Milestone could not just disappear. It was needed, important, and as relevant as it had been back in the 90’s. With that in mind, Milestone began building their foundations in silence, and four years later, their grand return is one of the most highly anticipated “milestones” in modern comics.

As relevant as it was before, Milestone is, in my opinion, especially needed now. In an amplified society like ours, where the subjects of diversity, bigotry and acceptance are a constant talking point, Milestone stands firm for people that still find themselves underrepresented, disrespected or made mockery of in modern-day comics.

Milestone serves to show fans that everyone can be a hero, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, or identity. But, what’s almost more important, is Milestone’s style of honesty: the stories of their heroes reflected the real world around us, and along with supervillains, many of Milestone’s flagship title leads struggled with actual problems that real people face on a daily basis. Milestone flies us away into fantasy, but does not create a world where the issues that surrounded us are overlooked for the sake of anyone else’s comfort.

For their part, the company is opening it’s doors to new IPs “down the road” and reviving beloved characters as well as introducing a wide range of new heroes for people from all walks of life to adore and identify with. The honest, iconic, human stories of Milestone’s past once again have a home, and yes — the figurines are already on their way. Overall, I absolutely cannot wait to see what becomes of Milestone Media over the next few, likely explosive years.

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SDCC 2015: Catrina’s Handy-Dandy Last Minute Survival Guide

As some of you may know, I’ll be returning to SDCC this year with Moviepilot. For many of my coworkers at the office, this will be their first year at the show (and we’re doing some amazing work, including but not limited to creating amazing things in the EW suite) so, I decided to create a document with some of the best lessons I’ve learned at SDCC over the past few years. I added parties, places to find free wi-fi, local eats, and other helpful ideas, so I thought sharing it here wouldn’t hurt, either! While you can get complete lists on informative and awesome websites that cover SDCC year-round, this list is composed of my personal picks and ideas for your experience during the show. Here’s the document I sent around (with a few edits) – hope it helps!

Food

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  • There is a Ralph’s located within walking distance (roughly 10mins walking) from the convention center on the corner of 1st and G street. (MAP) Ralph’s always has huge sales and specials going on during the show, so if you need to stock up on snacks or grab what will likely be the least expensive water bottle at the con (outside of swag water), make some time and do a run here.
  •  This blog post (by The Nerdy Girlie) is pretty much my favorite round-up of the most amazing restaurants that you can find in the Gaslamp district – do yourself a favor and try to hit one of these, because San Diego has some of the best food this side of the US. The Burger Lounge and the Old Spaghetti Factory are MUSTS for you foodies!
  • Keep your eyes peeled throughout the Gaslamp district for pop-up spots from studios. SyFy has taken over the Hard Rock’s outer cafe area for their show The Expanse (details), but there are free spots, such as cereal lounges and snack shops that pop up during the show as well.
  • Adult Swim and Scream Queens will both have branded Ice Cream trucks, dishing out free ice cream throughout the Gaslamp district. If you see one, make sure you grab a cone – it’ll be worth it!
  • SDCC attracts a wonderful assortment of food trucks, and they’re usually parked near the back of the gigantic offsite lot. The giant, open space on the image below shows you where the offsite lot is in relation to Petco (east), right off of Park Blvd.

 

Wi-Fi

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  • KFC will have different Colonel Sanders Statues throughout the Gaslamp district that will connect you to free wi-fi. Look for these creepy statues:

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  • If you see that a booth is “powered by” a mobile company in the vendor hall, there’s a good chance that the sponsor is providing free wi-fi. The Vendor hall is the #1 place where you’ll lose signal!
  • The Nintendo Lounge at the Marriott that sits to the right of the convention center always has free wi-fi.
  • Most hotel lobbies offer free wi-fi as well. <3

 

Getting Around

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  • Please make sure to call your Uber 15 minutes in advance, and be ready for surge pricing. The gaslamp district is small, which makes traffic extremely slow, and Uber is usually backed up with the several thousands of attendees at the show.
  • History Channel’s VIKINGS is taking comic-con by storm with a LONGBOAT RIDE that will carry riders to different stops throughout the gaslamp district. All riders get a complimentary drinking horn, which you can bring to local bars for drink discounts!
  • Also, look out for free promo cars and bike cabbies! Adult Swim, FX, and Comedy Central (whose Old Timey cars are promoting “Another Period”) will be offering free rides all weekend. They’ll take you around the district if you need to get somewhere fast (usually in a cool, themed car – or carts that look like the Iron Throne), but no cars can drive you to the front of the convention center (that’s reserved for shuttles). You can physically flag these cars down. Be aggressive!
  • If old timey cars aren’t good enough for you, Comedy Central is also providing free rides via BUTLERS who will pamper you like a rich southerner during your ride while promoting Another Period.
  • With bike carts, it’s proper etiquette to give your ‘driver’ a few bucks as a tip after the free ride. Only SOME of the bike carts are free, and those usually stop being free at 6pm when the convention closes. Prepare for your evening events accordingly!

 

Parties & Offsites!

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Here is a complete, detailed list is everything happening offsite at the show this weekend (via Outside Comic-Con). Highlights below!

 

Wednesday

JINX party: https://www.facebook.com/events/503671249780120/

Game of Bloggers party: https://crazy4comiccon.wordpress.com/game-of-bloggers-meet-up/

Elijah Wood is back for another DJ set and it’s only $10! http://shrsl.com/?~954g

Thursday

Geeks Go Glam! 

Tickets here!

THE party to be at for fangirls at SDCC!

BOOM! Studios is having an open party where fans, creators and producers get to drink together and hang out, Thursday at 9PM at the Hilton Bayfront Bar.

Fashionably Nerdy is going to have some SICK gift bags:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1456205701340473/

Comic-Con Beer Bust!

from 6-9PM at YardHouse’s Keg Room (1023 4th Avenue)

http://www.starburnsindustries.com/2015/06/one-plus-hub-event-comiccon-beer-bust-in-san-diego-ca/

Beer, Booze, neat sponsors and a good place to rub elbows.

CBLDF Welcome Party

$10.00

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cbldf-welcome-party-san-diego-comic-con-2015-tickets-17505476351

If you’re looking to meet some big comic book industry names, grab a ticket for $10 and enjoy the party!

 

Friday

 

Things To Keep Your Body And Tech Alive

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  • Always carry water! You may be by the ocean, but it is insanely hot during Comic-Con.
  • Get a portable phone charger before the con! You will drain loads of battery at this convention no matter what you do. ;)
  • All hotels have lobby bathrooms so you’re never far from them if you’re offsite. In most cases, running next door to the Marriott is a much better option than waiting for con center bathrooms.
  • The offsite park (next to Petco Park) is a great place to catch free food and lounges where you can cool off for a bit and watch the same movie trailer play a few times.

I hope this guide was helpful – have fun and stay safe at the show!

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