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Stranger things: Paranormal convention attracts huge crowd

Paranormal enthusiasts gathered for 13th annual event across the river; 'Humans have always been attracted to what falls out of the realm of everyday explanation'

Brad Blair and Tim Ellis were back in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan after taking in the country’s premier paranormal convention in 2008.

“We could do that, we said to one another,” recalls Blair. “So, not knowing better, we did. And I’ll be damned, it keeps working!”

Blair, Ellis, and other members Upper Peninsula Paranormal Research Society (UPPRS) hosted MIPARACON 2022, the 13th annual Michigan Paranormal Convention, beginning on Thursday before wrapping up Saturday.

The first MIPARACON in 2009 attracted 700 people.

This year’s three-day meeting drew almost 2,000 enthusiasts who took in 55 guest speakers and more than 100 vendors that cater to the paranormal market.

“We say the Society hosts it, but it’s really the Kewadin Casino and the Sault Area Convention and Visitors Bureau who are the main reason for MIPARACON’s success over the years,” said Blair. “We’ve been wooed by organizers from all over Michigan but have declined them all. Why mess with a winning formula?”

For Blair, the winning formula includes giving people what they want: intriguing stories from the world of the paranormal.

“Humans have always been attracted to what falls out of the realm of everyday explanation,” he said. “People are fulfilled and entertained when they delve into inexplicable phenomena with a critical eye. Especially with others who have the same interest. Exploring things outside the normal has come to define a lifestyle.”

With this is mind, a paranormal convention not only offers ghosts and hauntings, but Bigfoot along with a generous helping of extraterrestrials as well.

“The conference schedule has ‘crypto biology’ experts who speculate about creatures that remain elusive but persistent through sightings,” said Blair. “The same goes for UFOs, which the government now refers to UAP, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, to avoid the stigma of the old label.”

Blair said crowd favorites are panel discussions where luminaries in paranormal investigation gather on stage to share trends in areas of study among themselves and with the audience.

“People get a real rush talking with someone who investigates mysterious things for a living,” said Blair. “They get a picture or autograph with a favorite author or TV personality. There’s a chance to personally ask direct questions and even give feedback. That in itself is worth the expense of traveling to MIPARACON.”

And travel they do.

“We were astonished when 700 people came from all over the midwest to our first convention,” Blair said. “This year we likely have people from all 50 states. Tentative registration stats suggest that around a third are from outside of the US.”

Blair even hazards a guess that MIPARACON is fast becoming the premier paranormal convention in the world.

“This is based on attendance numbers and the quality speakers we attract,” he said. “We have room for one speaker out of every 10 who apply.”

This year, vendors take up four giant ballrooms. A stroll by your reporter to see all of them — authors, craftsmen, painters; sellers of crystals and charms; soothe-seers, fortunetellers, and purveyors of horoscopes, even travel agents selling packaged trips to haunted sites around the globe — took about 90 minutes.

“Kewadin says that there’s easily room for more,” said Blair.

What bodes next year for aficionados of the paranormal? Tune in when MIPARACON 2023 happens Aug. 24-26, the last weekend before Labor Day.

Planning for it began last April.

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John Shibley

About the Author: John Shibley

John Shibley is a veteran writer, editor and photographer whose work has appeared locally and, via the Associated Press, in publications such as the New York Times
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