When Horror Helps: Texas Frightmare and Stop the Stigma

Horror has long prided itself on being a socially conscious genre. From the racial commentary of Night of the Living Dead to the anti-consummerism of They Live, fans have long been able to point to films ostensibly about blood, death, and terror and say that they’ve been aware of—and concerned about—a variety of social ills and injustices while the “straight” world has still been wringing its’ hands and spinning tales of denial. To paraphrase, though, fandom without works is dead, and it benefits the world little if the horror community can simply tout film after film that brings a problem to light without affecting any sort of change.

Enter Texas Frightmare Weekend and Stop the Stigma.

Now in its’ 12th year, Texas Frightmare Weekend is one of THE forces on the American horror-con circuit, an event that transcends the nominal definition of a convention and enters into the realm of experience. It’s an epic, three-day homecoming, an opportunity for horror fans to let their fright flags fly, rub elbows with icons, and develop a sense of community and kinship that can only be fostered so much on the internet. It’s also becoming a profound force for good in the Dallas/Fort Worth community, a living embodiment of what horror can stand for—and what it can accomplish when its’ fans come together for a common good.

Last year I wrote about Michael “Coop” Cooper, a longtime Frightmare volunteer who passed away after a long struggle with mental illness, and Frightmare’s efforts to raise awareness of mental health resources in the state of Texas. Rather than Frightmare 2015 being a one-off memorial to Coop, though, it’s now become the event’s lasting mission to make an appreciable difference in the lives of others in need of counseling and other mental health services. To this end, some of the people behind TFW—including Sue Cryer, wife of TFW impresario Loyd Cryer, and Kade Anderson, a longtime TFW volunteer who’s also a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern—have come together to create Stop the Stigma (STS), an organization dedicated “to eradicating the stigma society places on mental health issues through educating the public and by offering financial assistance to those who are in need of counseling services.”

“Since last year, we have become a recognized nonprofit organization in Texas, and we are currently in the process of applying for our federal 501(c)(3) status,” says Anderson. “We raised almost $3,000 last year at TFW with just the generosity that was shown to us with our table. With those funds, coupled with those from a few smaller fundraisers, we have gotten ourselves up and running and provided over 200 hours of discounted mental health counseling services.”

Attendees of this year’s Frightmare will have an opportunity to help their fellow fans—and community—in a number of ways. A special vendor booth set up in the lobby will sell donated horror merchandise, with all proceeds going to STS. The centerpiece of the fundraiser, though, will be a unique auction. Says Anderson: “We will also be hosting a silent auction consisting of autographed merchandise from an array of celebrities at this year's show. We currently have approximately 10 one-of-a-kind autographed items, but we are still receiving donations. All proceeds from this auction will benefit the efforts of Stop the Stigma, including providing discounted counseling services and public education programs.”

There was a pall of sadness over last year’s Frightmare; this year, though, fans will not only have the opportunity to rebound from tragedy but help prevent further incidents from occurring. We, as horror fans, have always had an adept eye for picking out the ills of society; now that we’ve got them identified, let’s come together and fix them.

Preston Fassel