One of my favorite pastimes is having my beliefs challenged. Learning something new, or at least hearing a new point of view, is exhilarating for me. Even if I don’t agree with it. Sometimes, not agreeing with it makes it even better. Now that we’re all in charge of the content we consume, we are continually and perpetually confirming our beliefs in an endless loop. Well, enter Phenomenacon 3. This online event, which took place a couple of weeks back, was the place to be for weirdos like me. Let me tell you why, and why you should definitely attend the next one.
What the Heck is Phenomenacon?
Fair question. Phenomenacon is an online convention of the weird and paranormal organized by Greg and Dana Newkirk. You may know the Newkirks from their fantastic docuseries Hellier (which I urge you to watch immediately after reading this article), but Phenomenacon is made as part of their Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult.
In a nutshell, the convention unites experts in different paranormal and occult subjects such as cryptids, witchcraft, aliens and ufology, astrology, paranormal reality television, and more. This is definitely not a convention for conventional people. But if you’re a bit weird like me, then this sounds like heaven. And you know what? That’s exactly what it was.
Phenomenacon 3 took place over a period of 3 days, and it was jam-packed with cool people and amazing conferences. As a Wiccan lone practitioner myself, you may expect me to be drawn to the witchy talks more. And to be honest, I’d have good reason to: Maighdlin Kelly’s “The Weird Astrology of Hellier” was extremely intriguing, and Dana Newkirk’s “Bewitching the Paranormal” was a joy to behold.
But this time around, I found myself enchanted by topics I didn’t understand or know much about. Cliff Barackman’s “The Best Evidence for Bigfoot” was an eye-opening talk about the scientific approach to Sasquatches and the difference between evidence and proof. I’m not much of a cryptid guy but by golly, I had a wonderful time learning about the legends of tall, hairy people-like creatures shared by indigenous peoples spread across the globe.
Brad Abrahams’ short documentary “Do You See What I See” shook me to my core. It tells the story of the late David Dees, a former Sesame Street artist turned conspiratorial, Alt-right fanatic. There was so much relatability in Dees, but also so much hate, and so much… madness.
Finally, Mark Pilkington’s “Mirage Men and the State of Ufology” really made me reconsider what I thought I knew about the UFO phenomenon. It is a great revisit to a topic he first covered in his documentary “Mirage Men”, which I urge you to seek out. Really compelling stuff.
I didn’t want to call them downsides because, to be honest, the convention didn’t have any. There were just some things I wish would have gone differently. First was Kindred Spirits‘ Amy Bruni’s presentation. It was supposed to be an interactive experiment in a haunted location, but it turned into a Q&A session due to extremely bad weather in Bruni’s hometown. We can’t control the weather, and the Q&A was fascinating in its own right, but I was so looking forward to the experiment, I felt a bit deflated. There’s really nothing anyone could have done differently, though. This is just me expressing my sadness.
Funnily enough, my only other “talk” gripe comes from another guest associated with Kindred Spirits, talent and executive producer Adam Berry. His talk, “The reality of Paranormal Reality TV”, was something I was really looking forward to as a filmmaker. But Adam is not quite what I had in mind. And perhaps this is my fault for setting myself up with certain expectations. However, Adam’s haphazard approach to his presentation was messy (if endearing) and I found it jarring when compared to most other guests’, all of which were accomplished public speakers. I didn’t want Adam to change his personality for a talk, but my brain just wasn’t ready for the pinball experience that took place. I still enjoyed the talk, but I feel it could have been so much more with a tiny bit more restrain and preparation.
Finally, and I know this comes from a technical limitation inherent to livestreaming, but I wish there was a way to watch the thing in 1080p60 at high bitrates. I’m just a spoiled brat, I know, but if you’ve seen Hellier, you’ll know what this creative team are capable of.
I cannot possibly mention every single talk without this article turning into a book. There were so many of them, and they were all so great in their own way, that I would just sound like a shill. Sure, there are aspects to improve. The technical leap from the last Phenomenacon was enormous. But I still long for more. Some of the presentations were not what I had expected.
But on the whole, the paranormal community was at its best at Phenomenacon 3. The Newkirks have really cultivated a group of fellow weirdos who are friendly, open and fun to be around. I will be there for Phenomenacon 4, and you should, too.
In the meantime, please check out Hellier (its 2 wonderful seasons are available to watch for free here), and visit The Traveling Museum of the Paranomal & Occult to become a member and support the wonderful work of the Newkirks and their team.