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'Walking Dead' star among paranormal convention-goers in Mahnomen

Michael Cudlitz as Abraham - The Walking Dead _ Season 5, Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

MAHNOMEN, Minn. — Why fans love "The Walking Dead" is the million-dollar question, Michael Cudlitz said.

But the star who plays Sgt. Abraham Ford on AMC's adaptation of the comic book series about surviving a zombie apocalypse said he loves seeing how excited fans get when they interact with him at conventions.

"It's a shared experience," he said of why fans love paranormal conventions. "Everybody is there in the same space, and they are able to share this thing that they love with no judgment."

Cudlitz is one of several stars fans will get a chance to see at ParaCon 2016, the sixth annual paranormal convention hosted this weekend at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen. About 1,000 attendees are expected Thursday, Oct. 6, through Saturday, Oct. 8, at the convention, which will play up an array of paranormal topics from ghost hunting to discussion on UFOs.

Cudlitz will be a special guest Friday at the convention. Zak Bagans, host of The Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures," also will appear Saturday with co-stars Aaron Goodwin and Billy Tolley.

Other paranormal experts include cast members of SyFy's "Ghost Hunters," "Ghost Hunters International," Destination Truth" and "Haunted Collector," as well as stars from The Travel Channel's "The Dead Files" and "Expedition Unknown."

Supernatural Investigators of Minnesota, a team that investigates a range of topics from bigfoot to cryptozoology, will be at the convention Saturday.

ParaCon experts also will discuss the Palmer House Hotel, a restaurant and pub that was voted by USA Today readers as one of the top 10 Best Haunted Hotels. Located in Sauk Centre, Minn., a city of roughly 4,300 residents about 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis, the house reportedly is known for ghostly activity, including temperature changes, disembodied voices, moving objects and reports of a young boy bouncing a ball down the hall.

The hotel has been featured on "Ghost Adventures" and "Ghost Hunters."


Tickets for ParaCon went on sale Aug. 8. The convention often sells out, but about 200 passes were available as of Tuesday, said Brenna Jefferies, a spokeswoman for ParaCon.

Part of the appeal of paranormal conventions is that people gather to share experiences, theories and ideas, Jefferies said.

"It gives people the opportunity to come together and learn as much as they can about the paranormal world and what else could be out there," she said.

ParaCon tries to attract big names such as Cudlitz and Bagans. In the past, it has hosted Carmen Reed, the woman whose story served as the main focus of the horror movie "The Haunting in Connecticut," Bill Murphy from SyFy's "Fact or Faked," Laurie Holden from "The Walking Dead" and Kane Hodder, who played Jason in the "Friday the 13th" franchise.

With the Season 7 premiere of "The Walking Dead" approaching quickly, Cudlitz and other cast members have been busy traveling to events and conventions, including New York Comic Con this week.

When Cudlitz first began appearing on "The Walking Dead," he was not a fan of going to conventions, he said. But after he went to his first convention, he was hooked.

"I had an amazing time with the fans. I saw it was not about just getting the autograph photo," he said. "I saw it was about the interaction between the fans and me and what they got out of it."

The premiere is set for Oct. 23, and while he couldn't reveal much about Season 7 or the future of his character, he did have advice for his fans.

"All I can say is expect what you have grown to expect," he said.

Tickets for ParaCon are $65 and include access to panels, vendors and presentations. VIP tickets, which include a dinner at 7 p.m. today with all ParaCon presenters, cost $100.

To purchase tickets, go to call (800) 313-7469 or visit the Shooting Star Casino's Facebook page.

If you go

-What: ParaCon 2016, the sixth annual paranormal convention.

-When: VIP dinner, 7 p.m. today. Vendors open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

-Where: Shooting Star Casino, 777 Casino Road, Mahnomen, Minn.

-Special guests: Michael Cudlitz of "The Walking Dead," and Zak Bagans, Aaron Goodwin and Bill Tolley from "Ghost Adventures.

-More info: Go to or visit the Shooting Star Casino's Facebook page.

-For tickets: Call (800) 313-7469, go to or visit the Shooting Star Casino's Facebook page.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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