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ParaCon offers a chance to meet paranormal experts, explore the world of the unknown

MAHNOMEN, Minn.--Todd Boyer of Fargo is a Christian, but because he wants to see other points of view and learn new ideas, he said he keeps an open mind about everything and anything, including the paranormal.

Fans wait in line to meet paranormal experts Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, during ParaCon at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minn. (April Baumgarten/Grand Forks Herald)
Fans wait in line to meet paranormal experts Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, during ParaCon at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minn. (April Baumgarten/Grand Forks Herald)

MAHNOMEN, Minn.-Todd Boyer of Fargo is a Christian, but because he wants to see other points of view and learn new ideas, he said he keeps an open mind about everything and anything, including the paranormal.

"I like to know what other people think," he said Saturday. "It's just listening to other people's thinking and seeing how they interpret things. It's interesting."

He and his wife, Amanda, were two of about 1,200 people exploring ParaCon, a paranormal convention held this weekend at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen. The event attracted dozens of booths and paranormal experts, including ghost hunters, bigfoot researchers, UFO authors and psychics.

A star-studded list of guests from popular TV shows awaited eager fans as they signed autographs and took pictures with paranormal enthusiasts.

That included Grant Wilson of SyFy's "Ghost Hunters." He's been to multiple conventions over the years but said ParaCon is his favorite because it gives him a chance to interact with those interested in ghosts. It also allows him to help others who may have experienced paranormal activity.

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"It's just a camaraderie," he said, adding this is his third year at ParaCon. "Every year I come back, it feels like a family reunion."

There was a time when talking about the paranormal world was taboo, Wilson said. There is a science behind investigating paranormal activity to determine the validity of reports, but some see the paranormal as an unproven science, causing some to be skeptic or even harshly critical of those who believe in it.

"It's in its very early infancy," he said.

A convention like ParaCon offers a setting for paranormal fans to come together and "be yourself" without being judged, he said.

"You can tell somebody, 'My dead grandfather came to me and told me this,' and nobody looks at you like you are crazy," he said. "When you are surrounded by hundreds of people like this, it is a very comfortable place to be."

Part of the attraction of the paranormal is the unknown, said Amanda Boyer.

"There is still so much in question," she said, agreeing with her husband that people still can believe in ghosts and be religious. "I think we came here to learn so much about the ghosts, but what we are finding are people are talking more about spirituality instead of just ghosts."

There also is the attraction of seeing special guests, including Michael Cudlitz from AMC's "The Walking Dead." The actor who plays Sgt. Abraham Ford on the zombie survival series said the convention offers a place for fans to share their experiences with others while getting a chance to interact with actors. He told the Herald this week he loves interacting with fans at conventions like ParaCon.

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He said he doesn't know exactly what has made "The Walking Dead" such a popular show, though he guessed it's because the characters in the show have so many layers and are relatable. As people watch the show, they grow attached to the characters as if they were close friends.

"You get to really know and care about all of these people," he said of the characters in the show. "There is not anyone in the show right now, as an audience member, you would be OK with losing."

Amanda Boyer also admitted the shows the guests represented at the convention were entertaining, but she said she loved the fact that so many of the stars there were friendly and welcoming, sometimes taking selfies with fans and exchanging small talk.

"That's what makes it more exciting and fun; they are not these big movie stars," she said. "It's just people like you and I.

"You can relate to them better," she added. "It feels like you are hanging out with a buddy."

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