Smile Politely

Welcome to the dark side of history

Everyone knows there are four seasons, spring, summer, winter, and fall. But to #Fangirls/Fanboys there’s a fifth: Convention Season! For Cosplayer, Comic books, and TV series fans alike, this season is the only one that really matters. Comic Cons are happening right now from L.A. to Indiana. But did you know there’s one right here, in our own backyard? It’s the Dark History and Horror Con, in Urbana. I did a Q&A with Brian Ward, the director and founder of DHHC, to find out what makes this convention different. 

Smile Politely: So when did you Start DHC? And why a Convention about Dark history?

Brian Ward: The Dark History Con started officially in 2014. That was when I held the first one at a VFW hall in Rantoul, Illinois. I only spent about three months planning, had no budget. But I was able to attract eight to ten people in the true crime arena to be guests and drew about 30 people for a three-hour event. I started this event because my passion has always been true crime and the darker side of history. I believe history to be very important. I know a lot of people are into true crime now. I saw it as a way of using a popular thing to bring attention to some of the lesser-known darker elements of our history.

SP: Why do you think this type of event is important?

Ward: I felt it was important because it seems that we have a general lack of knowledge when it comes to history, and as the old saying goes, ‘Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it.’ We are continually going through the cycle of doing the exact same things over and over again. Besides that I felt like we all know all the names of these famous or infamous serial killers, but truly the only reason they are famous is because they took lives. Shouldn’t those people that were the victims be just as important, if not more important, in the grand scheme of things? I want to bring to people’s attention to victims throughout history who have suffered indignities at the hands of others. Be it the Native Americans who were slaughtered, women working toward getting the right to vote or individuals who were beaten and victimize to achieve their goal. Or African-Americans and gay folks all trying to bring about equality even as they are brutalized while trying to do so. We don’t like to think about these things and we don’t like to remember these things, because it shows us how bad we are as human beings. But I don’t think anyone can argue that these are, in fact, historical events. On the other side of that coin you have the school shootings, you have the mass shootings, and you have the untimely death of celebrities and well-known people. Whether you consider that pop culture or something else, these are things that happened in our history as people and therefore deserve to be taught and recognized.

SP: What’s the DHHC backstory?

Ward: The backstory of the convention is quite simple. I attended an event in Indianapolis called The Crime Scene which was put on by some artist and collectors of true crime memorabilia. Their event was winding down and I asked for each of their permission to try to put together a similar event here in my home area and they all gave me their permission and encouragement.

SP: How does this event help the community?

Ward: I feel like this event helps the community to recognize things they might not have known or things they feel like are just a footnote in history. In regards to our current events, just recently gay people are starting to get equal rights, but many people are either too young or were not taught that the struggle that they went through, or that the struggle has been met by other folks before. Again, I mention women trying to gain the right to vote, the civil rights struggle…all of these things are recognized as important and as victories for their participants, but what is typically glossed over (or is not mentioned at all) is how much death and brutality were linked to these things. I feel that does a disservice to the people who gained their freedom and equality to not show just how brutal their struggle was. I wanted my scope to be even wider, not just serial killers but also tragic events, dark elements of history, and all the things that has spawned.

SP: Is DHHC about devil worshiping?

Ward: To my knowledge this is not at all about devil worshipping. I do have speakers and authors that have spoken about that and have tried and hopefully have dispelled a lot of rumors and falsehoods about what devil worship is. DHHC is a chance to educate people. It is far more than about worshipping any being.

SP: How is this different than any other “con”?

Ward: I think this convention is different than others in that I embrace everything dark, mysterious, and off-of-the beaten path. I bring in true crime authors and filmmakers and also artists. I am simply a one-man show with the help of some family members, particularly my daughter. Because of that, I have been able to connect on a different level with nearly everyone I have come in contact with in regards to the convention. I am not like Wizard World or Days of the Dead or those extremely large corporate type conventions. I will always stick to my convictions and vision for this event. I want to draw people’s attention to these lesser-known things and to dispel some myths, rumors, and fears. Both myself and everyone that I have participate in my conventions are extremely approachable and always ready to teach you something, or to help you better understand things you may not know or may be scared of.


This will mark the fourth year for DHHC, with small changes, add-ons, and a new location. The element of horror was added this past year, which brings in scary movie fans. This event is open to everyone, but parental guidance is recommended because of strong adult content. Also new this year, admission is free! The event runs from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. For more information, you can find them on Facebook or their website.


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