Have you been walking around Dragon Con, seen people in brightly patterned garb, and not known why? Or been handed a badge ribbon that says MB18? Perhaps you’ve wondered who Chad is and why you should care? The Alternate and Historical Fiction track has you covered with a panel on the major Con Cults and their origins, which was a live panel on Thursday at 7PM but is also available virtually on the A&HF YouTube channel.
Moderator Laura Houser gathered a panel of founders and cofounders or originators of some of the biggest cults that members might encounter at Dragon Con, for the panel. The virtual panel started with Eternal Zan, founder of the Cult of the Marriott Carpet, which started out as just a parade group. Zan assumed the whole thing would be one and done, but the cult continues to grow as new people find out about the legend of the Carpet and express their creativity with the free pattern she has given away since 2017.
The Cult of the Carpet led to several subsets of that cult, including the Marriott Carpet Cheerleaders, the Carpetsaurous Rex fan group, and the Marriott Carpet Marching Band and Color Guard. One of the panelists is a long-term fan and curator of the histories of the various cults. Mera Babineaux is the cofounder of the Unified Church of the Dragons, which was created in 2020 both to help record the history and promote harmony between the cults. Her list of affiliations in the various churches is long and varied, which makes her well-placed to be in the Unified Church. She spoke mostly of the Church of Chad and the Great Cardboardius, both of which were born during Dragon Con Goes Virtual in 2020. During the Dad’s Garage “Improvised Dungeons and Dragons” panel, Colin Mochrie participated as Brother Bartholomew, a Level 6 human lawful good cleric. Brother Bartholomew worships a deity named Chad, who protects the feet of his followers through comfy footwear, a definite must at Dragon Con.
One of the other prominent cults at Dragon Con is the Cult of Jon, the former FedEx cardboard cutout. Mike Piazza and Ken Bryer, cofounders of the cult, also never expected it to take off the way that it has. Piazza said that one thing about Dragon Con members is that they will take a joke and beat it to death until it becomes funny again. The cult originated in 2019 when an unsuspecting advertisement for FedEx became a foil for members of Dragon Con to express their creativity by decorating it with stickers, googly eyes, drawings, and leis. But more than that, soon people began leaving offerings of beer, cups of pudding, candy, and other things. One day, the cutout disappeared, but the offerings remained. Sightings of “Jon” occurred throughout the Con, until one early morning he was back in his spot among all his offerings. Piazza and Bryer created a Facebook group for the cult, which now has over 4,500 members. Bryer also noted it felt like fate that a cult celebrating delivery drivers would start the year before delivery drivers became some of the most important people in the world.
One of the stranger cults that emerged in 2020 was the 36 Dozen Eggs, which originated with Tony Gowell, one of Dragon Con’s staff and frequent moderators during the convention. Gowell has been with Dragon Con since 2001 and for 7 years was responsible for boiling and shelling 36 dozen eggs that were used during the convention in the Guest Hospitality suite. They would be used in some way during all of the meals on offer, and at the time it was hard to find pre-cooked, shelled boiled eggs. Gowell told this story during Dragon Con Goes Virtual, and like the origins of most of the cults and religions at Con, it was something that a group of fans latched onto. It spread via the Dragon Con Discord and various social media pages that were dedicated to the eggs. Gowell said that he is really proud to be part of something that gives people so much joy. He also said that cults and the way the joy is spread to new members helps to give the show its longevity. Apparently, according to Zan and Babineaux, 36 dozen eggs is now called “a Gowell” and there is a group of chicken farmers in Virginia who offer a Gowell for order at their farms.
Houser also introduced Sven Licht, proprietor of Drunken Dragon Hotel group, which prints a lot of the merchandise for the cult members that can be seen during con. Like most things at Dragon Con, Licht fell sideways into this being a thing after creating a shirt for himself that other people liked and asked where they could find. The site has everything from apparel to pins and keychains to fans and bottle openers.
Houser pointed out that Dragon Con is one of the only cons that has its own culture and fans. All of these cults have continued because they have been built up by fans of the convention itself. For a lot of us, this is our yearly home away from home, and whether we align with the Church of Chad or the Cult of Jon, we are all part of this weird and wacky convention family. Personally, I can’t wait to see what cults are created next.