Sam Conway of
Malvern insists the convention he's running this weekend at
the Adam's Mark Hotel here on humdrum City Avenue is not at
Nearly 1,100 grown men and women dressed head to toe in
furry fox and wolf costumes are shopping for comic books and
compact discs and he says that's to be expected.
"We're no different from a convention of model train
enthusiasts," Conway insists.
You be the judge.
Conway is showing us around Anthrocon, the
anthropomorphists' convention, which began Thursday and runs
through today. It is not open to the public.
This is a gathering of people - adults, so to speak - who
enjoy pretending they are furry critters with human
characteristics or humans with animal qualities. It's a matter
They identify so much with animals that they think like sly
foxes, wear raccoon tails, and growl when they are approached.
They paint their Ford pickups orange with black tiger
stripes and have vanity license plates that bear names like
SHEEBAH and WULFY. They drive in from Ontario, Iowa and
Arkansas and pay $30 in membership dues to attend this annual
event - one of nine conventions held worldwide.
Participants call themselves furries.
At one extreme are the rare furries who have plastic
surgery to make their ears pointy, their jaws elongated, or
their canine teeth enlarged.
"Nobody around here has been dumb enough to do
that," Conway notes. "Why would you want to turn
yourself into a freak?"
So the majority of furries here are in street clothes with
horns strapped discreetly to their heads and tails pinned
nonchalantly to their pants.
Plenty more come in full furry regalia - cat and canine
costumes that can cost several hundred to several thousand
Here's Kevin Kelm, of Colorado, for example, in a
mechanically operated, 65-pound, 9-foot-tall, gray wolf suit
made entirely of foam rubber.
And Lauren Lyle, a 29-year-old electrical engineer from
Akron, Ohio, dressed in a tawny fox suit. It must have cost a
lot, because the jaw is articulated so it moves when she
What would possess an individual to indulge in such an
expensive and - dare we say - oddball hobby? Is it a love of
nature? A fondness for fake fur? Do the costumes compensate
for shyness? As children, were they kept inside on Halloween?
"I don't know; it's just really fun," Lyle says.
"I like it."
Conway's furry self is a rat persona dubbed Uncle Kage. A
chemist in real life (with a Ph.D. from Dartmouth), Conway as
Uncle Kage wears a white lab coat with a Mad Scientist's Union
emblem across the back. He is 37 years old and unmarried.
His mother, Wilma Conway, a retired secretary in her late
60s, is laughing it up at the registration booth. She's with
Josie DeCarlo, 79, whose late husband, Dan DeCarlo, created Josie
and the Pussycats for Archie comics. Josie's wearing a
leopard print sweater set. Subtle.
Other near-celebs are here: Disney animator Herbie Hamill
and Bill Holbrook, creator of the syndicated strip Safe
Havens and an online comic called Kevin & Kell. That
one features a large white rabbit and a foxy-looking wolf who
meet online and fall in love before they realize they are from
Publisher Lisa Allen says furry comic strips can raise
sensitive topics such as difference and divorce, "and
it's easier for the reader to accept when it comes from a
cute, furry little animal."
Roughly 75 percent of Anthrocon members are men in their
20s or 30s, which might make this a good place to meet guys -
depending, of course, on what you're looking for in a man.
Mostly, this convention is about "art."
In the Dealer's Room, furries are buying hand-painted
refrigerator magnets, jewellery, comics, T-shirts, puppets,
tails, wings, glow-in-the-dark horns, and (why does this seem
weird?) stuffed animals.
When they're not shopping, conventioneers can attend
workshops on watercolour illustration, photography and
"conveying expressions." At the dance Friday night,
the disc jockey played the Pink Panther Theme and The
Lion Sleeps Tonight.
Oh, lighten up, Conway says.
Does our culture not revere Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and
Tony the Tiger? Do we not buy plush animals for newborns and
put them in their cribs? Did Cats not run for 7,485
performances on Broadway?
This is just good, clean fun, he says.
True, a small fringe of furries find this sexually
titillating. That X-rated branch was featured earlier this
year on an MTV special that raised many an eyebrow.
All factions of furries are welcome at Anthrocon. But, as
in Animal Farm, some are more welcome than others.
Public displays of affection are not allowed, and X-rated
comic books and games are kept under wraps.
At the other end of the proverbial spectrum are furry
do-gooders. Some perform for children in hospitals and others
raise money for Canine Partners for Life, a Cochranville, Pa.,
group that trains dogs to help people who have limited
Takes all kinds.