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The wizard of Dragon*Con stands trial 

The force behind Atlanta's largest sci-fi convention finds himself in his own world of darkness

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In response, Kramer made a legal complaint against Castle. Although the case never made it to court, Castle was washed up in the fantasy convention business.

"I didn't bury my head in the sand," he says. "Everybody else was scared shitless and now all I can say is, 'I told you so.'"

The stories about Kramer, the sidelong glances and eye-rolling, the snickering behind his back were there almost from the start. What chum is to sharks, fantasy conventions are to teenagers, especially those who consider themselves misfits. Youngsters fill the gaming halls at Dragon*Con and are underfoot anywhere Magic cards are being traded. But for many that didn't explain why Kramer had a constant coterie of boys seemingly wherever he went.

"You'd go up to his suite to get passes or to talk to him and the room would always be filled with pre-pubescent boys," Johnston recalls.

Mike Dillson, who served as Dragon*Con's head of operations and security for nine years and oversaw a volunteer staff of 135, says Kramer "always had a legion of little boys following him around. 'Ed's boys' -- that's what we called them."

But while the rumors attained near- ubiquity, most people laughed them off or kept their suspicions to themselves rather than risk angering the master of Dragon*Con.

Dorman remembers: "Ed never offered any explanation as to why he had all these boys with him and no one was willing to ask him about it."

Pat Henry says his former business partner never felt the need to explain himself. Kramer was a dedicated volunteer at the DeKalb children's shelter, a mentor to numerous troubled boys and a surrogate father to children of single friends -- the people who mattered to Kramer knew that about him, Henry says.

"He's straightened out a lot of kids who had drug problems," he explains.

Still, Henry adds, one should always strive to be above suspicion when dealing with children. Does that mean he was aware of the rumors about Kramer? No, Henry is quick to answer, he never heard a thing.

Celebrated sci-fi writer and pundit Harlan Ellison has been a Kramer pal for 30 years. During his several visits to Dragon*Con, he never heard scuttlebutt about Kramer's sex life, he explains in typically direct style.

"I've seen Ed around young people in unguarded moments and there was nothing about his body language that suggested anything inappropriate," Ellison says. "Frankly, I can't imagine any child not running in fear from this creature who looks like he stepped out of an EC comic. Fact is, picturing Ed in bed with someone is like imagining Jerry Falwell fucking Eleanor Roosevelt."

Yet even Pittarelli, another Kramer supporter, says the rumors were hard to miss. "People made fun of him, but nobody took it too seriously," he says.

Johnston, having once seen Kramer making out with a woman of appropriate age, says he's undecided about the accusations. "I think people didn't necessarily believe the rumors, but repeated them because they didn't like him."

On the other hand, some incidents were so eyebrow-raising they were difficult to ignore. Early one morning, Dillson recalls, he called Kramer in his hotel room to come down right away to sort out a snafu in the dealers' hall. "He came from the shower dripping wet and so was the little boy he had with him." Later, he says, he refused Kramer's request to take his young son on a caving trip.

Christ says he was taken aback in 1995 when he started hearing rumors: "After that, I started hearing it everywhere I went and, for a long time, I defended him because I assumed it was petty gossip."

Christ says he finally decided otherwise when he saw Kramer one evening with a young boy in tow at the decidedly adult-themed GothCon 2000 a few months before his arrest.

"Ed was behaving very inappropriately with the boy, who seemed uncomfortable -- kissing the top of his head, stroking his hair, basically canoodling," Christ says. "I thought, 'Damn! Doesn't he know what people are saying about him?'"

Still, no one had the nerve to follow Castle's example and make the charge to Kramer's face.

"A lot of us had ideas about what was going on, but we didn't want to confront him," Dorman admits. "Unfortunately, in the sci-fi/ fantasy world, you see a lot of things that creep you out, so you tend to take it in stride."

Kramer has the ability to inspire strong feeling in those who know him well. But for Christ's wife, Nancy Collins, he's become an obsession that has devoured weeks of her life and made her and her husband pariahs within their own subculture.

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