Written by Patti Pauley
If you happen to be attending Knott’s Scary Farm for its annual Halloween extravaganza this year, there’s one ride you won’t be experiencing this season. As reported by ABC Los Angeles, the virtual reality attraction at the park Fear VR, has received several complaints from mental health advocates who took to social media to express their outrage over the park’s ride calling it “offensive” towards people who suffer from mental illness.
The ride that has some fans of the Halloween themed park event in an uproar, focuses primarily on a possessed girl on the loose in a hospital. Park guests are strapped into a chair before given their VR goggles to begin the Fear 5150 experience, all-inclusive with a “panic button” to opt out if riders deem the attraction to intense for their liking.
Mental Health advocates such as Ron Thomas, father of homeless man Kelly Thomas, who had schizophrenia and died in a violent confrontation with Fullerton police in 2011, spoke out against the attraction publicly calling it offensive:
“You get in there and get the virtual reality set on, you know you’re in an insane asylum, and that this Katie, this patient, is loose and is going to do bad things to you. It’s wrong,” he said. “The mentally ill are people. They’re human beings. They’re suffering. They have illnesses, and we have to do something to help them – not demonize them. Not to continue the stigma of mental illness.”
After Thomas’ opinion on the attraction and an abundance of backlash from social media warriors, the park’s officials released this statement:
“California’s Great America is proud of its popular annual Halloween Haunt event. For nine years we have delivered unique and immersive haunted experiences to our fans and loyal guests. Our evening attractions are designed to be edgy, and are aimed at an adult-only audience. Over the past week we have heard from a number of people expressing their concern that one of our temporary, Halloween attractions – FearVR – is hurtful to those who suffer from mental illnesses. Contrary to some traditional and social media accounts, the attraction’s story and presentation were never intended to portray mental illness. As it is impossible to address both concerns and misconceptions in the Halloween time-frame, at this time we have decided to close the attraction.”
In other words, don’t expect to experience this ride anytime soon, as it has indeed been pulled from not only Knott’s Scary Farm, but two other parks as well owned by Cedar Fair in Santa Clara and Toronto. What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you believe this is a valid argument for the mental health community? Or is this just one more step for the human race needing a pacifier in their mouths. No matter what your opinion is, it really seems no one can do just about anything these days without someone being offended.