California amusement park closes Halloween attraction after mental health advocates complain

BUENA PARK, Calif., Sept. 30 (UPI) — California amusement park Knott’s Berry Farm and parent company, Cedar Fair, announced Tuesday
the shuttering of a virtual reality Halloween attraction after mental health advocates objected.

The attraction called Fear VR had opened only day earlier when mental health advocates from across the country and local megachurch pastor and author Rick Warren urged the park to remove it, saying it reinforced negative stereotypes of the mentally ill.

The attraction, originally called FearVR: 5150, after the California state code for an involuntary psychiatric hold, is the story of a possessed young girl in a mental hospital. First the park removed the code from the name, then decided to shut down the attraction entirely.

Cedar Park also chose to shutter the attraction in two other park the company owns, California’s Great America in Santa Clara and Wonderland near Toronto, Canada.

The VR attraction was part of Knott’s Berry Farm’s famous and long-running annual Halloween Haunt, said the attraction was for an “adult-only audience”

“Over the past week, we have heard from a number of people expressing concern that one of our temporary, Halloween attractions – Fear VR – is hurtful to those who suffer from mental illnesses,” the park said in a statement. “Contrary to some traditional and social media accounts, the attraction’s story and presentation were never intended to portray mental illness.”

Devotees of the park have started to push back in support of the park and against its detractors with an online petition that has received more than 4,000 signatures in just over 24 hours.

The petition lists several current and former attractions at the park that are or were potentially more offensive, but were never objected to because visitors coming to the month-long Halloween event were “voluntarily giving up there right to be offended by blood, gore, and humor.”

The park has not responded to the petition, but has said the attraction has already been dismantled.



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