It’s Halloween season again, and unfortunately, there are asylum-themed amusement park attractions galore. Advocates launched into action when they heard of one at Knott’s Berry Farm called Fear VR 5150 (the code for involuntary psychiatric commitment). The attraction apparently featured “the abnormal case of a terrifyingly unusual patient named Katie,” and described the experience of being “strapped to a wheelchair” and coming “face-to-face with the deadly chaos unraveling around you…” See Knott's closes attraction that was insensitive to people who care about mental health (Los Angeles Times) and Mental Health Advocates Protest Knott's Berry Farm's Halloween Attraction, Fear VR: 5150 (The Mighty.com) for the full story.
It was a great victory that advocates managed to convince Knott’s Berry Farm to close the Fear VR 5150 attraction. But unfortunately, there are so many more of these kinds of attractions. For example, the Bay Area-located Six Flags Discovery Kingdom advertised an attraction described on their Fright Fest website (it has since been removed) as follows:
A new cursed haunted asylum: Dark Oaks Asylum
Our new haunted house brings you face-to-face with the world’s worst psychiatric patients. Traverse the haunted hallways of Dark Oaks Asylum and try not to bump into any of the grunting inmates around every turn. Maniacal inmates yell out from their bloodstained rooms and deranged guards wander the corridors in search of those who have escaped.
Again, advocates leapt into action and convinced Six Flags within a matter of hours to shut down their asylum themed rides, not just at Discovery Kingdom, but in all their sites, immediately.
As Susan Rogers notes in a Mad in America essay, Powerful Advocacy has Shut Down Halloween ‘Attractions’ that Ramp Up Prejudice: “advocacy works! We stood up for what was right and we made a difference!”
Let’s hope that these theme parks realize once and for all that it is never okay to perpetuate stereotypes about people living with behavioral health conditions. Prejudice is the scariest thing of all.
What you can do:
- Email Six Flags executives to thank them for removing the asylum-themed Halloween attractions.
- Contact: Nancy Chan, Discovery Kingdom Public Relations: firstname.lastname@example.org
- CC the Six Flags national Public Relations, Sandra Daniels: email@example.com Berry Farm and say that these kinds of exhibits t downactiontions to shut down. We need to send a message to the theme park in
- Tweet your thanks to Six Flags at: @sixflags and @sixflagsDK