Amusement park horror nights are one of the best things about the holiday season. If you live in Los Angeles, you have no shortage of options to get your freak-out fix. Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Knott’s Berry Farm all offer some variation on Halloween Horror Nights, on top of your run-of-the-mill haunted hay rides in Griffith Park and suburban haunted houses. Seriously — Los Angeles is kind of a mecca if you like to be scared. And while some haunted houses face blowback for simply being too terrifying, Knott’s Berry Farm recently came under fire for a really unfortunate and justified reason.
Knott’s Berry Farm was forced to close a Halloween attraction that painted mentally ill people as the monster in the haunted house. We can’t even begin to put into words how offensive this is.
In a country where mentally ill people already have to deal with outrageous accusations of culpability on top of the stigma against seeking help for mental illness, Knott’s Berry Farm’s choice to portray mentally ill people as the thing you’re running from in their “FearVR: 5150” ride, isn’t just in poor taste, it’s actively dangerous.
Ron Thomas, the father of schizophrenic and homeless man Kelly Thomas, who tragically died in a violent confrontation with Fullerton police in 2011, had some really on point things to say to ABC7 about the attraction.
As the backlash against the ride grew, Knott’s Berry Farm shut it down, and released the following statement.
While we could’ve done with a little more accountability from Knott’s Berry Farm in the apology, we’re glad they reacted by shutting down the ride, and ceasing to demonize the suffering of mentally ill people.