A SCARY ride has shut down only days after opening at a California amusement park after it was slammed for demonising mental illness.
The Fear VR opened last week on September 22 at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park. In the month leading up to Halloween the amusement park dedicates itself to scaring its visitors witless with a host of Halloween-themed rides.
In the Fear VR visitors were strapped into chairs and had virtual reality headgear fitted as they were shown the journey of a possessed patient in a mental institution.
The ride copped flak even before it opened with mental health advocates outraged at its original name, Fear VR 5150, the numbers referring to the official California state code detention of a person who may be suffering from a mental disorder and considered a danger to others.
Under pressure Knott’s Berry Farm changed the name but after the haunted hospital attraction opened public criticism mounted.
Julia Robinson Shimizu wrote a letter to the LA Times slamming Knott’s Berry Farm “for presenting illness as entertainment.”
She wrote: “People with mental illness are our loved ones and yours …. People with mental illness are statistically more likely to be a victim of a crime than to commit a crime.”
Among those voicing their concerns was Ron Thomas, whose son, Kelly, suffered from schizophrenia and died after being beaten by police in Fullerton, California.
In a statement to the LA Times, the park confirmed the rides closure: “Over the past week we have heard from a number of people expressing their concern that one of our temporary, Halloween attractions — Fear VR — 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.”