Knott's Berry Farm and its parent company, Cedar Fair, announced on Tuesday that they are closing down the Halloween attraction Fear VR after it stirred controversy among concerned advocates.
According to The Orange County Register, the mental health advocates nationwide including Saddleback pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, have sent an email to the park's administrators stating that the portrayal of a possessed girl in a hospital as part of a virtual-reality horror show stigmatizes and denigrates individuals with mental illnesses.
In reply, the amusement park said that its evening attractions during Halloween are "designed to be edgy, and are aimed at an adult-only audience."
However, the theme park officials also said that they have decided to shut down the attraction in Buena Park and at two other Cedar Fair parks in California's Great America in Santa Clara and Canada's Wonderland near Toronto.
"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 statement said. "Contrary to some traditional and social media accounts, the attraction's story and presentation were never intended to portray mental illness."
The attraction centers around a girl named Katie who shows up at a medical facility. Los Angeles Times reveals that Fear VR was first known as FearVR: 5150. The four numbers resemble to a section of the California Welfare and Institutions Code which is used to signal authorities that a peace officer or clinician can detain a person who may be suffering a mental disorder that causes him or her to be a danger to other people or himself of herself.
During the opening day last week, Knott's and Cedar Fair removed the "5150" because of the uproar it created in the mental health community nationwide.
John Leyerle, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Orange Country, said, "I feel good about what happened here. Thankfully, this attraction will no longer further mental health stigma."
"By closing this ride down, they've moved things away from a negative place. We see this as an opportunity to talk about this if they are open to that," Leyerle added.
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