View Full Version : Mental Hospital woes =(

06-06-2007, 10:17 PM
Hello all, I'm Ryan and I'm new here...i was just wondering, has anyone on here been contacted/issued a complaint by anyone offended by the concept of a haunted mental/insane asylum? Last year our house was contacted by NAMI (National Association of Mental Health) and they threatened to picket out side of our house because it was a horrible and offensive theme to use mental illness in a haunted house setting. Has this happened to anyone else? If so, what did you do about it? We had to change our theme THE DAY OF OPENING to avoid angry protesters at our house.

06-06-2007, 10:37 PM
Hey Ryan, We also were contacted by that organization and the newspaper had a pretty nasty article about it. But because of that the news crew from a local station came down and down to our place and did a story on us. Here it is on you tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5-9BEoiWHY
Check out how she ends it. In fact a bunch of people came through that last weekend and said that they saw us on the news.
So we ignored the whole thing and everything turned out fine. It was quite amusing.

Good luck. Let me know what you think of the news clip.



06-06-2007, 10:52 PM
haha wow...we were actually thinking of contacting media if we wouldnt have cooperated, but unfortunately because we are a local jaycees haunted house who gives back to the community, we didnt think it would look good! o well....now i need to figure out what the theme for this year is! (with out being offensive...:rolleyes:)

06-07-2007, 07:31 AM
We had the same problem about 6 years ago. We always change our themes every year anyway, and they hit us late in the season, so it wasn't awful. But we did lose a sponsor over it and that was bad. Ask Larry about this, he fights these guys every year. They do have some points to consider but they are pretty hypocritical going after haunts. How many blockbuster movies feature insanity? They should take on BATMAN...look at the Joker!, How about the Green Goblin in Spider Man?

If you don't have sponsors to worry about it probably won't matter, heck it might help. Every year we have church protesters, it gives our crowds something more to look at. But if you are hooked in with sponsors this can hurt you.

Good Luck!

Ben Armstrong

RJ Productions
06-07-2007, 02:39 PM
We also have an Asylum theme. So far we have not had any protests, maybe if we featured killers that had "gambling addictions" we'd be in trouble!!!

A year or so ago there was a complaint about a haunt in California with an asylum theme. It was on the wire and one of the DJ's at our radio station who sponsors the event read it on air. I was listening at the time and I'm thinking "what the hell is she doing!!!" After reading the story she started her own rant. She kept saying "this is only a haunted house people, it's NOT real!!" A good point she made was that people would find a haunt about an asylum scary because it IS real. There is always the possibility that we could ourselves end up in an institution. Not many people would worry about meeting or becoming a vampire, or an alien, or a corpse, or a ghost. But you have the real potential of meeting or even becoming someone with a mental illness it IS disturbing. It's scary BECAUSE it's real.

Her suggestion was first “… get a life”. IF they wanted to protest the haunt, they should then protest damn near every movie out that fall, several TV shows, several best sellers and probably their local congressman!! If anything they should use the haunt as a tool. "Help us fight mental illness. Don't let THIS really happen." She stated she had a relative that was committed to a hospital yet SHE did not find an asylum haunt insulting or offensive, it's merely entertainment!

I am glad to say we never had any repercussions from either the original story or our DJ's rant. I persoannly think alot of mental heath organizations will stear clear of confronting us strictly because there is the potential that all they will really do is provide us with a lot of free publicity.

Always take the high road. Do NOT condemn the Mental health group. Acknowledge the good work that they do and you support them. You are no different that any other entertainment venue or medium that has used mental health as a theme. You're just more visible at this time of year.

06-07-2007, 04:06 PM
Not many people would worry about meeting or becoming a vampire, or an alien, or a corpse, or a ghost.

Don't we all worry about becoming a corpse?

06-07-2007, 04:18 PM
This thread has caused me to be a bit concerned since the haunt we're doing this year has been taken over by the clowns commited at the nearby institution for the comically insane. Of course, there is no such thing. But, we're a clinic who's having a special for coulrophobics which has been proven to be a real phobia.

If someone protests, then they just will. I will be distrubed by it, of course, but will try to take it in stride and see it only as a way of publicity.

06-07-2007, 07:29 PM
Read this...this is the sort of stuff they do.


06-07-2007, 07:56 PM
Why not throw some actors out there protesting them with picket signs dressed as zombies... Make sure you get on your media interviews you thanking them for bringing media attention to you event. Theses people are just sad and annoying... so use them against them... make their media into your event...

Let me be very clear on that last line. I am in no way implying that people with a true mental illness are sad and or annoying. But the current American attitude of protest and drug people up without giving them the time and understanding they need to deal with their problems is sad and annoying. If these people really wanted to help they would go after the endless string of drug companies with products that have frightening side effects rather than something this simple. Or maybe the doctors that hand out antidepressants like candy rather than spend 15 minutes with a patient. They are grabbing the low hanging fruit on their large tree of issues... .... and they deserver to be used as a marketing tool if and when they show up at your event.....

.... ah' Never mind me... this is just a "sore spot" for some.......

06-07-2007, 10:30 PM
Read this...this is the sort of stuff they do.


I wonder what would happen if one of the haunts using the Asylum theme made NAMI their main charity....Ironic, Hmmmmm?

Jim Warfield
06-08-2007, 12:09 AM
"Whew!?" I read this intensely and quickly because I assumed the mental illness aspect of this thread would be about the mental illness of the people owning, running and working in haunted houses!
(That was close!)

06-11-2007, 12:20 AM
Read this...this is the sort of stuff they do.

Wow, Ben. That would have been quite hurtful to me. How did you take it in stride?

Jim Warfield
06-11-2007, 07:11 AM
I just read the whole NAMI thing. In a perfect world............there would be enough love, money, jobs , respect , food for everyone. Will this ever be?
Of course not.
They make it sound as if everyone, no matter what their mental problem should be treated like everyone else. Does NAMI hire sociopaths to work in their office answering phones and providing security? I bet they don't.
Would they not "discriminate" against people who have already shown themselves to be very unpredictable and unstable people over a long period of their lives?
There is the arguement that all people commiting suicide are mentally unstable when they do this, even though often times the self-victim is a teenager who may be difficult to "read" or reach with any logic or understanding........
I really wonder if some haunted attraction calling itself an asylum or having some characters acting "crazed" ever pushed anyone into being more depressed or anti-social? I really doubt it.
Has the state of our country's politics, economy and world problems ever caused anyone real distress?
Yes, I bet it has!
Let's just not talk about these problems and they will solve themselves...right?
......in a perfect world........I Would be KING!!! Sure, why not?
I feel everyone should already be treating their fellow man with respect and positive emotional feelings. We all need to do this to make our own way through this life smoother and more tolerable, causing us fewer problems, but we all also seek and need predictability and personal safety in life, along with numerous minny successes to make it.

06-11-2007, 05:04 PM
We were lucky for a number of reasons. Number one we change our theme every year so not doing an Asylum the following year was always in the plan, it wasn't giving in. Number two they found us late in the season - by the time they started attacking it was almost over anyway. They actually went after sponsors even before they tried to contact us.

I wrote a huge email response to them, but thought better of it and never sent it. We pretty much never spoke to them at all.

It was a sneak attack and they were gone. But it looks like they search for haunts now, so be ready for them if they come around. You never know, the controversy might actually help you, unless they manage to make sponsors or Landlords skittish.

Good Luck!


06-12-2007, 03:12 AM
For the past several years I've had haunted houses come to me and ask me my advice on this subject... everytime those people contact a haunt and make threats I contact them on the haunts behalf. I've written them SEVERAL letters in the past... they have always written me back.

I have even been called by the media who wanted a quote from some haunted authority (magazine editor), and I've told the media the same thing every single time (and btw, if the media does a story feel free to contact me)

Anyway these guys do NOT pick on Hollywood, do they? I ask them every single time why don't you do something to Hollywood...why do you pick on haunted houses? Well because they can thats way!

Hollywood would laugh in their face...how many movies are made yearly about some asylum or crazy person killing people? Heck even Batman fights criminals from Arkam Asylum right?

Tell them to ask Warner Brothers to STOP what they're doing with Batman. Fat chance... picking on haunted houses is a way to get the media's attention thats all... because they can.

You have to fight them, there is no other option! You can't let them bully you, because most people and I mean most pay it no attention what so ever.

You have to be professional but if you back down one inch, or act weak, they'll hammer you...


Kevin Dells
06-17-2007, 09:53 AM
Our last season we had an asylum for the criminally insane,key word criminally!

Meening we played the parts of criminals gone insane,are they going to back criminals that have gone bonkers? I highly doubt it but other people did (not reading the haunt title!). Locals wrote the paper and complained that thier relatives were in a facility and they found this dis-tasteful.

We responded just the way i wrote this and made sure to throw out the reminder that it was Criminally insane we were trying to project.

The paper did put our response up and to say the least we were packed the next weekend!
Bad press for a haunt in a scenario as this is great press,people want to see what everybody's complaining about!

06-20-2007, 06:15 AM
Well you are in luck there is this thing in the contitution something about being able to say and do anything withen reason. O what is that called o yea the First Admendment. Let her try to sue I have heard of several people having the same problem but her complaint would never hold up in court. It is considered free speech

12-25-2008, 10:02 PM
Repeated below.

12-25-2008, 10:04 PM
The real problem with issues like this is that the people protesting do not really want you to change your haunt... not at first, anyway. What they want is a free news story about their cause, so they can get on the TV and talk about the issue they want everyone to be aware of. THEN, if you change your haunt, great, but they win either way: they got a free three minute commercial on the local news and all it took was a few complaints.

Pretty smart, really.

Lucky for us, two can play at that game, coz we can ALSO get free publicity out of it.

Our haunt features the Sunland Ayslum every year (with different scenes). Its been a nice draw, and we have yet to be hassled about it, but if they show up, great. Some Christians protested us a couple of years back and it pulled people in off the street. I had to tell my folks NOT to hassle them because they were helping us. In fact, I wanted to serve the protesters refreshments, but I was afraid they would figure out they were calling more attention to us and might leave. My only regret is that I didn't think to call the reporters to get them in on the act. I had a free TV commercial and newspaper ad opportunity and I BLEW IT! (In my defense, it was a busy night and I didn't have a lot of time to think it all out empirically... but I won't make that mistake twice.)

Of course, Ben is right about the potential of losing some sponsors, but that only applies if you have those kind of sponsors. A rock radio station, for instance, isn't going to care much. But other family friendly type companies just might (like Papa Johns, who didn't want any flyers with anything objectionable on them). Still, you have to weigh whatever the sponsor is giving you compared to the cost of a 3 minute or so news story during the highest rated period on TV, plus possible newspaper coverage, plus the "buzz factor" that kind of controversy creates. A back handed commercial endorsement like that is worth A LOT.

For my part, if the activists call me up and tell me to close our mental asylum, I know exactly what I'm going to say: "Are you CRAZY!?!"

12-26-2008, 06:56 PM
Pubicity...hmmm good publicity = good publicity......bad publicity = good publicity.....hmmm ( win / win ) either way your in the news....LMFAO

12-27-2008, 12:14 PM
Yes, that is one of the big benefits of having a haunted house: when critics complain that you are too bloody, or too demonic, or in bad taste, or are an evil influence, or are not politically correct, or are not proper for this or that reason, it only HELPS. Not only does it bring up your haunt in the public's mind, it also adds to the mystique. Youngsters are rebells and they don't want to go to a haunt (or rock concert, or even party) that their parents approve of. They WANT something controversial, different, offensive, edgy, or better yet, potentially dangerous... They want something to talk (or brag) about to their friends the next day.

Example: Someone started a rumor that a high school kid was kidnapped in our parking lot. People were asking me if it was true. My first impulse was to snuff out the rumor, because I didn't want parents thinking it was unsafe to send their kids to our haunt. But then I suddenly realized, WTF was a thinking? The parents aren't the ones who send the kids to us, it's the other kids who send the kids to us! And the best roller coasters are the ones with a whisper campaign of real danger. Now when they ask me about the kidnapping rumor, my response is: "I'm sorry, under advice of counsel, I can neither confirm nor deny that fact."

(Now if only I can figure out what to do with all those kidnapped kids!)

Jim Warfield
12-27-2008, 02:43 PM
Milk cartons infront of my house with the photos of missing children on them and guess what? The pictures were all taken with The Ravens Grin Inn in the backround!!??
Last time they were ever seen!
I know, I'm just trying to milk it...the thread.

12-28-2008, 10:13 PM
This NAMI group contacts us every year. At first, I tried to be understanding to their cause, but what I found in the end, is that they were really just harassing me. Every year they send out letters/emails asking people to make calls, send letters, emails etc. to haunted houses with asylum theme's, or in our case, names.

So now, I really pay them no attention, this year they called, emailed, wrote letters, and I just ignored them. If they stopped a minute to think about what they are complaining about, they'll realize that it's just a fictional portrayal of something that doesn't even exist anymore. I'm not aware of any local "asylums" in my area, or any area any more. When asylum's existed, the understanding of mental illness was no where near what it is today, that's why you hear about the various experiments that went on at these places, no one really knew what the hell they were doing, or so it seems.

At any rate, I resist the urge to respond to them letting them know, that yes we will change our name, and because of their concern, and our efforts to be more correct in our description, we will be changing our name from The Asylum Haunted House to The Sunny Days Home For The Mentally Challenged.

They have not picketed us, but if they decide to, I'll look forward to it.


Dr. Giggles
12-28-2008, 11:05 PM
We were pickited once! It was a blast me and the other clowns got together and we scared them all back to their cars hahaah apparently they were majorly coulrophobic...the association of coulrophobics in rehab were pickiting our haunt?!?!? Hahahah

Allen H
12-29-2008, 01:18 PM
Universal studios FL did a haunt for horror nights a few years back that had an asylum theme. After I went through I was not scared and I was not impressed, I was offended. Almost every actor was acting retarded, not psychotic or cannibalistic or dangerous, but acting like handyman from the old in living color show. It was sad and left a real bad taste in my mouth. My advice is if you are doing an asylum themed event make sure you stick to the more frightening illnesses, a show full of mentally challenged actors as opposed to criminally insane ones is not very good.
This is my opinion and I know it is not the only one out there. Lots of haunts have success doing things that I think are bad ideas. So take what I say for what you think its worth, but that was my experience.
Allen H

Jim Warfield
12-29-2008, 01:59 PM
During the 1830's-50's the mentally ill were just locked up in a small room and ignored.
The old county asylum in Jackson Co. Iowa is a scary looking two-story stone building with tiny windows, the building is long, narrow and just weird looking and it seems to be in the middle of nowhere from the pictures I have seen of it.
Countys without a structure would take the lowest bidder to house a few of the ill in private households basement with basically no accommodations at all, just cold, dirty, dark places.
I think there were many more unstable people back then because of the unknown effects certain chemicals would have, chemicals used in factory production processes.
"Mad Hatter?" Mercury was used alot in the hat making business inspiring this saying.
Galena, ill. was a major lead mining area and for some reason the river going through the town was named the Fever River? I wonder....?
Maybe a ghost filled asylum from the 1850's would give no cause for their righteous concerns and complaints.
Of course to be historically accurate most of the male patients would have long beards. (Barbers didn't visit often and sharp tools were not allowed inside)

12-29-2008, 04:42 PM
The Jay Cees in Gainesville one year did a asylum and they backed down so fast it would have made your head spin. They tried to change the haunt and it became a mess. They had tee shirts made and everything but they just backed down. The year before this last one we had a booth at the Melrose Pumpkin Fest, passing out flyers ect. A church youth group was going around and trying to save everyone from Halloween. They kept bothering my sister, she was dressed like a dead school teacher from the 1800's. They told me that they would be coming out to my place, I looked him right in the eye, smiled and said "Ya, you do that"! They never showed up. Never back down, these people are not going to go to your haunt anyway, you need to think about the people that are going to go and what THEY want to see.

12-29-2008, 08:02 PM
We have had an Asylum from the day we've opened in Philadelphia PA and we haven't heard a peep. But if we did we wouldn't change a thing if anything we would go harder. Even our first commercial on TV for our haunt was solely based on the Asylum haunt. I kinda wish someone would give us some free press for it.

Jim Warfield
12-29-2008, 08:46 PM
Change "Asylum" for "Alum", and all the inmates walk around with severely pursed lips looking like they are trying to kiss everyone.
This would be funny/scary alternating with the distance they closed to before kissing range was reached.
Maybe Alum-sylum?

01-02-2009, 09:33 PM
I have talked to these people MANY TIMES, and have been quoated in major articles... newspapers contact me and ask me my opinion. I've told this organization many times to stop picking on haunted houses.

I tell them tell Warner Brothers to halt Batman movies, because all the villians end up in the asylum. Why don't they picket the Dark Knight movie...they don't because it would do no good so they picket haunted houses to drum up PR for their group.

I have half a mind to create an asylum theme then I will send them in invite to come to the haunted house and invite them to picket the attraction...all I'll get out of it is PR BABY...that is GOOD PR, PR you can't pay for. Simply tell them to come on down...invite them to your attraction tell them that would be great for my attraction because that would give us some needed PR and they won't even show up.


Next time they contact you call me because I would love to call them on your behalf. Seriously call me! I know just how to deal with these guys, you just put the ball back in their court and ask them why do they pick on little small business's...ask them why don't don't go after Hollywood.

Even the new Halloween movie had Myers in an asylum yes? Where was their pickets then?

Those people blow!

Screw them!


01-02-2009, 11:58 PM
Hey, don't picket Larry's haunt, I asked first! Picket mine instead! We want the free controversy/PR more, PLEASE!!! (They still blow, though, for all the reasons Larry mentioned.)

Jim Warfield
01-03-2009, 12:00 AM
Said the picketer standing outside the movie theater to the reporter.
Exactly which part of the movie did you not like?"
"I am not sure because I have never seen it."
This was what was said outside of the movie "The Last Temptation of Christ"

Don't you just "Love" those types of people?

Larry, Maybe you could get one of those old funny badges made that said:"Support Mental Health or I'll Kill You!" Wear it if/when they were coming around your place.