Extreme Haunted Houses – That’s Entertainment? No. It’s Bad Marketing.

I have a neighbor here in Westwood, Mass., who has decorated his home with pretty standard Halloween stuff: Gravestones that scream “RIP,” white-sheet ghosts hanging from trees, oversized spider webs, and yellow crime-scene tape. For all of my life, these are the kinds of things that signified Halloween. Scary? Not at all. But these things have always been associated with Halloween, and they always did the trick for trick-or-treating.

But apparently, now, people aren’t satisfied with that sort of thing. They want extremes. They want sadism, serial killers, bondage, gagging, torture and more – all in the name of fun. And they’re getting it. It’s downright sickening, and an example of how crass our culture has become, and how people have become desensitized to violence, thanks to video games. These extreme haunted houses are so extreme, in fact, that they fall short – by a hair – of an ISIS beheading. This is bad marketing at its worst, and as a Boston marketing consultant, I’m appalled. This is unconscionable.

I’m also scared, because the Halloween envelope has been pushed so far that nothing seems grisly enough. At these haunted houses, crimes of abuse and torture are being marketed as Halloween entertainment, for people who come in droves. In some instances, these haunted house experiences are also available year-round, for people who want their share of the sick and grisly 365 days a year.

It’s estimated that the Halloween haunted theme park industry is up around $500 million.

In 2013 at a haunted-house attraction in New Hampshire, the company staged the discovery of fake human remains in a wooded area. They even enticed local police officers in the area to participate in the game, to make it all seem real.

Real? It’s not real enough that actual remains of people who have been tortured, raped, and abused, have been found in the woods? Have these idiots never heard of Molly Bish? How callous can the people behind these haunted houses be? I’m aghast. These people should be thrown in jail for their “marketing.”

Whatever happened to fake blood and a Frankenstein mask?

I’m shaking my head at the horror of it all.

Also in New Hampshire, one of the more shocking “attractions” – is a family-friendly resort that was transformed into a simulated torture chamber. Visitors fork over money to be handcuffed to a bed while live cockroaches crawl on their bodies.

I’m frightened, all right.

At a haunted house in New York City – whose name I refuse to reveal — people engage in staged abductions, waterboarding and forced stripping. And they sometimes pay as much as $135 a ticket for the pleasure of it all. Can you imagine?

At a haunted house in San Diego, run by a couple in their backyard, the fun — and I use that term loosely — includes being shoved in a coffin, or being force fed. The kicker? This enterprise has a waiting list of more than 17,000 people, as they only allow in two people per night.

What is wrong with people? These are the kinds of nightmarish experiences that, afterwards, subject people to a life of trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental illness and depression.

Shoving people in a coffin, waterboarding them, and gagging them – these are all examples of abuse. And it’s not just bad Halloween marketing. These things are crimes.

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