A Negative Editorial

Not everyone thinks haunts should be chilling...

Here's a complaint written to the Tallahassee Democrat from Oct 8, 2010

Including Sunland in haunted house is chilling

Re: Terror returns to Tallahassee this Halloween season" (News, Oct. 8).

As a special education professional as well as a parent and aunt of individuals with intellectual disabilities, I am disgusted and shocked at the Sunland Asylum portion of the Terror of Tallahassee haunted house, recently described in the Democrat. Not believing such insensitivity, I went to the Terror of Tallahassee web site where I was greeted by the quote "Sickos check in, but they don't check out" accompanied by cartoons of a frightened person in a straightjacket locked in a cell, and a person receiving electro-shock.

Sunland institutions had the reputation of being some of the worst facilities in the country for mentally handicapped children. Reliving the terror that those poor, defenseless human beings suffered is supposed to be a fun autumn activity? The web site boasts that the organization sponsoring the haunted house acquired some of the grim equipment and surplus supplies used in the actual Sunland building. Tallahassee people will feel entertained looking at the very items that may well have caused children great distress and pain?

I understand the [name removed] will be helping in the haunted house venture. Their mission is to assist the [name removed] in serving children. Exploiting the pain and abuse of children in an institution aligns with that mission?

I don't care how much money the organization that is running the haunted house may have given to charities in the past or may give in the future; this is beyond common decency and is inexcusable. I would hope that either the organization rethink its position of making money exploiting the suffering of mentally handicapped children, or people will seriously consider before spending money on this form of "entertainment."

[name removed], Tallahassee

Terror of Tallahassee Response:

While we appreciate the writer's career and public advocacy for those with mental disabilities, we would be cheating our customers if we allowed activists to direct our content. We're paid to scare people, not to be politically correct. Nearly everything a haunt does would be vetoed by special interest groups if they were allowed to do so. Anyone who has had a friend or relative die (and who hasn't?) could complain that we're being insensitive about death, or about those who have gone insane, or about the those who were victims of violence. Three years ago, we were picketed by fundamentalists who felt all haunted houses were evil. Even clowns can (and have) protested the Halloween portrayal of their profession. The list goes on and on...

So to be fair to everyone, no special treatment should be given to any special interest group. Halloween is the one time of year everyone can overide conventional manners to scare up some fun. Ghosts, monsters, murderers, and madmen-- no one wants to meet them in real life. But this isn't real. It's a haunted house. It's fantasy. Don't become the Grinch who stole Halloween by taking it too seriously.

(Other on-line Responses to the first editorial- envioractivist wrote:)

Ms. [name removed], as someone who worked at Sunland Tallahassee, I take offense at your letter. Sunlands may not have been the most philosophical best choice for the people who lived there. But I can tell you, we tried to make their lives better. The people who were there were cared for, given attention (everyone needs some attention), clean and as best we could, educated and provided recreation. In other words, while it may not have been your home, the people who worked there tried as hard as we could to improve the lives of the residents. Please dont act as if it was terrible, it was not.

(on-line Responses- Jes48 wrote:)

My mother worked at WT Edwards TB hospital when it was converted to sunland. She stayed at sunland for several years. She had to leave because of the emotional strain caring for these kids put on her. While the care was as good as the TB patients, my mother said that most of the kids were severly deformed and these kids was put there because the parents could not deal with the problem or could not afford round the clock care. My mother said that the staff there did the best they could with the recources provided by the state.

(on-line Responses- Hutto wrote:)

As someone who drove by the delapidated building on the corner for several years. I can understand why it was chosen for the haunted house, it falls into the whole genre of horror flicks, I know my son was entranced with the building and even found out later there was a geo-cashing site near the hospital.

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rev 10.17.09