Mental health advocate writes letter asking Upstate haunted attr - FOX Carolina 21

Mental health advocate writes letter asking Upstate haunted attraction to shut down

Posted: Updated:
"Dark Harvest Penitentiary" (Source: Facebook) "Dark Harvest Penitentiary" (Source: Facebook)
"Dark Harvest Penitentiary" (Source: Facebook- removed) "Dark Harvest Penitentiary" (Source: Facebook- removed)
ANDERSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

An Upstate mental health advocate is asking for changes to be made at a haunted attraction in Anderson County after he said he was offended by the attraction’s theme this year.

Paton Blough is the founder of Rehinge.com, a site which “exists to provide hope, education, and spiritual inspiration for all people affected with mental health issues and to fight stigma while pushing for global mental health reform.” Blough’s most recent act of mental health activism landed in the hands of officials at Harvest of Horror at Denver Downs.

Blough wrote a letter to the attraction before the start of the season requesting the “Dark Harvest Penitentiary” attraction be shut down because he believes it’s offense to those with mental illness.

“This is an incredibly stigmatizing display for those of us who suffer from a mental illness and have been locked up behind bars because of our disorder,” Blough states in his letter. “Please immediately close down this attraction and issue an apology for all of those you have offended.”

Blough said he was particularly offended by a picture the attraction used on social media which showed a person in a straitjacket strapped to a chair. He said he has been in that situation previously at the Greenville County Department of Corrections and has been in mental hospitals more than a half dozen times.

Here's the original picture:

The Director of Operations at Denver Downs Ron Smith, responded to Blough’s requests. Smith said they took Blough’s letter seriously as they do any other reviews.

The pair was able to come to a compromise this season through a conversation on Facebook, Smith said. He said shutting down the attraction for this season was not an option, but they can make changes for next year.

“It’s not going be a prison theme next year,” Smith said “Not sure what it’s going to be, but hopefully it won’t offend anyone.”

Blough and Smith also came to the agreement to remove the straitjacket picture from the Harvest of Horror’s Facebook, and it has since been taken down.

Here is Blough’s letter in full:

Dear Harvest of Horror at Denver Downs,

I am writing you this open letter to simply ask you to shut down your "Dark Harvest Penitentiary" attraction for halloween. This is an incredibly stigmatizing display for those of us who suffer from a mental illness and have been locked up behind bars because of our disorder.

I have bipolar disorder and have been locked up more than a half dozen times and been in mental hospitals more than a half dozen times. I also have been in solitary confinement at the Greenville County Detention Center while in a a psychotic delusional state of mind. The particular disturbing picture to me was the one that showed a man in a straight jacket strapped to a chair. I have been in that situation before at the GCDC and believe it or not there are others today in South Carolina who are in that very position as you read this.

We use to have 3500 psychiatric hospital beds in this state and today we have less than 500 so jails and prisons have become our largest housing of the mentally ill. I don't think society would accept using heart disease, or cancer in this way. Why do you feel making light of folks who have suffered with a brain disorder should be stigmatized this way? People have recently died in our state behind bars because of the lack of proper mental health treatment which thankfully has spurred some much needed changes but many more changes are still needed, especially in our jails. In fact, We just passed the Stepping Up Resolution in Greenville County last month that is designed to reduce the number of mentally ill living behind bars.

Please immediately close down this attraction and issue an apology for all of those you have offended. The feelings are raw for me but just think of the families who have actually lost loved ones do to this mistreatment that you are depicting for financial gain! I was thinking of doing this around 10 days ago when I first saw your display but the LA Times article about Knotts Berry Farms shutting down their attraction inspired me to write you this letter and publish it openly.

With Truth, Sincerity and Hope,

Paton Blough
Founder of Rehinge.com
NAMI SC State Board member

Smith said the attraction aims to do things that make sense, but that they can really never be sure if a particular attraction will cause offense.

“Anytime that you’re doing themed-based things, whether it’s a theme that you used for your corn maze design or special attraction …you never know when you’re gonna offend someone,” Smith said. “It’s hard to be creative and think about good business.”

Copyright 2016 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly
Fox Carolina
Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2017, WHNS; Greenville, SC. (A Meredith Corporation Station) . All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.