We are now almost to the 3rd year of this website being in existence (wow) and this is now the 3rd time we've had to write an article about issues at a Halloween event or something being removed from an event because it "offended" somebody. In 2014 it was the Auctioneer at the Purge at HHN Hollywood, last year it was scare actor abuse (that sadly still goes on).
This year a group of "concerned citizens" has gotten FearVR removed from Knott's Scary Farm, Halloween Haunt at California's Great America and Canada's Wonderland. We definitely have some thoughts on the closure that we're going to share below.
But first, we want the hard work of those who created this experience to be highlighted, because they deserve it and luckily Stephen was able to check out the experience at California's Great America and Matt and Rose were able to experience Fear VR at Knott's Scary Farm.
California's Great America Fear VR Review by Stephen Harrington
Knott's Scary Farm Fear VR Review by Rose Costello
Commentary by Gregg Condon
Review of Fear VR at California's Great America
So now word on the street is that FearVR has been closed at both Knott’s Scary Farm and California’s Great America. It’s a real shame because it was a very well done and unique attraction. We weren't going to give spoilers so people who wanted to experience would go in with a fresh viewing, but what's the point now. Spoilers below.
As you enter the pre show which gives a back story of the Mental Asylum. Long story short, one of the patient’s get’s possessed and is on the loose. After the pre-show, groups of 8 were led into the “medical ward.” That is where the real fun begins. You sit in a “wheelchair”, place the GearVR on, followed by earphones, your wrists are strapped to the wheelchair and then the fun begins.
You are given a panic button if the experience get’s too intense, but during my visit no one had to use it, including my son, and everyone was enjoying the experience. You are a patient in the mental institute and chaos has started. You are watching a “nurse” give you a shot in your arm and there is an actual little bump on your forearm.
You then “wheeled” into the next room where it’s "safe". As your chair moves forward, slowly about a foot or so you can look around and see things during the course of the attraction.
The attraction ends with a typical jump scare, with you on an elevator, and the possessed patient does a final “scare.” The End.
The staff at FearVR owned their roles. Just amazing in the pre-show and when the experience was over. The anticipation leading into the experience was making everyone nervous because it was new, and not a single person knew what to expect. It made the attraction that much better.
The attraction itself was fun and unique. From the start of the pre-show to the conclusion was around 10 minutes and was definitely worth the $10 price. It was nice looking around, with always something to look at.
For example, if you looked in front there was a door with nothing going on, turn your head to the left, a hallway filled with zombies coming toward you. It also appeared that they filmed actors and implemented it onto the GearVR, not CG characters.
The video quality was much better than on the VR coasters. Plus, like a lot of haunts where you can catch up to the group in front of you and start the “conga line." that's not the case here as it’s an individual experience where you have no one to grab onto. You are completely on your own.
At CGA it’s sad because now that area is going to be nothing more then an empty space for the remainder of Halloween Haunt. FearVR was housed in the building across from the kids bumper cars, the old shooting gallery in the Kidzone area of the park.
Thank you Cedar fair for at least trying something new, hopefully they can find a decent replacement, or at least for next season try a different theme. There are plenty of options to choose from.
Review of Fear VR at Knott's Berry Farm
I was one of the lucky ones who experienced Fear VR at Knott's Scary Farm over opening weekend. Fear VR is an experience and not a maze. There is an up charge of $10. Much to myself and my husband Matthew Nelson's surprise they had openings for the entire night. I don't know why we didn't look for the kiosk reservations on actual opening night but I was sure glad we did on our second visit. After finding out the extra charge was $10 each I gladly paid for us both with a reservation time of 9pm. (It was 8:40pm by the time we had paid and gotten our receipt, tickets and special wristband.)
We went over to the tables and chairs to wait. Thankfully we only had to wait about 10 minutes before checking in. (You go over to the person holding the Fright Lane sign for Dead Of Winter and they let you into a second line that leads you to Fear VR.)
From there we waited a few minutes while the rest of our group who had 9pm reservation times check in. We were then led into another room (remember the first room of Trapped from the last year it was held?) There were couches, chairs, a huge flat screen tv, and signs saying "MeadowBrook Medical Institute". Of course I knew a little bit about Fear VR and of course my mind was already wondering just what would take place.
A nurse enters the room telling us it will be just a little while until they are ready for us and to please watch a safety spiel. She turns on the tv and we all watch explaining how to put on and also adjust the oculus glasses focusing them as well as headphones. We would have a panic button just in case it was too intense and we needed to press it. We are told a patient named Katie has escaped possessed by a demonic force or entity. (Think any kind of movie or tv show on possession.) The nurse returns and says we weren't supposed to see that. They are ready for us.
We follow her into a hallway where each wheelchair is curtained off much like an E.R. I was hesitant about being strapped down at first. Just the fact that I wouldn't be able to move my arms freely. I sat down in a chair and put on the headphones first before the oculus glasses. I used the focus wheel on the top of the glasses to make sure everything was nice and clear. Unfortunately I had to focus twice since for some strange reason when I had my glasses in focus they came out of focus. But no big deal. I grabbed the panic button but held it by the base not near the top just in case I would "accidentally hit it". Once everyone was ready they strapped us in.
The experience starts with you being wheeled in and are asked how you feel. You look/ follow a light as a nurse checks your reflexes/eyes. Everything didn't feel CGI but was more real and super clear. If you look straight ahead I think that bed/cubicle was Katie's but i wasn't sure. Next she administers a shot. Yes you do feel an actual pinch. Also if you look to the right there what appears to be a dead person covered up with a sheet on a gourney. But much to my surprise he comes to life but he is a zombie not human. As you are then pushed which feels as if your wheelchair is actually moving is when you're told it isn't safe that Katie has escaped. I looked to my left and saw doctors but they were like zombies.
You are pushed to the elevators as your nurse is injured. She pushes you inside the elevator all alone and I knew then that I would come across Katie. Sure enough and she gets closer and closer until she's directly in your face. The experience ends and you are unstrapped. I removed my oculus glasses and headphones. Told to gather in the middle of the room single file. And then to run. As I ran down the hallway to the exit you encountered Katie not once but twice as she tries to get you before you can escape.
In my opinion everyone in our group including myself and my husband really enjoyed and had only positive things to say. Fear VR was definitely worth the extra cost. I am very upset at hearing that Knott's removed Fear VR from Scary Farm for the remainder of the run. It was brilliant and the employees who took the time to create and make this amazing experience from start to finish deserves credit. The employees I hope are placed somewhere so they can actually work. I am so afraid that Knott's now won't try anything like this in the future which saddens me. This experience shook me. Yes afterwards my heart was racing and I was shaking. It took me awhile to actually calm down.
To say we're disappointed in this is an extreme understatement. Personally I'm not a huge fan of VR but that's just me, but I would never try to take that experience away from somebody.
I'll admit, when we posted the original story from Mercury News I was a bit upset. Then when we saw the article that came out a short time later from the LA Times I was livid. In this article we learned that the person who was one of the spearheads of this "protest" never even experienced the attraction and instead supposedly waited outside of the attraction to bug people who were leaving and used their words to get this taken down.
Look, we're not insensitive. We all have people in our lives who have had issues with mental health. Many of us have as well. But we're able to separate the very real issues of Mental Health in this world with a fantasy (make believe) scenario in a theme park Halloween event which involved telekinetic abilities.
And then of course it came out that Rick and Kay Warren (google them if you don't know who they are, they're a "treat") were also behind this, and that set off the Angry emotion something terrible.
Look, from a purely business standpoint we of course understand where Cedar Fair is coming from. But the people who are upset about FearVR were NEVER going to experience it. They are using the parks for their own personal agenda against everything that the event stands for. Just look at the comments on Kay Warren's Facebook post about this.
It's filled with people who feel that Halloween is evil, is of the devil and they aren't going to rest until the entire event is shut down. And if parks and events continue to cave, that's going to be just what happens.
(Of course, we would NEVER suggest you let your opinion be known on her page. ;) )
There are so many talented people who work on these events, and now their months and months of hard work has gone away. In an instant.
Not to mention the people who were staffing these attractions for the next month at 3 different parks. People who despite working the event for the love of the event maybe needed the extra pocket money for a school textbook, to pay some bills, buy some clothes for their kids. Are the Warren's and those who got this shut down now going to pay their salaries?
Luckily we're already hearing from some friends who work Knott's Scary Farm that those who worked in FearVR will be moved to other roles at the event. Let's hope this also includes the line control people and those who worked the experience at CGA and Canada's Wonderland.
There's going to come a time where these talented people are going to say forget it and leave. Everybody who does events like Scary Farm or Haunt does it for the love of the event. If you've never spent any time scaring people at an event I suggest you do it. It's exhilarating to give so many people a great time, and that's exactly what this attraction was about.
It's just funny that out of all the things at this event, FearVR is the one that they focused on. A few years ago somebody tried to get the Dia De Los Muertos maze and scare zone shut down because it was "offensive to Hispanics". The park wisely ignored that but it would be interesting if that person had gotten the backing of the Warren's if Cedar Fair would have caved on that too.
But where does it end? There are things in EVERY maze or experience at a Halloween event that is bound to offend somebody. Voodoo, Ghosts, Kids killed by the Tooth fairy, Sexual innuendo, Graphic Violence ... so what's going to get shut down next?
Sadly we don't have an answer but if the last 3 years of political correctness is any indication when it comes to these events, we haven't seen the last thing removed.
Update: September 30, 2016 - While all of the attractions are still closed and any maze/attraction at any Cedar Fair park that has anything to do with mental health has been closed or had the name changed, there is a petition to bring back FearVR with over 4,000 signatures so far. While the likelihood of Cedar Fair bringing back the attraction is very small let's hope this petition lets them know that as fans of these types of events, we're not going to let people dictate how we spend our time and money and censor events like this.