The Halloween decorations displayed at attractions and private homes this year may be moving in a different direction in light of some of the real-life horrors that have become of the current events in the world this year. There is a growing controversy being reported across the country over whether or not to make scenes including severed heads and beheaded bodies a part of this year’s offerings. In light of the gruesome beheadings of aid workers and journalists being perpetrated publicly by terrorists from the Islamic State, sensitivities have changed in many parts of the country. In others, however, just the opposite is the case. Some are seeing the removal of the “offending” visuals as a sign of weakness, or an indication that Americans have allowed the terrorists a minor victory by allowing them to impact Halloween celebrations with their bloody deeds. Regardless, the impact has already been made in many areas, and the reaction is mixed at best. With more than half a month to go before October 31, the issue seems likely to become more and more a part of the public debate.
One of the first venues to bring this issue to the forefront of discussion in the media was in Virginia at Busch Gardens. An article appeared in the Virginia Gazette featuring an images which depicted some of the decorations for their Halloween attraction called “Howl-o-Scream” that included a display with several severed heads. Unfortunate timing had the images published just hours after news reports that a video of an ISIS beheading had surfaced. There was considerable public outcry claiming insensitivity on the part of the park as a result, and the park quickly removed the figures and issues a statement on Twitter proclaiming their determination not to be insensitive to current events. That, in turn, brought out people on the other side of the issue claiming that the park should have kept the attraction intact. A poll conducted on The Huffington Post showed an overwhelming 82 percent of people polled would have preferred that Halloween remain as it has always been rather than let the “terrorists win.” Those numbers aside, many cities are seeing similar moves to censor this year’s decorations and displays.
In Colorado, The Denver Post reported that several haunted attractions had removed props of severed heads or headless bodies this year. The ones who did not were quoted as being very sensitive to public reaction, and expressed a willingness to make changes if public response was less than favorable. In Dayton, Ohio, it is not just beheadings that are on the forbidden list. One haunted house volunteer was reported as saying that scenes of a fatal plane crash were off-limits for the Halloween attraction in light of current events. For many shop owners who feature Halloween props and figures for sale, this holiday is their bread and butter, and they are between a rock and a hard place to cater to a portion of the public that is offended by their wares and the need to survive as a business. Seeing U.S. businesses suffer financially as a result of changed sensibilities after terrorist acts provides a far more compelling example of how those terrorists might be “winning” than others. Given the trend, the last couple weeks of October may well see this debate explode in the public eye.
By Jim Malone