Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Rockville haunted house has upset some people by basing its mutant-filled attraction on actual events. Now, some want to see the attraction change its premise to something totally fictional.
The Warehouse: Project 4.1 is a new zombie-themed haunted house in Rockville. On its website, Hallow Inc., the company behind the attraction, says The Warehouse’s story is partly based on U.S. government testing of nuclear bombs during the Cold War in the Marshall Islands, located in the Northern Pacific Ocean.
The haunted house’s story, in a departure from reality, imagines that a private company later conducted further testing and experiments on the nuclear fallout victims, eventually creating zombies.
“Thinking about [the nuclear testing] as a joke or something that can be exploited is really, deeply disrespectful,” said Laura Sunblad.
Sunblad, who now lives in New York City, lived in the Marshall Islands for two years and said she heard about the haunted house through friends online.
“It’s clear that the organizers didn’t really think this through and didn’t take the tragedy seriously,” she said. “... This is a real tragedy with real consequences for real people.”
Krista Langlois, of Massachusetts, taught English for a year in the Marshall Islands and said the people there are still suffering from radiation effects such as birth defects and environmental damage. She said a haunted house depicting Marshallese people as deformed monsters is insensitive.
“There’s no reason that the haunted house has to be depicting the Marshallese people, and it’s really kind of a slap in the face of these people who have suffered a lot,” she said.
The haunted house’s story gained more exposure after an article about it appeared in a newspaper in Hawaii, where many Marshallese people live, Langlois said. As of Monday, more than 2,300 people had joined the Facebook page United Against Hallow Inc.’s Haunted House, and more than 100 had signed a petition on asking Hallow Inc. to rebrand its haunted house.
Hallow Inc. has posted a disclaimer on its website, saying that the haunted house’s story is focused on a fictional pharmaceutical company conducting genetic testing on people.
“The premise of our attraction is mad scientists, and the zombies are not representations of the actual Marshallese people,” the disclaimer says. “Hallow Inc. in no way intends to exploit this tragedy or its victims.”
The website also says Hallow Inc. has reached out to the Marshall Islands’ ambassador and plans to donate a portion of its proceeds to organizations in the Marshall Islands.
Representatives from Hallow Inc. were not available for comment as of press time.
Langlois said the disclaimer and donations are a step in the right direction, but Hallow Inc. should take the Marshall Islands out of its story.
“Keep the haunted house, but just change the premise,” she said.

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