PATASKALA, Ohio -- What was touted as the 28th edition of Haunted Hoochie's annual “Swastika Saturday” drew sharp criticism this past weekend when the haunted attraction's event overlapped the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Oct. 27.
But by Monday morning, the Haunted Hoochie’s official Facebook page included a posted apology for any anger and hurt triggered by the event and pledging a five-figure donation to the Tree of Life Synagogue, the scene of Saturday's mass fatal shooting.
The Haunted Hoochie's posted statement opens with the declaration, “We screwed up big time.”
It then reads in part:
“On behalf of the entire Haunted Hoochie staff, we first and foremost extend our sincerest condolences to the families affected by the tragedy in Pittsburgh, and the Jewish communities of the area. Second, we will in no way tolerate any form of hatred on our grounds, from our staff, or from our guests. This means that certain costumes or themes may be deemed inappropriate and you will be denied admission or asked to leave the grounds. We will not host any musical acts which perpetuate any kind of bigotry, intolerance, hate speech, anti-Semitism, or the like, now, or ever again.”
The statement continues, “The Haunted Hoochie is a place to escape the true evil in the world through the magic of Halloween theater – NOT perpetuate real evil. We welcome anyone to our show with open arms – provided you do not bring evil or hatred."
On Saturday morning, a man named Robert Bowers entered the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, synagogue, reportedly screamed, “All Jews must die,” and then is suspected of killing 11 and injuring six others, including four law enforcement officers, during a bris ceremony.
What did Haunted Hoochie say?
In an Instagram post made to the Dead Acres Haunted Hoochie page this past weekend, it was stated the park located at 13861, Broad Street in western Pataskala, would be offering, “Last chance .. swastika sat and git in free if ur sporting a hoochie tattoo .. hell yeah.” A similar announcement was also made on the site’s Facebook page.
The Instagram post drew sharp criticism from many, while others defended the swastika as a “symbol of peace,” which some commenting claimed was corrupted by Adolph Hitler and the National Socialist Party.
By Monday, the Instagram post announcing the Saturday event had recorded 45 comments and received 407 likes.
An earlier October Instagram post to the Haunted Hoochie account depicted a warning sign apparently from within the facility cautioning, “Not advised for heart, seizure, asthma or PTSD conditions or U may be pregnant, infants, elderly or prone to injury or any politically correct (a---holes).”
Alerted to the social media post regarding the planned “Swastika Saturday” event, Columbus Area television stations including 10TV reported that Saturday night, Oct. 27, protesters were gathered at the Haunted Hoochie, “with candles and signs,” objecting to the swastika-titled event.
Community response and apology efforts
A Pittsburgh-based band called “Only Flesh” scheduled to perform at the Haunted Hoochie Oct. 27 cancelled its appearance, announcing on its Facebook site, “We do not condone or promote hate speech or racism in any way and cannot be associated with a place that promotes a ‘swastika Saturday.’ Sorry for anybody hoping to see us perform tonight but we must take a stand.”
On Monday morning, Pataskala police had no records of having been called out to the haunted attraction site the day of “Swastika Saturday.”
There was, however, a report of an officer going to the attraction on Sunday to advise owners to clean up the entrance/exits from the fields used for parking at the venue, because of excessive mud being tracked onto Broad Street and posing “a traffic hazard,” according to a police report.
The advising officer commented, “The road’s center and berms were covered with mud from Summit to Broadmore.”
Saturday, Oct. 27, was scheduled to be the attraction’s closing day for this Halloween holiday season, according to police sources, and to the schedule posted on the Haunted Hoochie official website.
In the conclusion of the Monday Facebook post apologizing for the event, the Haunted Hoochie operators stated, “We are working with community leaders to mend fences, and pledge our support to the victims with a fifty thousand dollar donation to the Tree of Life Synagogue.”
This comes shortly after the Akron Fright Fest haunted attraction created national headlines for an alleged “mock rape” scene.