Gory Halloween Display Angers Parents

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
Image via Cleveland 19 News

A house in Ohio has become a point of controversy due to its extremely graphic Halloween display. The home is only a block from an elementary school and some parents are arguing that it’s too realistic and scary for little kids to see on their walk to school. Halloween is a time for blood and gore, but is it possible to go too far?

Homeowner Vicky Barrett has a set-up in her yard that looks like something from a horror film, but argues that it’s all in fun. Local mother Jackie Anselmo disagreed. She took photos of Barrett’s yard and sent them to the city, because the scene was disturbing her 9-year old daughter on her way to school. Anselmo explained to Cleveland 19 News her thoughts on the decor. “Shock. You take a double take because it is a very realistic display. Almost horrified that somebody would think that it’s okay to put it that close to an elementary school.” Here are a few shots of the yard:

Image via Cleveland 19 News

Image via Cleveland 19 News

From Anselmo’s plea to the city, via Yahoo. “This ‘creative’ Halloween display is within an elementary school zone. Yes, you are seeing bodies mutilated, strung upside down from an inverted cross and the tree. Parts [missing from the picture] are the bloodied impaled bodies … As I said, this is in plain view of 5-10 year olds at the elementary school. They, and many younger siblings, have to walk past this daily to get to school.”

The city of Parma won’t order Barrett to take down the decorations, as it’s viewed as violating her freedom of expression. When Cleveland 19 asked about the gory display, Barrett said, “We don’t want to scare kids. We just want to do the Halloween fun of it and but definitely no ill intent, no.” Despite Anselmo’s complaint, Barrett has yet to tone down the decor.

There are a few factors to consider and the most important is Barrett’s home being so close to an elementary school, and unavoidable for kids as they walk by. The scene is not a clearly fake rendition of zombies or vampires, these dolls look very real. And very murdered. I am normally a big proponent of gore and fun scares, but this even disturbed me, when considering who is subjected to it daily. I am on the side of the city — they can’t order her to take it down — but shouldn’t she think about who it might be upsetting? Just because you can do something, does it mean you should?

As a parent, it would bother me if my kids had to see this everyday. I wouldn’t let them see a horror film with people being stabbed or suffocated by a plastic bag, so why would I want them viewing a depiction of it in life? Halloween is about horror and gore, but it’s also for little kids. If a homeowner wants to do something like this, maybe it has a better place in a “haunted house” set-up where people have an option whether they or their children see it. I can imagine it ruining a night of trick-or-treating if a child became terrified by a graphic display they had no way of avoiding. It seems unfair to ruin something for little kids for the fun of adults.

Some comments from articles about the display argue that we are “wussifying” children by trying to prevent them from seeing the display, but I disagree. Participation trophies, undue praise and trying to stop them from every bump and bruise, sure. But not wanting them to see something wholly inappropriate for their age and level of understanding is perfectly reasonable. They’re innocent and unable to grasp what’s real and what isn’t. Can’t we let them be little and not force them to grow up for the sake of adults wanting to have fun? It seems more than fair.

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