Haunters Against Hate puts the Fear into Bigotry!

Haunters Against Hate

On Independence Day weekend, a group of over 20 haunted attraction owners in the Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio Valley region took a stand against hate and bigotry by joining forces in Haunters Against Hate.

On the evening of June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, resulting in both the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter and the deadliest attack on the LGBT community in United States history.

The aftermath of that horrific night sent waves of fear and depression across the country, but it’s likely no one felt the magnitude of the tragedy more than members of the LGBTQ community.

“After the shootings, I didn’t want to go out anymore as a couple,” says Travis Boling, creator/owner/operator of The 7th Street Haunt in Louisville, KY. “I was thinking, ‘Is this a single incident or are there going to be other instances?’.”

Boling and his husband, Matt Clayton, enjoy scaring the beejeezus out of the public during the Halloween season, and are busy preparing for their fifth season of terror at The 7th Street Haunt, but the  real life horror of the Pulse nightclub shootings left them both shaken to the core.

“I was aware when the Pulse shootings were happening,” says Matt Clayton. “Travis was taking a nap when it was happening, but I got on the live feeds and followed it while it was still happening. I was messed up for the rest of the day.”

Haunters Against Hate

In the days following the tragedy in Orlando, Boling occupied his mind by working on new plans for his haunted attraction for the upcoming haunt season. “I was online working on setting up auditions for casting this year and boosting the marketing for our haunt when I saw the comments as they came through,” Boling says about a series of Facebook posts he witnessed that upset him greatly.

The posts came from the Facebook account of the owner of Ohio Valley Haunts, a website that publishes reviews of seasonal haunted attractions in the Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio region. Posting haunted house reviews on a scale of 1 to 10 in various categories, Ohio Valley Haunts had become a popular and respected haunt review site over the last ten years.

The posts involved the site owner’s commentary about the events surrounding the Pulse nightclub shootings. The first read, “Damn!! Names of the 2 FAGS I was hoping to see on the victims’ list from the Orlando mass shooting aren’t there.

The second, a response to another comment read, “On second thought, maybe Hillary’s right about this—Let ‘em ALL in! At least he was trying to do something about the FAG epidemic America’s suffering from!

This was followed by the words, “FAG, FAG, FAG, FAG, FAG.

Boling had the clarity of mind to take screen captures of the comments after reading them and immediately showed them to his husband, who was the one who ultimately convinced him to write a letter to Ohio Valley Haunts telling them respectfully that even though they had come to appreciate their critical reviews over the years, they would no longer be welcome at The 7th Street Haunt.

The letter clearly states, “The value of a positive review by your organization is negated by the hate filled philosophy of those behind it.”

“When your life gets politicized,” says Matt Clayton, “you get political.”

“There is a small amount of pride,” Clayton continues, “as far as my part in pushing over the first domino that got Haunters Against Hate rolling.”

Before moving forward, Boling opened a discussion thread on Facebook, sending it out to some of his fellow haunted attraction owners and inviting them to join the discussion. The response was almost immediate.

Jason Besemann, owner of The Devil’s Attic here in Louisville, KY, was the first to respond,” says Boling, ‘but it didn’t take long for an enormous amount of support to come rolling in from the entire haunt community. It was just amazing.”

“It all happened very quickly. In just a couple of days we had twenty three local and regional haunts come on board in support of Haunters Against Hate,” says Boling, “but we’ve had calls of support come in from as far away as North Carolina, Texas and California.”

The official declaration letter sent out on the 4th of July weekend was crafted by Brett Hays, owner/operator of Fear Fair: Indiana’s Scariest Haunted House in Seymour, Indiana. Hays is a full time attorney at law whose passion for haunting sees him building on his attraction throughout the year.

“It struck me that Travis had almost an apologetic tone regarding the decision he had made and that just seemed wrong,” says Brett Hays. “There is absolutely no reason for someone to apologize for being offended by this kind of speech.”

“We quickly determined we would stand behind Travis on this,” continues Hays, “and began contacting other area haunts who were nearly all eager to join the protest.”

One of the first haunt owners to offer his full support was Kevin Stich, owner/operator of The Haunted Hotel in Louisville, KY. “We have five to ten kids annually who are part of the LGBT community,” says Stich, “We have always accepted with open arms folks from many different walks of life, and we do not see race, color or sexual orientation as a means to dictate who gets to have fun and scare people.”

“I felt like it was my duty to stand up for my employees,” admits Stich. “I felt like I could be a voice for them and that maybe I could also show my appreciation for each and every person I work with.”

Accordingly, the letter was sent out with twenty three separate haunted attractions on board in association with their makeup artists, graphic artists, actors, friends and families in solidarity with the LGBT community asking Ohio Valley Haunts to desist from visiting their attractions or including reviews of their attractions on the OVH website. At the date of this publication all photos, logos and advertisements for these attractions, the bulk of the attractions making up the webpage, have been removed from the site and the site’s official Facebook page has been taken down.

“Louisville is a friendly city,” testifies newly anointed Haunters Against Hate spokesperson, Travis Boling. “If you don’t fit in anywhere else, you will fit in here, and this is especially true in our haunt community.”

“We’ve had people who, through working with us at the haunt, have decided to come out,” says Boling, “and other couples who’ve met each other working here.”

“When you join the haunt community, you become part of our bigger family,” says Boling. “The color of your skin, your religion, who you do whatever with between the sheets—none of that matters. It’s about your heart.”

Boling’s husband Matt Clayton agrees. “The haunt community is The Island of Misfit Toys,” he says, “in the best possible way.”

The outpouring of support for Haunters Against Hate does seem to lend legitimacy to the familial loyalty of those folks working and playing in the haunted attraction business in this part of the country. Artist Paul Lanner, one of the creative minds behind Nightmare on Edgewood, has created a logo for the organization and opened a Café Press store where you can purchase t-shirts, coffee mugs, buttons and bumper stickers that say, “Haunters Against Hate: Because Hate is the Scariest Thing of All.” Check it out at http://www.cafepress.com/hauntersagainsthate. Lanner has also just launched an official website.

The official list of haunted attractions that currently make up Haunters Against Hate include The 7th Street Haunt, Asylum Haunted Scream Park, Culbertson Mansion, Danger Run, The Devil’s Attic, Factory of Terror, Fear Fair, Field of Screams (KY), Fright Manor, Fright Nights Campout, Grim Trails, Haunted Angelus House, Haunted Hotel (KY), House of Trepidation, Izzy’s Little Creepers Haunted Attractions, Nightmare on Edgewood, Nightmare Forest, Scarevania, Shattered Nightmares, Springboro Haunted Hayride, Stillwell Manor, The Waverly Hills Sanatorium and Wicked World Scaregrounds.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We attempted to reach the owners of Ohio Valley Haunts for an interview, but have yet to receive a response.

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