I love a good scare. I enjoy ghost stories and most horror movies, knowing that they aren't true and cannot be possible.
There are different theories as to why many of us love to be frightened. I believe that we enjoy being faced with the absolute worst, knowing that we can still emerge into the comfort of our own homes. It gives us a sense of power (which explains why this genre is especially popular among teenagers).
But at what point does horror become horrible?
I refuse to watch anything that celebrates the depravity of humanity. This includes torture and sadism, and it's why I won't watch anything from the Saw series of movies. And I worry that when we go down that road as a society, there is no u-turn. It numbs us to the true horror of such actions and allows us to easily excuse what generations before us would never have excused.
That's why I won't go to Bush Gardens' Howl-O-Scream any more. The last time I went (three years ago), I saw things that should give anyone with a conscience nightmares for a lifetime.
But Howl-O-Scream is big business. And apparently the meat-grinder mentality never goes out of style. So, Bush Gardens is more than happy to continue to churn out tableaus that would make the most seasoned homicide detectives blanch.
To add insult to injury, they have peppered the Tampa Bay area with billboards depicting viciously evil vampires. Imagine the reaction of the vulnerable toddler who sees these billboards out the window as Mommy drives to the grocery store. That should drive the nightlight sales through the roof.
What recourse does a parent have? They can't blindfold their children. They can't make the choice to not expose them to this garbage, even though they can limit their television and internet experiences.
Bush Gardens has come a long way since their inception as a family-friendly park. Now families come dead-last to the almighty dollar, thanks to capitalism at its finest.
As their 2009 motto says, "Evil never goes out of fashion."