Haunted house's scariest attraction includes sexual assault, visitors say
When Archer Pina, 20, was told the local haunted house “is nothing but dicks,” he initially didn’t believe it. But after a trip through the newest attraction at Niles Scream Park in Niles, MI, Pina tells us, “that’s exactly what it is.”
“It had to have been a coordinated effort,” he says over the phone, “because all of the actors were super rapey.” Pina spent about 15 minutes inside the haunted house, during which time several cast members sexually harassed and assaulted him.
The new attraction, called Hooded, is intended to be a sensory experience, not a sexual one — park manager Pete Karlowicz says. In Hooded, visitors wear a hood that covers their eyes, and proceed blindly through the haunted house by holding onto a rope and following its path. The “sensory experience” that follows is a disturbing one.
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As Pina recalls, you enter the house and talk to a nun. She tells you you’re being executed, and gives you the hood. Then, you approach a girl. She’s spouting absolute gibberish. “Something about unicorn poop,” Pina says.
You continue walking, and next comes your first truly uncomfortable encounter. There’s a clown who starts talking about balloon animals, and then you feel something rubbing up against your skin. Pina says, “I thought to myself, ‘that’s not a balloon animal,’ and sure enough, the clown laughs and says, ‘just kidding, that’s my penis.’”
Pina tries not to react. “My friends had told me about the dick-clown, and here he was,” he says.
As you continue ahead, you begin to hear the sound of pigs squealing. Then, you bump into something. “I put my hand out and I could feel a fat, sweaty, man in front of me,” Pina says. “I refused to move forward because I don’t want to be pressed up against him, but someone is pushing on the backs of my legs with their hands.”
Pina continues, “So I walk into him, and he starts saying how he’s going to bend me over and he wants me to squeal like a pig. Then, someone tried to push my head down, whispering, ‘I got something for you.’ I pulled my head back up, and he grabbed my wrist, pulled my hand out, and said ‘just touch it!’” His hand is placed over something he assumes to be a sex toy.
Towards the end of the haunted house, another sweaty, overweight man calls out, “Come here little boy! You can be my princess!” He puts Pina’s hand on his hairy chest and makes him rub it. He says, “Remember, don’t drop the soap.”
“After that, he pushed me in front of him, and tells me he’s going to pull the hood off. He says, ‘I want you to run and don’t look back.’ So that’s exactly what I did. I ran and got out, then I rubbed hand sanitizer all over,” Pina says.
He concludes, "The theme of the haunted house was supposed to be an execution. I wish they would’ve just executed me at the beginning and I wouldn’t have had to go through this.”
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Pina attended the theme park with about 30 co-workers, who work at another haunted house in Grand Rapids, around 100 miles north of Niles. Half of the group walked through Hooded, and all shared the same uncomfortable sexual encounters.
One of Pina’s co-workers, who asked to be kept anonymous for fear of losing her job, tells us, “it was super sexual. I was not expecting anything remotely like that.”
“Asking if I liked them pissing on me. Telling me to grab their dick if I want out. Telling me I belong on my knees. All sorts of crud,” she explains. “They should have at least said it was sexually explicit.”
After that nightmare of an experience, Pina and his co-worker thought of the teenagers they’d seen enter the haunted house before them.
“I saw six kids, ages 14-16, go in without a parent,” Pina says. “I saw a girl who looked 15 or 16 walk out, and her friends asked her, ‘What do you think?’ and she was just like, ‘I don’t even want to talk about it.’”
“In my group, there was a 16-year-old girl and her father,” the co-worker agrees. “Bet you he wasn’t too happy.”
Pina and his co-worker's experience as haunted house employees led them to believe the sexual narrative was a coordinated effort. “As haunted house actors, everything we do is what we’re told to do,” Pina says. “There’s no way an entire cast is going to decide to be super rapey, unless they’re told to.”
Park manager Pete Karlowicz insists this wasn’t the intent in the slightest. "This attraction is designed to attack your senses, and so what you experience is different than the person behind you, because your mind is creating that sensory experience because you can't see," Karlowicz says.
As for the concerns about children entering the haunted house, Karlowicz says Hooded visitors have to sign a waiver stating they are 18 or older and giving permission for the actors to touch them. If visitors lie about their age, however, there’s not a whole lot more he can do.
Karlowicz estimates about 500 people have been through Hooded since the park opened for the season. He says feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with only a couple of complaints that he knows of.
Karlowicz’s response is troubling to Pina. “Just because you haven’t heard anyone complain, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” Pina says. “When somebody is sexually abused, all too often they try to laugh it off and pretend it didn’t happen. That’s why somebody needs to say something about this.”
So Pina is doing just that. While that’s not an easy thing to do, having a sense of humor about things makes it easier, Pina says.
He jokes, "If you want to give an honest title to this experience, call it ‘Hooded and sexually harassed.’”