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Haunted House in Hot Water Over Story Plot

By Aaron Kraut

Wednesday - 10/31/2012, 11:40am  ET

Chris Hoover wanted a new type of haunted house with an urban feel and a slick backstory when he opened ”The Warehouse: Project 4.1″ last month in North Bethesda.

According to a story in The Gazette, it appears the Kensington native has got a lot more.

A group of people identifying themselves with the Marshall Islands is outraged about the fictional story of the haunted house, which alludes to the actual story of Project 4.1. In 1954, the U.S. studied the effects of a nuclear test on people in the Marshall Islands.

In the haunted house’s story, a fictional pharmaceutical company in the warehouse’s North Bethesda location gets access to an apparently fictional Japanese fishing boat that was infected by the nuclear blast. The 37,000-square-foot haunted house in the former space of Filene’s Basement features mock labs, contamination pods, a morgue and about 70 zombies.

Those zombies are supposed to depict employees of the fictional pharmaceutical company and not victims of the actual Marshall Islands nuclear testing, according to a statement on the haunted house’s website.

That hasn’t stopped Lisanne Petracca, of Long Island City, N.Y., from starting an online petition to get the haunted house to rebrand and change its story. The petition had more than 470 supporters this morning.

This premise is quite obviously grossly insensitive to an entire nation of people that continues to struggle with the effects of nuclear radiation. And yet this company has chosen to profit at the Marshall Islanders’ expense.

There is a wide network of Marshallese people (and their allies) that is positively outraged over this company’s idea of “entertainment.” Our Facebook group, “United Against Hallow Inc’s Haunted House,” now has over 3,000 members from all over the world. Group members’ posts on Hallow Inc’.s website sharing information about the nuclear testing and photos of the real-life victims of nuclear fallout were taken down within minutes. What are the Marshallese to do, sit back and watch as Hallow Inc. continues to make profits from their tragic past?

Our many, many emails to Hallow Inc. have gone unanswered (save for a form response that everyone received). And the company’s “Disclaimer,” which was produced within 24 hours of the start of our protest, merely parroted back educational material we had provided to them and contained no original thought. The Marshallese people and their allies are still awaiting  (1) an apology and (2) a massive overhaul of this supposedly “fictional” backstory. This calls for a rebranding of the “Project 4.1″ theme and all material related to the nuclear testing that occurred in the Marshall Islands.

The people of the Marshall Islands have suffered enough. Let’s do what we can to change the premise of this ill-conceived Halloween attraction.

This is the last weekend the haunted house (at 11840 Rockville Pike) was scheduled to be open. In September, Hoover said he hoped to bring it back next year, perhaps with a different story and in a more permanent location.

The Mid-Pike Plaza where the haunted house is now will be redeveloped in the mixed-use Pike & Rose project in the next two years.