That Time I Hosted A Haunted House – At A Mental Hospital
Before I begin, please know that I am not making light or fun of mental illness. My ex-wife is a Psychologist. I know the effects and what lack of mental health care can do. In my own family, there are some mental health issues. I grew up watching it. I know it affects many people and urge those who deal with it, to get the help they need and deserve.
It was 1999, I was still new to radio and getting to know the business.
It was a couple days away from Halloween. I was asked to do a remote broadcast for a fundraiser for a hospital just north of town. The sales guy, Jonathon, told me it would be on a Friday night. I was stoked. I drove up to the address and saw a building, but didn’t seen any signs on the outside of it. Obviously, it was a hospital, but I had no idea what was about to happen.
When I arrived, I checked in with the Jonathon to get the agenda for the evening. That’s when I saw a sign that said ‘Wichita Mental Hospital’. I was struck at how professional it looked. I remember thinking, “Wow, this haunted house when all out”, I thought to myself. I greeted Jonathon. That’s when he looked at me and said, “So, the hospital wants us to promote their Haunted House tonight.” “Yeah, I saw one of the signs. It looks legit.” He asked “Which sign?” “The mental health sign out front”, I said slowly realizing something was afoot.
“Oh, yeah, ummm, you know this is a functioning Mental Health Facility, right?” I had to process that for a moment. “You mean, where people are being treated?” “Yeah, some of them are actors in the Haunted House.” He said so casually, as if telling someone that water was obviously wet.
I was taken aback. Could it be this ironic? Could it be a prank? Where are the cameras?
Jonathon interrupted my process and said, “Look, it’s a fundraiser for their program.”
I was still puzzled, “Did you say the patients are part of this haunted house?”
“Yeah, it’s a public service to the area know that mental health is an issue for many people who may not even know it.” Made sense. And I always want to help.
“Ok, let’s do this.” I said, still a bit unsure about what was to come.
Jonathon introduced me to one of the doctors who told me about what their goals were. After our conversation, I understood. They were trying to change the myth of mental illness stereotypes. I still thought a Haunted House was an interesting way of communicating this message.
I was on-board. He took me through the “haunted house.” I have to admit, it was a unique haunted house experience given the stereotypes of mental illness. Having those in the back of my mind made it a more layered, heightened experience.
Am glad I did this. Everyone was nice and the staff did a great job and my experience changed how I viewed mental illness.
It was a bold move on the part of the hospital. I respect their commitment to changing lives inside and outside their building when it comes to mental illness.
All My Best,