BY CAROLYN FRETZ
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
STUART -- When Susan Neal took her son and one of his friends to the "House of Horrors" at the Martin County Fairgrounds Tuesday night, she was expecting ghosts, goblins, a cackling witch, and maybe a lurching mummy if it was a really good show.
What she and her 13-year-old son, Justin Johnston, and his friend, Shawn Long, saw instead was a series of vignettes depicting an abortion, a teenager committing suicide, and a Satanic ritual climaxing with the sacrifice of a child.
"This doesn't have anything to do with Halloween," Justin said, shaking his head as he left the exhibit. His mother was seething.
"I am so angry," she said. "What really gets me is the pretense. They tricked us into coming here. We thought we were going to see a haunted house."
The manager of the Martin County Faigrounds, Jim Overton, said the fair association was duped, too. And at 8 p.m. he ordered the "House of Horrors" shut down for the night.
"We expect our attorney and the county's attorney to take whatever steps are necessary to shut it down for good tomorrow," he said. The "House of Horrors" is a production of the Abundant Life Ministries Assembly of God of Stuart, a Pentecostal cult whose members are fundamentalist Christians.
The Assemblies of God is a 75-year-old denomination with churches worldwide. The Stuart parish, with 135 families in its congregation, celebrated its seventh anniversary this year, said the church's pastor, Jonathan McClain.
The church leased a pavilion from the fair association at a special discounted rate for churches for the week beginning Monday and ending on Halloween.
Overton says the lease application specified only "a haunted house." "We're very unhappy," he said, "I feel taken advantage of, frankly."
Overton said he is worried that people will think the "House of Horrors" is sponsored by the fair association and that the controversial show[sic] will attract large confrontational crowds. McClain says the church has a valid lease, but it will purchase riot insurance today to try to appease Overton.
He said his church is trying to warn young people about the dangers of drugs, sex and Satanic rock 'n' roll, and he has no regrets about using the promise of a Halloween treat to lure them in to hear that message. "Life has a lot of horrors to it, and we'd like to literally scare the hell out of these kids," McClain said. "If this show saves one kid's life, it's worthwhile."
Some of the teenagers who walked through the "House of Horrors" Tuesday night agreed.
"It shows real[sic] life and the real consequences you could face after doing certain things," said Laura Dunshee, a junior at Martin County High School.
That is exactly what is wrong with the show, said Debi Beakely, who was raised in the Pentecostal faith. Her 13-year-old son, Jason Mosier, and a friend went through the "House of Horrors" Monday night. "My son has not slept with a night-light for years," she said. "Last night he had one on all night, and this morning while we were waiting for his schoolbus he said to me, 'Mom, I keep thinking about that little boy screaming,' -- talking about the boy who was sacrificed in the Satanic scene."
Jason learned about the "House of Horrors" from an orange and black flier passed out by his home room teacher at Dan McCarty Middle School in Fort Pierce. The flier included an illustration of the Grim Reaper and specifies, "No one under 13 allowed."
The spokeswoman for the St. Lucie County School District, Chevon Baccus, said no one was authorized to distribute the flyer.