Year Later, Haunted House Accident Problems Linger

October 18, 2012

An 18-year-old woman who nearly died last year after she inadvertently hanged herself from a noose while working at a suburban St. Louis, Mo., haunted house says she’s still struggling to recover.

Jessica Rue slipped off a tub and got her neck stuck in a noose last October while trying to scare visitors to Creepyworld, in Fenton, who were walking through a bathroom scene drenched in fake blood. Visitors figured it was part of the show.

In a lawsuit Rue filed against Creepyworld, its parent company and two co-workers in January, she contends that she hung from the noose for from 2-10 minutes and had stopped breathing by the time a co-worker cut her down. She spent three days in a coma, police and relatives said.

Rue told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she doesn’t remember the accident or even the week or two leading up to it. She struggles with short-term memory loss, headaches, blackouts, heart flutters and dizzy spells.

The extent of her neurological damage is unknown, according to her aunts, Nancy Hakala and Annie Hanger. Hakala was Rue’s legal guardian until she turned 18.

Rue’s personality has changed, relatives say. She gets easily frustrated and sometimes gives curt answers to simple questions. She has had to call for directions on how to get home.

Relatives say Rue should not have been left alone while working and that the noose she was given was bolted to the ceiling rather than being a break-away prop.

The lawsuit was filed in January against Halloween Productions Inc., which owns Creepyworld, and its owner, Larry Kirchner. He declined to comment. It also names two young co-workers, one who was a supervisor and the other who was the maintenance worker who cut Rue down and performed CPR.

The suit says Kirchner and the co-workers were negligent and created a dangerous condition by encouraging the actors, including Rue, to use the noose as a prop to scare patrons. It said they failed to “keep a careful watch” on Rue to ensure her safety.

Rick Barry, Rue’s attorney, said Rue is not seeking a specific amount of damages because her medical expenses will continue to accrue. She currently receives Medicaid benefits but will lose them in May when she turns 19.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched an investigation at Creepyworld the day after Rue became trapped in the noose and found three serious violations related to fire extinguishers and “wiring methods, components and equipment for general use.” Halloween Productions Inc. was assessed a penalty of $10,500.

Rue graduated from high school after the accident and now attends a community college part-time. She also works as a waitress.

Creepyworld opened Sept. 21 for a new season.

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