Pot, Meet Kettle. And Play Nice
The Castine Center is one of the largest indoor event centers in St. Tammany Parish, located a couple of miles east of Mandeville and directly across Hwy 190 from Fontainebleau State Park. During the weekend of September 29-October 1, it will be showcasing the first annual FearFest 2023 New Orleans. This latest version of fear festing includes booths, demonstrations, and other presentations by a host of “paranormal luminaries, cosplay competitions, paranormal investigators, demonologists, automatic writers, authors, actors, psychics, Tarot readers, mediums, and concerts every night.” Eventbrite gives you a hint of the variety of presenters you are likely to encounter for the picayunish $35 price of admission.
In New Orleans, Halloween is one of its citizens favorite holidays, probably owing to the city’s costuming culture and a playfully morbid fascination with spirits and haunts, so an event like this leading up to it seems like it would be a good fit. Sort of like a less grotesque, more civilized haunted house that are wildly popular in the metro area. Paranormals, demonologists, psychics—and throw in a nightly concert—and it’s ”natcherly N’awlins,” as the local television legend Frank Davis used to say.
But Mandeville is not New Orleans, despite the name of the event, and the not-so-long-ago rural area has no shortage of voices of Protestant fundamentalism willing to finger heretics in their midst, and the heresies they espouse (witness the attempted take-over of the public libraries now underway). The pastor of the Cultivation Church in Covington strongly advises against attending, because one “never knows what doors are being opened in events like this”. Check out the advisory from Pastor Matt on the church’s Facebook page:
Founder and host of FearFest, Howard Pitre, started non-profit The Jessica Marie Pitre Foundation in 2020, named after his daughter who took her own life along with her second trimester fetus due to mental illness and the unavailability of critical mental care at her time of need. All proceeds of the fest are pledged to the foundation. Downplaying this humanitarian detail, Pastor Mike resorts to a little word (gasp!) wizardry. “Fear is the opposite of what you need to come against mental health issues,” equating the event’s theme—fear— with the proceeds received from sales generated by it, which can certainly help in combating mental illness.
The devout losing their religion is nothing new when confronting other religions, or the occult, or witchcraft, Satanic rituals, spirits, ghosts, mystics, fortune tellers, and any other form of the supernatural takes in the human imagination. It has been going on at least since the earliest days of Christianity. You might rightly assume it is a reaction to a competition for the hearts and minds of the gullible. The uncritical mind is at play and open to any other-worldly promise of hope, or just escape through mind-numbing entertainment and spectacle. Viewed as economic realism, Pastor Matt not only doesn’t want to lose, but rather wants to grow his church’s market share of paying souls.
Marty Bankson, ed.
September 29, 2023