Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Haunted House Accident Changes Teen Victim; Scar from Noose Has Faded, but Health, Memory Problems Persist

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Haunted House Accident Changes Teen Victim; Scar from Noose Has Faded, but Health, Memory Problems Persist

Article excerpt

The scar on Jessica Rue's neck is faint now, a barely noticeable reminder of the noose that choked off oxygen to her brain a year ago while she was working as an actress at a Fenton-area haunted house.

It happened Oct. 27, on her second day at Creepyworld. Her job was to scare guests as they walked through a bathroom scene that was drenched in fake blood. She wore a white bath towel and dark shorts, according to a Jefferson County sheriff's office report.

The scene included a mangled mannequin and the noose that would end up wrapped around Rue's neck, putting her in a coma for about three days, according to accounts from police and her family.

Somehow - and exactly how never may be known - Rue, then 17, slipped off the edge of the tub, and her neck became caught in the noose. Police found shoe prints on the sides of the tub, as well as scuff marks on the wall.

Visitors probably passed by, with no idea Rue was not just another gory prop.

Photos taken after she was cut down show rope burns on her fingers where she tried to pull the noose off her neck. Dark makeup that was part of her costume was still smeared around her eyes.

Rue, now 18, doesn't remember anything about what happened, she said in an interview last week. She also doesn't remember anything of the week or two leading up to the accident - only that she wanted to work at Creepyworld because her friends had jobs there.

Since the accident, she said, her short-term memory is faulty. She suffers from headaches, occasional blackouts, heart flutters and dizzy spells.

In the weeks after she came out of the coma, Rue said, she didn't realize why she was forced to stay at home to rest.

"I wanted to go to school. I couldn't understand why I couldn't go to school," she recalled.

The extent of her neurological damage is unknown, say her aunts, Nancy Hakala and Annie Hanger. They also say her personality has changed - she gets easily frustrated and sometimes gives curt answers to simple questions. She has had to call for directions on how to get home because she can't remember the way.

Watching Rue hooked up to a ventilator in the hospital, her aunts first worried whether she would survive. Then they worried about whether she would lead a normal life.

"I didn't think I'd ever have my niece back," said Hakala, who was Rue's legal guardian until she turned 18.

They say that 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 breakaway prop.

In January, Rue filed a lawsuit against Halloween Productions Inc., the company that owns Creepyworld, and its owner, Larry Kirchner. Kirchner declined to comment for this story.

The suit also names Creepyworld workers Chelsey Rusbarsky and Sam Israelsen as defendants. …

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