Executions Expelled: French Fun Park Bans the Electric Chair

An electric chair performing mock executions for fun park visitors has proven too much for one French town. The "chaise électrique' has been removed -- but the chair's owner plans to take his traveling act to Paris.

There is nothing quite like a fun park and its myriad attractions. Sword swallowers and fire jugglers are often among the tamest acts on offer. Indeed, if you are lucky enough to go to Coney Island in New York, you can watch Donny Vomit pound spikes into his skull to entertain the guests.

One attraction at a fun park in southern France, though, seems to have taken things a step too far. Visitors to Luna Park in the town of Fréjus could admire an authentic, working electric chair imported straight from the United States. What's more, the park would periodically "execute" a puppet for guests' entertainment -- and they could watch as the mannequin flopped around and screamed as the voltage coursed through his body. At the end, the dummy's head would slump forward, smoke drifting up from the hood over his head.

Until Thursday that is. Fréjus Mayor Elie Brun had made it known that he found the attraction problematic and he told the daily Le Figaro "this type of morbid attraction harms the image of our town." He sent a letter to the park demanding that the electric chair be removed and threatened further legal steps. Luna Park finally backed down, though not willingly.

"Before they ban this, there are plenty of other things that should be banned, like television," Marcel Campion, who runs the fairground, told Le Figaro. "There has always been the 'house of horror' and other such attractions at fairgrounds. Before that, they even had deformed people who were considered to be artists. All that is part of fairground life."

The electric chair belongs to Stéphane Camors, 40, who bought it for $10,000 (€6,750) in Florida. He first had it on display at a fun park near Milan in Italy and was charging visitors €1.65 to watch the dummy die. The park manager told La Repubblica in July that 50 executions were performed daily, with 150 taking place on Sunday.

Protests against the macabre act, though, shut down the electric chair and Camors moved on to Fréjus. "It is my dragon or my King Kong, it's just an adornment," he told AFP. "It's not meant to glorify the death penalty."

The death penalty is not only illegal in the European Union but also severely frowned upon as a form of punishment, making this form of entertainment particularly politically incorrect. France became the last EU member state to perform capital punishment on Sept. 10, 1977, when it sentenced Tunisian immigrant Hamida Djandoubi to death for the torture and murder of his former girlfriend.

Despite being booted out of Fréjus, though, Camors remains determined to make a profit on his high-voltage investment. He is now planning to head north to Paris. The 200-year-old fair Fête à Neu Neu begins in early September in the Bois de Boulogne park on the outskirts of the French capital and Camors hopes that his electric chair will be there as well.

It is difficult to imagine that the organizers of the Fête à Neu Neu will be big fans of Camors' display. After all, the fair was inaugurated in 1815 by Napoleon -- who much preferred the guillotine.

cgh -- with wire reports

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