BEREA, Ohio — The blood, knives and spooky monsters are fake at haunted houses, but the frightful fun became all too real for one Brook Park family after one of the actors got a little too into character at a haunted house in Berea, Ohio, last weekend.
Berea officers were called to the 7 Floors of Hell haunted house at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds at about 8:15 p.m. Saturday for a call of a male stabbed in the foot, the report states.
Officers spoke to staff members and learned that an 11-year-old boy with a family friend suffered a cut on his left big toe.
Witnesses told officers that one of the roaming outside actors at the haunted house was using a large bowie knife as a prop to scare people.
They said the 22-year-old actor, identified as Christopher Pogozelski, was scraping the knife on the ground in front of them, then began stabbing the ground at the boy’s feet when it went through his Croc-style shoe cut his left foot.
Karen Bednarski told WEWS that the 11-year-old boy is her son, Frank.
She said he went to the 7 Floors of Hell haunted house last Saturday with his sister and family friends with hopes of having some good, scary fun.
But she says things turned just plain scary when they encountered one of the actors outside.
“He walked up to my son, and he was holding the knife, and his intentions were to scare him, but my son responded to him by saying, ‘That's fake. I'm not scared,’” Bednarski said.
That's when Bednarski said Pogozelski began stabbing the ground with a large bowie knife but then got too close and stabbed the knife through Frank's Croc sandal, slicing the side of his big toe.
Bednarski said one of the adults with Frank called her, and then she called the police.
“I'm highly upset,” Bednarski said.
But she wasn’t just upset about the cut on Frank's toe. It’s how she said the staff responded afterward.
“They just kept saying accidents happen, accidents happen,” Bednarski said.
The report states that staff at the haunted house applied first aid to the toe, which was bleeding slightly. Bednarski claims staff initially denied first aid.
"They told me that they were not certified to administer first aid," Bednarski said.
Officers confiscated the knife from the actor, who told police he had brought it from home, and he was using it instead of the provided prop knives.
He admitted to officers that “using the knife was not a good idea and that the injury was an accident,” the report states. The knife was confiscated and taken as property in connection with the incident.
Bednarski doesn’t believe it was an accident, but Rodney Geffert, the president of Night Scream Entertainment, which owns 7 Floors of Hell, said it was.
“I guess he got a little too close. It was a complete accident and poked the boy’s toe,” Geffert said.
Geffert said Pogozelski is a popular actor at other haunted houses in the area and started working freelance at 7 Floors of Hell last year.
He said his actors are not allowed to touch customers and can only use the rubber props provided by the company, but Pogozelski went back to his car that night and grabbed the bowie knife that night without their knowledge.
“The police took the knife, and I made it real clear with him, you don't go to your vehicle and get something out like that. We just don't do that,” Geffert said.
The group continued through the haunted houses that night, but Bednarski and Geffert have differing accounts on why.
Geffert said Bednarski asked for a ticket and seemed excited to go into the haunted houses.
Still, she denied that and said they were offered to her because she didn’t want to leave her son, who didn’t want to go to a hospital for further medical treatment and wanted to continue with the night.
“I didn't want to make a scene, of course. I wanted to go about it the appropriate way,” Bednarski said.
Officers were told that Pogozelski's mother asked for the knife back, but they said dispatch to say to her that the blade would be on police property if needed for a criminal case, and it would be released at a later date.
Police later contacted Bednarski, who decided that she would like to pursue charges. Police advised her to come to the station to sign the charge of negligent assault. A summons was sent to Pogozelski.
“The biggest thing for me is, you know, I don't understand the mental state of this man,” Bednarski said. “There's got to be something wrong with him, and he should not be working at an establishment like that. That's what makes me upset."
Lt. Tom Walker with the Berea Police Department confirmed to WEWS that Pogozelski has been charged.
“I can't explain why he brought the real knife," Walker said. "He should have been using a fake prop or a rubber knife. Obviously a poor decision on his part to bring a real knife to the fairgrounds. And he's been criminally charged with negligent assault as a result of making that decision."
Geffert said he would have to decide whether to keep him employed at 7 Floors of Hell.
Ian Cross and Jade Jarvis at WEWS first reported this story.