With its leering eyes, furrowed brow and hands cupped around a pockmarked face, there is no mistaking what the “Scary Peeper Creeper” is meant to imitate: the head of a “peeping Tom” looking in through a window.
“Perfect for scaring friends and family during Halloween or any other time of the year,” promises a description for the product on Home Depot’s website. “Realistic face looks just like a real man is peering through the window at you.”
For at least one Toronto-area woman, though, it was too realistic.
Breanne Hunt Wells told CBC Radio that she was unnerved after spotting the Halloween decoration at a Home Depot in Markham, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto.
“I fail to see the humor in it,” Hunt-Wells told the radio station’s “Metro Morning” show Monday. “It makes light of a very serious crime. Voyeurism is a crime in Canada.”
The mother of two told the radio program that the decoration seemed to downplay voyeurism, which can often lead to more serious offenses such as sexual assault or rape, CBC News reported.
“I would say to people that say ‘it’s just a joke’ there are a lot of things in our society that have been just a joke over time,” Hunt-Wells told CBC. “Racial jokes, cultural jokes. It takes some talking and thinking to realize that maybe we need to be more sensitive. The people that commit this crime are not harmless people.”
Home Depot told CBC News on Monday it would pull the Scary Peeper Creeper from its stores after hearing of Hunt-Wells’s complaint. Another Home Depot spokesman clarified later that the product would be removed from their stores in Canada.
“We agree that this is not in line with our core values, and when we heard, took immediate action and are currently in the process of removing this product from our assortment,” Home Depot spokeswoman Emily DiCarlo told CBC. “We’ve reached out to advise the customer of our actions and apologize. We’re sorry for any offense that was caused.”
Home Depot also decided to pull the product from its Canadian stores because it had received other complaints stating that the Scary Peeper reminded them of infamous Canadian serial killer Paul Bernardo, Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes told The Washington Post later Monday.
“It was especially sensitive in Canada [because of] to that connection,” Holmes said.
The product would remain in U.S. Home Depot stores, he added. As of Monday afternoon, the product was also for sale on HomeDepot.com.
Scary Peeper, owned by a husband-and-wife team based in North Carolina, said Monday that it had also reached out to Hunt Wells to apologize.
“We at Scary Peeper would never, ever, condone any type of violence,” owners Morgan and Emily Dowtin said in a statement emailed to The Post. “Our intention for this product is for it to be used as a fun-spirited prank. We offer our sincerest apologies to anyone who has been offended by our products, and certainly, to those who have been victimized by voyeurs. Violence towards women is a serious issue, and our products are not intended to make light of serious crimes.”
Reactions to the decision on social media ranged from indifference to indignation — on both sides.
“Who thinks that pretend voyeurs are a cool Halloween treat to a. create and b. sell? Seriously” a Twitter user named Sonja Boon posted.
“Seriously!? people need to stop being so offended about everything,” tweeted another user named Felix Kay.
The Dowtins said they have been selling some version of the prop since 2013 and that this was their first complaint.
In a recent interview posted to Halloween fan Trish Redding’s YouTube channel, Morgan Dowtin said they started the “Scary Peeper” line about five years ago as a joke.
“It just started as like a prank,” Dowtin said. “I was going to mess with a friend.”
A mask-maker in California helped design a prototype — and then Dowtin “started having fun with it and scaring people.”
After the product took off at a trade show, Dowtin said they began producing and selling it on a larger scale.
“Now we’ve got all different kinds,” Dowtin said in the video.
The prop comes in several versions, including one with animated eyes, one that’s painted to look like a clown and a motion-activated “Tapping Peeper.” Its website includes a section of videos showing people reacting to seeing a “Scary Peeper” in a window.
“Try placing Scary Peeper on the passenger side of a car window, in a bedroom window, basement window, kitchen window, bathroom window, or garage window,” the website says. “We’d love to hear where you’ve gotten good results with your Scary Peeper!”
An online search shows the Scary Peeper is also sold by several other big-box and specialty online retailers. On Amazon.com, the Halloween decoration has 90 reviews and a five-star rating, with several commenters posting anecdotes about scaring people with the prop.
“We have been very fortunate: Our products have been received with overwhelmingly positive feedback, funny anecdotes and videos, as well as a loyal following,” the Dowtins said in a statement. “The support we have received from all around the world has reinforced that the vast majority of people see and use our products as intended. We cannot stress enough that there is absolutely no malicious or ill-intent on our part.”
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