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TBC Staff

"No Doubt We're In The Last Days" News

BBC News Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 December, 2004, 08:47 GMT

Church leaders in York say the Christmas display at one of the city's tourist attractions could expose children to "evil forces".

Instead of the usual Father Christmas, visitors to Satan's Grotto at York Dungeon are greeted by a man dressed as the Devil with a red face and horns.

"We've written to the attraction saying we would prefer if it they did not do it," said the Reverend Roger Simpson.

York Dungeon said the display was not to be taken too seriously.

As well as meeting the alternative Santa, visitors to the grotto are handed "gifts" such as severed fingers, and can write on a scroll to sign their souls away.

Mr Simpson, from St Michael-le-Belfrey in the city centre, said concerns were raised at a regular meeting with colleagues from across York.

These included clergy from Baptist, Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.

"It is not just complaining for the sake of it," he continued.

"There are real evil forces and we in our work come across people who are damaged seriously through their involvement with occult forces.

"We are concerned the attraction has the potential to do real pastoral harm."

On its website the dungeon says the festive attraction includes elves impaled on spikes and robins roasting over an open fire with Santa being put in a witch's cauldron and boiled.

Similar ghoulish grottos have also been set up at Edinburgh and London Dungeons, which are also owned by Merlin Entertainments Group.

A spokesman for York Dungeon said the alternative grotto had been running for many years.

He added: "There are many people who are tired and weary of the commercial aspect of Christmas and for those people our attraction comes as a light relief.

"It is all tongue-in-cheek and our visitors love it."

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