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Giant Cross Above Waterbury, Conn. Reverts to Torture Symbol

My journalism career has included reporting for the Republican-American, a daily newspaper in northwest Connecticut. Though surrounded by sweet Gilmore Girls-inspiring towns, Waterbury is a somewhat gritty place — my car was keyed in the company parking lot on my first day, though the perpetrator was promptly caught and forced to pay for the damage — but I never imagined that such a horrible crime could take place beneath the giant cross overlooking the city.

In short: last week, 16-year-old Chloe Ottman was raped, strangled and stabbed by a close friend at the base of the cross, which is part of the abandoned Holy Land USA, a Catholic tourist attraction shuttered in 1984. (Check the Republican-American and The Wall Street Journal for the stories; read at your own risk, because the details are horrifying.)


I must confess that I’ve never liked that huge hilltop cross — to me, it looks tacky, especially lit up after dark for all the cars stuck on I-84 to enjoy. But next week, when I’m traveling between New York and Boston, I’m sure I won’t be the only driver looking up at it and shuddering, now with good reason. Stay tuned to see if this crime is what prompts the cross, along with the other forgotten religious symbols and biblical replicas on the site, to finally be removed. Then again, maybe some people feel this tragedy serves as all the more reason to reopen the park and restore its good intentions? One of the commenters on the WSJ piece suggests as much:

Waterbury should put effort into making Holy Land a safe park. Ridding the place of ruined objects and offering money to the Sisters who have inherited the property. This is a gem of a location offering great views of the city and provide some solstice to the family who lost the girl. Her death would not be in vain.


What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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Comments read comments(7)
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Bill Black

posted July 23, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Interesting Sound like something Satin would say
“Its tacky Tear it down”

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posted July 23, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Sorry Bill, but I have to say this. It’s a moral imperative!
Satin may want it torn down abut Velvet & Silk think it’s fine.
sorry…had to rib you!

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posted July 23, 2010 at 11:14 pm

In many ways the abandoned cross is emblematic of the condition of the city that surrounds it. It is a reminder of the city that was and not the community that is. Perhaps removing it would begin a restoration of the environs. I grew up about an hour from Waterbury and the deterioration of the cross and park beneath has been a very visible reminder from I-84 of how that area has also fallen apart.
Early followers of Jesus would have been horrified at the modern use of the cross. It too was a symbol of torture and death. Its modern interpretation is a paradox. That this has happened here would not surprise Jesus’ early followers. What would confound them is the surprised reaction to the event there.
I DO NOT think the city or state should be about restoration of a religious “theme park”. It was actually little more than a glorified miniature golf course, without the holes, balls and clubs. If anything it reflected the fairly tacky and commercialized faith of its time. If anyone wants to restore it, that should be the diocese that owns it still (if I recall). Otherwise the whole piece of land should be reclaimed. It could be a lovely hilltop park. However, without proper police protection, it will make no difference what is on the land, it will continue to be dangerous.

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posted July 24, 2010 at 9:03 pm

jestrfyl, I was about to comment on the cross being a symbol of torture, before I read your post….so you beat me to it.
I see no purpose in rebuilding a theme park that has been out of commission since 1984….religious or otherwise. Certainly the land could be used for something more constructive? I don’t know anything about the town/region, but perhaps a natural park (minus crosses, etc) could be made there….removing all buildings etc. A place to walk, run, sit, have picnics etc. could replace the ugly stuff that is still there…and right now the cross could be included in the definition of “ugly”. Certainly the horrific crime committed there could have been committed anywhere, including a Central Park like place, but as mentioned above…all public areas need police about for protection. (which is a shame but is reality).

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posted July 25, 2010 at 2:07 am

I am a catholic raised person n even if I wasn’t I would believe it to be the same answer “LEAVE IT ALONE ” why would anyone blame a landmark a place that wasn’t suppose to used as anything bad or to make people do such mean evil nasty things to an Innocent n helpless person very unjustified but blame the land NO!! blame the person who’s responsible so sad people lost the meanin of such a place.

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Darkmoor Ravenscry

posted July 26, 2010 at 12:31 pm

You can see the author’s bias in the title to this story. A bit salacious and over-written don’t you think? Near to me is a bike path that for over twenty years was the sight of rapings and murders all perpetrated by one man. Should they tear up the bike path because it was a sight of such horrific crimes? It is, after all overgrown and scary in some parts. I will think about the horrific things that occurred there but I will also enjoy the running and riding on the bike path.

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posted July 28, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Darkmoor Ravenscry:
What is the point in keeping it there? The land and buildings have obviously been abandoned to nature etc. thus inviting something to happen. Clear the whole place and make it beautiful once again…or perhaps clear away the man made stuff (including the cross) and let nature take it’s couse without the rubbish left by humans. Your bike path wasn’t an abandon place, but still in use when bad things happeded there. The park has been abandoned for a long while.
BTW…cool moniker!

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