You didn’t really think they were gone for good, did you?
Like a cheesy horror film that brings the monster back to life just when you thought it was over, the long-running Jefferson scream palace House of Shock, 319 Butterworth St., New Orleans, returns for the 23rd year, despite announcements that 2014 was the end.
With an apt theme for 2015 — “the Resurrection” — audiences will encounter live music, pyrotechnics and the most lavish horror show in the region, along with food served by Hell’s Kitchen and a full-service bar.
The owners insist this isn’t the old House of Shock.
“This is the biggest change we’ve ever gone through,” said Ross Karpelman, co-founder and the actor who plays Lord Belial as he sat in a dusty winged chair in one of the early rooms of the haunted mansion, “even when we moved from the warehouse down the street to this warehouse in 2005.”
“We felt we had taken it as far as it could go and thought our fans had maybe felt the same way, so we announced last year as being our final year. Our exception to that rule was that if we were to come back, it would not be the same House of Shock.”
True to his word, the house has two new additions: The Bordello of Freaks and Laff in the Dark. Seaman Scungy leads the Bordello of Freaks, and he invites his visitors to visit his collection of freaks and oddities.
Inspired by “American Horror Story,” albeit with its own twist, the new section includes some ingenious flourishes with smells, sounds, lighting and drop doors that will be sure to make you jump.
Laff in the Dark exploits the fear that some people have of clowns, featuring 3-D paints that are ultraviolet reactive and done by a graffiti artist who goes only by the name Dallas.
The work is eye-popping, ensnaring your entire field of vision as demonic clowns terrify visitors.
“We used to laugh at the idea of having clowns,” said co-founder and pyrotechnics coordinator Steven Joseph, “but people are petrified of clowns and they hate them, so we had to do it House of Shock-style. We took the clown concept and tried to up it a notch and make it the most horrifying over-the-top experience possible.”
With over 300 volunteers, House of Shock functions like a small community of horror and metal and rock music fans. Joseph said they often meet up throughout the year for crawfish boils or to go to the movies.
But even with the essential fandom, volunteering to do multiple shows throughout a series of October weekends takes a certain level of dedication.
“Sometimes it’s a really hot job, especially depending on your costume and where you’re at,” said Mickie Mire, a six-year volunteer veteran, who said she was devastated when it was briefly believed that House of Shock would close. “They have some vents running through, but you have to have heart for this.”
But with House of Shock’s return and its commitment to open again in 2016, Mire and her fellow volunteers will live to scare another day.
Shea Creel, a 10-year veteran who has worked at House of Shock since he was 24, is ready for the Resurrection.
“One of my favorite scares is when you scare a person so bad and their legs just stop working and they drop to the ground,” he said, reminiscing about his favorite scare reactions. “It’s really satisfying.”
House of Shock is open every Friday and Saturday during the month of October as well as a few additional dates leading up to Halloween.