The people behind the House of Shock so firmly believed last Halloween would be its final night in business that before it closed, they had a man dressed like Jesus pretend to banish everyone there to the underworld.
But a couple of things have happened since then for the faux-satanic-themed haunted attraction.
First, flocks of devoted fans phoned, emailed or went on social media to lament the prospect of losing a 22-year-old Halloween season staple in Jefferson Parish. Then a local lawyer announced he would provide enough money to cover financial losses the attraction had suffered in recent years.
That was all the House of Shock and its 300-plus volunteers needed to convince themselves they could rise from the dead.
On Wednesday, House of Shock co-owner Ross Karpelman secured approval from the Jefferson Parish Council to spook anyone brave enough to visit the warehouse at 319 Butterworth St. on 14 nights between Oct. 2 and Oct. 31.
“We’re way behind schedule,” said Karpelman, explaining that it wasn’t until a few months ago that a return became plausible for the House of Shock. “But it is shaping up to be something memorable.”
He was careful not to reveal too much about what the House of Shock is billing as “The Resurrection.” But he didn’t mind talking about two new attractions that will be joining the traditional walk-through haunted house in the shadow of the Huey P. Long Bridge.
One of the new additions will require visitors to wear 3-D glasses while they endure what Karpelman would describe only as “a clown attack.” Dubbed “Laff in the Dark,” it borrows its title from an attraction at New Orleans’ former Pontchartrain Beach amusement park, but beyond the name, there’s not much in common between the two, Karpelman said.
“It’s something no one has ever seen around here at all,” said Karpelman, 46. “It will scare the living hell out of everybody.”
The other new addition is “Seaman Skungy’s Bordello of Freaks.” Karpelman described it as a freak show inside a brothel.
The haunted house, meanwhile, will feature some of its classic characters and sections. Yet all of the sections and even the storyline have been changed, said the 6-foot-6 Karpelman, who would not discuss whether he’ll again suit up as his renowned towering character, Lord Belial.
“There will be no mistaking that we went to work and really took it seriously,” he said.
Karpelman credits the House of Shock’s evolution to its near-death experience.
The last few Halloween seasons had not gone well for the attraction. Multiple rainouts hurt attendance, and things bottomed out in 2013, when a rare October tropical storm threatened the area.
The House of Shock and its volunteers also wondered if their act, which had barely changed since about 2004, was getting stale.
So the word went out that the House of Shock probably would not provoke any more screams beyond 2014.
Karpelman figured the end would feel like a sigh of relief, given all the work and money it took to put on an attraction that was doing bad business.
But the wrap party for the House of Shock’s cast and support crew was the opposite.
“Tears, hugs — it was like a funeral,” Karpelman said.
As word spread that the House of Shock was contemplating shutting down, fans registered their objections. There were enough for some volunteers to suggest starting a Kickstarter campaign, in which the House of Shock could exchange merchandise for financial contributions.
The Kickstarter campaign’s goal was $25,000, enough to make a comeback viable, if not to guarantee success. Contributions were coming in at an encouraging place when a savior appeared.
Karpelman refused to identify him beyond saying he is a lawyer and “a friend of the family.”
“Not everyone wants themselves or their business to be associated with House of Shock, whose image isn’t entirely wholesome,” Karpelman said.
He wasn’t exaggerating. After all, not long after Karpelman, Jay Gracianette and former Pantera lead singer Phil Anselmo founded the House of Shock at another location in 1992, some people offended by the attraction broke into it and splashed holy water over its sets and props, among which was a decapitated statue of the Virgin Mary.
Still, on the condition that he would remain anonymous, the benefactor offered to pitch in whatever money it took to keep the House of Shock going.
Karpelman gladly accepted, and the House of Shock is preparing to welcome anyone prepared to buy tickets that will cost $25 early in October and $30 nearer to Halloween.
No one’s more delighted than the Jefferson Parish councilman whose district includes the House of Shock.
“It’s tradition now — they’ve been doing it for so many years,” said Councilman Paul Johnston, whose sons once volunteered at the House of Shock. “People like to get scared, especially during Halloween.”
Karpelman and his dark forces are banking on that.