Religion News Service
August 26, 2004


"Hell House," an annual and controversial production that a Denver-area church has presented each Halloween, is being converted to a Hollywood production by a secular humanist group.


The professional production of "Hollywood Hell House" will spoof the original and feature such celebrities as comedians Bill Maher as Satan and Andy Richter as Jesus. It will run Saturdays through Halloween at the Steve Allen Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles.

"It will be a parody of itself," producer Maggie Rowe told the Rocky Mountain News, a Denver newspaper. "It will be very funny. We're having a hoot."

Rowe is a representative of the Center for Inquiry-West, a group whose mission is "to promote and defend reason, science and freedom of inquiry in all areas of human endeavor."

She admits to stretching the truth when she bought a $200 "Hell House" kit from its creator, the Rev. Keenan Roberts. She told him that she wanted the kit for her youth group. The production company is called "The Youth Group."

The kit features hundreds of pages of script and stagecraft demonstrating how to create smoke-filled vignettes depicting Satan luring teenagers to hell with sinful temptations. The church in the Denver suburb of Arvada, where Roberts was youth minister, has drawn thousands since 1995 to scenes with anti-abortion and anti-gay messages.

Roberts, who plans to attend the opening-night performance, said he sees the new version as an opportunity although he also feels stung.

"People have been trying to damage this message since they crucified the founder of the movement," he said. "It's exciting. 'Hell House' is going to another stage of exposure."

Religion News Service