St. Paul shuts down haunted houses

The problem with the law is the law is the law.

We get it; housing inspectors have a job to do. And, yes, the structures are not built to the code of St. Paul, but shutting down neighborhood haunted houses still has an “are you kidding me?” ring.

But, if you make exceptions, then, what will would happen exactly?

The Star Tribune says St. Paul officials have put the kibosh on two popular neighborhood haunted houses that, of course, had no intention of being permanent structures. Why? Because the law is the law.

“They were deeming it permanent … but it’s temporary,” Ed Johnson said of his haunted house, which he’s been staging for several years now and each year gets a little bigger. “I don’t know why the city can’t understand it’s a temporary deal.”

“He hasn’t presented any plans that show this is a safe structure for the public,” a spokesman for the city inspectors told the paper.

Because it’s not. We all know it’s not. It wouldn’t last a minute in Hurricane Matthew which, theoretically, could strike the West side of St. Paul between now and Halloween. Sure, it’s not likely. But it could.

Keven Moore, a risk management specialist in Kentucky, sees the problem city inspectors see.

If a fire was to break out and smoke started to fill a haunted house, I would suspect that many of the guests at first would believe that it was all part of the show. Fires usually go undetected for a number of minutes and if the haunted house operator is unaware of a fire, many of the guests would continue through the structure not realizing that they only have minutes or maybe even seconds to get out.

Once these trapped guests realize that they are caught in the middle of raging fire, will they be able to located the nearest exits? Will those exits be properly marked an unobstructed to provide a means for quick exit?

Many of these haunted houses are designed to be confusing in a maze like manner, and many of the guests can become disoriented with strobe lights, mirrors, flashing lights and loud noises making it even more difficult to determine which direction to go.

Johnson was going to charge $2 a head, with money going to the Lupus Foundation. His daughter has Lupus.

“There doesn’t seem to be a category for something like this,” an attorney who went to the city with Johnson to try to get a permit.

“I know they’ve got to enforce their rules, but can’t you work with me on this?” Johnson said.