No Results

New Orleans’ House of Shock is an in-your-face experience like no other; where some might embrace the use of foreboding silence, unsettling darkness and fear of the unknown to strike terror into the hearts of its guests, this 20,000 square foot haunt runs to the extreme opposite, living up to its name by being one of the loudest, most balls-to-the-wall haunted houses in existence, boasting an explosive stage show that would make Gene Simmons jealous. Its seen everything from guests going into labor within its walls to guests literally dropping dead from shock (they were resuscitated later), but sadly, after 20+ years of horror, the House of Shock will bow out gracefully following the 2014 season.

    “When we started House of Shock, it was never supposed to be like it is now,” says co-owner and co-founder Ross Karpelman, a 6-foot-6 behemoth of a man with an impossibly deep voice. “It was only supposed to be a party.”

    In 1992, Karpelman, along with Steve Joseph, Jay Gracianette and then-Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo, started a small haunted house in Gracianette’s backyard as an alternative to the plain, run of the mill haunts they were so tired of seeing. Year by year, what would become known as the House of Shock would grow in popularity and scale, and while Anselmo’s musical endeavors would severely limit his involvement, leading to him leaving the team shortly thereafter, the remaining trio would take the haunt to new heights, crafting a campy, over-the-top stage show filled with Satanic themes and imagery that, in the hypersensitive 1990s, pushed more than a few buttons.

    “That was very, very taboo when we started,” says Karpelman. “It’s like the kiss of death, one of those things you don’t touch if you want to be a success.”

    But the minds behind Shock did more than just “touch” the themes of the occult. In the House’s now-infamous stage show, Karpelman himself plays Lord Belial, preaching to the masses in front of video screens adorned with pentagrams. “Your lord is a jealous god!” he shouts during the 2013 incarnation of the show before recounting the tale of Lucifer being cast out of Heaven. The show includes a battle with Belial and his Satanic forces on one side, and an energetic preacher fighting the good fight on the other, before Belial promising those in attendance that they will witness “the birth of the Antichrist.” 

Even now, those with more delicate sensibilities are getting just as riled as they did at the onset; Karpelman speaks excitedly of a recent haunters’ night the crew put on, where a Utah couple was so disgusted by the show that they left before even entering the House itself. He might cheer such averse reactions, but Karpelman is also quick to point out that it’s all in good fun.

“As intense as we are, honestly, the stage show is so silly,” he says. “It’s almost like slapstick humor. Our characters are so over the top, we could be members of Overacting Anonymous.”

    It hasn’t always been fun and games for the folks at the House of Shock, though. In 2012, Hurricane Isaac decimated a sizable outdoor portion of the haunt, tearing through the stage used for the pre-show and flooding a faux graveyard. While 2013 would at least see everything remain physically intact, a tropical storm hit attendance numbers hard, causing a rain-out on Halloween, of all nights.
    But the show must go on, and go on it has, with cast and crew determined to go out with a bang. Of course, the question must be asked; after more than two decades, why call it quits?

    “We’ve pretty much taken House of Shock to its pinnacle,” says Karpelman. While he admits that there are economic factors to take into consideration, the House’s tricks just aren’t as novel as they may have been in the early ‘90s. “We got off on kind of taking the back road in and being the black sheep, and now we’re seeing other haunts around the nation kind of pick up on that. [...] Originally, we were one, and now there are many.”

    The House of Shock’s success could be attributed to a number of things, from its propensity to push the boundaries of good taste to mind-blowing pyrotechnics to its association with Pantera, which led to it being known for years as “The Rock ‘n Roll Haunted House.” But if you ask Karpelman, the answer is much simpler.

    “The dedication of our volunteers, 100%. We couldn’t do it without them,” he says, noting that volunteers populate the entire event. “Everyone has their thing that they do, some just show up and scare, a lot of them come and help us build, a lot of them come and help us just pick up trash. We have volunteers that run our concessions, our bar, our merchandise, the line [...] We, in-house, pretty much handle everything.”

There might be a gaping hole left in the Louisiana hauntscape with the absence of House of Shock, but guests need not worry about the possibility of going a full autumn season fright-less; Karpelman makes sure to mention some of his favorite neighbors. “Top on the list in the entire country, in my opinion, is the 13th Gate,” he says of the consistently high-ranked Baton Rouge haunt, before also name-dropping Rise in Hammond and The Mortuary in New Orleans. “We’re all friends down here, there’s no haunted house rivalries going on.”

    Karpelman might physically tower over anyone else in any given room, with a baritone voice that lends itself almost a little too well to his occultish alter ego, but he’s an admitted softy, and openly acknowledges that when November 1st, the end of this year’s run, rolls around, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.

    “I’m an emotional guy anyway, I know I don’t seem like it. But I’m easy to cry at movies, and you know, I get a little emo sometimes,” he says with a wry chuckle.

“I’m sure some tears will be shed on that night from good old Lord Belial.”

Photos by C. Brielmaier -

Article by Tyler Davidson.  Tyler Davidson is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. He wrote extensively (perhaps obsessively) about haunted attractions for the UC Riverside Highlander Newspaper as well as Inland Empire Weekly. His work has also appeared in the pages of Hustler Magazine and Culture Magazine, as well as in digital form for The Experiment Comedy.