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November 5, 2009

3

Haunt Review: House of Shock

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The House of Shock is something of a legend in the New Orleans area. It is a haunted attraction that has earned itself a reputation the likes of most haunts can only dream of. If the rumors are true, both the city of New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson Parish have tried repeatedly to shut the haunt down, using every legal trick to do so. Some even think God himself is out to get the haunt, Hurricane Katrina having flooded it (along with most of the city), forcing them to close for the 2005 season. However, they reopened in 2006 and haven’t missed a year since, despite the obstacles, alleged and confirmed.

The HoS is known mostly for two things. First is its elaborate and eyebrow-singing stage show with pyrotechnics, the second is its use of satanic imagery and “shock” value to scare customers.

It too makes repeated appearances in “top ten” lists of U.S. haunts and it has a nation-wide reputation that is known across the country among haunt lovers. But is the notoriety of the haunt deserved? Read on to find out.

The Good

The HoS, much like The 13th Gate, is an event haunt but the HoS has a prominent difference, its stage show.

The show itself has remained largely unchanged since I first saw it in 2003. It chronicles the fight between the devil and a preacher character over the souls of those in the audience. It’s a well-acted, well-scripted show where the real stars are the pyrotechnics, which are huge (VIP ticket holders may wish to check their eyebrows at the gate). The show itself lasts about 10 to 15 minutes though you’ll likely spend much more time waiting in the queue for it to begin (fortunately they have a “freak” show before that to keep you entertained).

Once you get into the haunt, you’ll find that, once again like an event haunt, the HoS has remarkably detailed insides with hundreds of great actors. The place is quite literally crawling with actors, far more than any other haunt I can think of. Where a mid-range haunt might staff a dozen or two people, an event haunt a hundred, the HoS reportedly has some 200 people, with at least a group in every room.

The detail in the haunt is incredible. Though there wasn’t much in the way of Hollywood special effects, it was clear that a ton of work went into getting everything just right, from the first graveyard to the barrel path on the exit. Everything was planned and built with movie-set like quality.

The actors, in addition to being plentiful, were also very talented and energetic. Their costumes were also incredible and very memorable. They put a lot of time into making their characters unique and it shows.

Best of all, the experience feels like a full night, even without the stage show the walk through is over 20 minutes and there is plenty to do around the event itself. It is worth spending some time to just hang around and see what all you can do. This makes the $20 price tag feel like a steal, though I’m not sure how I would feel about the $50 VIP tickets. Nonetheless, it is a haunt that earns its money.

All in all the experience is very memorable. With a lot of well-crafted scenes and, especially toward the end, some good good scares. It is the type of haunted house that you will be talking with your friends about for a very long time afterward and you’ll want to go through repeatedly to see the things that you missed.

The Bad

The HoS, as its name might indicate, is less about scaring and more about shocking people. You’ll see girls pretending to have sex with corpses in a morgue, dozens of actors running around with fake entrails (which is odd because, in Louisiana, that’s just dinner) and lots of Satanic imagery, but not a lot in the way of scares. In fact, going through the entire haunt, I didn’t hear one person near me scream until the very end.

The haunt just isn’t built to scare. Part of it is design, but much of it is also because the HoS has customers go through the haunt conga line style, making it so that you’re always in a very large group. You never feel alone in the haunt and the actors can’t do much to scare you as they are forced to watch the train of people go through their scene with little chance to startle anyone, save maybe the leader.

This is the byproduct of the stage show, which causes hundreds of people to queue up to watch the act and then enter the haunt at once. If you’re not one of the first in, you pretty much always have at least six other people in your line of sight.

The other big gripe I have is that, while the tickets and warning signs say that it is a “no touch” haunt other than accidental brushing, I have never felt so grabbed, pushed and shoved by actors in my life. One actor, wearing a pig mask, used his face to pin me against a wall for several seconds. It wasn’t scary or frightening, more humorous than anything, but it was annoying and not at all what was expected, at least based on the printed materials. However, anyone who has been to the HoS or talked with others who have gone already know that this type of thing is common.

In short, if you don’t like the idea of being grabbed, pushed, slimed, sniffed, grinded against, etc. don’t go. Just ignore what the big sign and your ticket says and move on.

Bottom Line

I have a ton of respect for the House of Shock. They are a haunt that literally started in someone’s backyard here in New Orleans and grew to what it is today. They are great members of the haunt community, locally and nationally, and are all around great guys and they have built a kick ass haunt.

However, it is not a haunt for everyone nor is it a particularly scary one. The goal of the HoS is, as the name implies, to shock. It’s not about scaring or startling, but about testing the depths of evil and using a combination of theater and haunted house to make people uneasy and give them a show. It’s a haunted attraction that doesn’t try to be like other haunted attractions.

This makes recommending or not recommending the HoS very difficult. You probably won’t be that scared going through it, but you will have a lot of fun, so long as you don’t mind the repeated invasion of your personal space or aren’t too easily offended by the satanic themes.

All in all, it is a great haunt that is well worth the price. The flaws can be easily overlooked in return for the full and unique experience that is the HoS.

Rating

8/10

This is a tough one to score. It feels like its better than an 8 but not quite as much as a 9. It you are into this kind of haunt, it definitely is a 9, pushing a 10, the best of its kind you can still find. But for traditional haunt lovers, such as myself, it is still a great time, though I am not ready to call it a 9.

Note: I am loathe to do ratings on reviews in general because it can be impossible sum up a complex series of opinions in a number. This is especially true with haunted attractions as your enjoyment of the haunt will depend almost exclusively on what it is you seek. Your mileage will always vary.

Location

The House of Shock is located at 319 Butterworth St. Jefferson, LA. 70121, right outside of New Orleans.

  • Andy

    right on, we just went and had the same reactions as you. Wicked detail, amazing stage show, but just not really scary at all. i personally loved that the actors touched you, i wish more houses would do that.

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