Friday, July 1, 2011

Gary Berger's 10 Questions with co-owner of New Orleans’ legendary “The House of Shock,” Ross Karpelman

“I have harnessed the shadows that stride from world to world to sow death and madness...” - H.P. Lovecraft, "From Beyond"

For me that quote from H.P. Lovecraft’s “From Beyond” gives you a small glimpse into the thought process from which partners Ross Karpelman, Steven Joseph, Jay Gracianette and Pantera front man Phillip Anselmo conjured up the legendary “The House of Shock” in New Orleans, LA almost 20 years ago.

I was able to get Ross to break away from his demanding schedule to sit down and answer a few questions about the recently anointed #1 Must-See Haunt by Haunted Attraction Magazine .

I know allot of pro-haunters began their scream fests as home-haunters, where any of you home-haunters prior to kicking off this hellish haunt?
The House of Shock started as a home haunt! We were in backyards the first 2 years and would have been the third year if the City Council wouldn’t have forced us to go commercial. That was part of their plan to shut us down. They didn’t think that a bunch of kids (we were about 23 at the time) could pull off a for real commercial haunted house.

If any of our readers don’t know, who came up with the idea to start “The House of Shock” and who are your business partners?
The House of Shock started as an idea in our friend Philip’s basement. We were reflecting on how much fun Halloween used to be when we were growing up. How excited we would get to dress up and pull pranks on our friends and neighbors… We never dreamed it would become as big as it is now. Philip no longer plays a big role in The House of Shock. The current owners are myself and my life-long friends Steven Joseph and Jay Gracianette. Jay’s backyard served as the venue for the 1st annual House of Shock! His grandparents had no idea what they were in for! God Bless Their Souls!

This will be “The House of Shock’s” 19th year of scaring the hell out of its survivors, err…I mean patrons. What has been your key to success in an industry that is boiling over with competition?
“Our key to success” is just remaining true to ourselves! We do what we do because we love it… We never cared for the behind the velvet rope style of haunting. We are in your face and violent! Our sets are larger than life and detailed… Our stage show is over the top and our pyrotechnics speak for themselves! The key is not to let other people tell you what your event should be. If you want Dracula and The Mummy then own that s***! We happen to like our occult themes and base our scenes on a good bit of New Orleans history. We will never change that… We are unique! An enigma! No one else could/would do what we do and we like it that way!

One of the many features which set “The House of Shock” apart from other attractions in the world is your very elaborate multi-media stage show. Tell us about the show?
The stage show came about circa 1999… It has evolved over the years. It features three distinctive characters that we established from the very beginning in the backyards. We were always a theatrical haunt. We always started The House of Shock with some sort of Good vs. Evil skit… But as we progressed, our level of show progressed. Now it incorporates an ongoing storyline with defined characters that most of our patrons now know by name. We use video, lighting and a whole lot of sound to get our point across. There are multiple stages and stunts! One year the Reverend Leviticus (the good guy) flew over the crowd to the stage on a big crucifix. Another year we crucified him on a pneumatic cross that sent him 25’ in the air! The pyrotechnics have become what most people look for nightly. Co-owner Steve Joseph is a professional pyrotechnition in the music/touring world and designs shows for everyone from AC/DC and The Rolling Stones to Nickelback and Ozzy! He really brings the fire to the show… Literally! Our entire stage engulfs into flame. It is a rush you cannot explain! You can actually feel the heat and more so THE PRESSURE from blocks away!

I remember reading you guys had a few run-ins with a few in the community who made claims about a certain portion of the haunt being dedicated to a Satanic Church or worship. How did this come about and did that incident change anything in regards to how you approached the attraction?
The whole Satanic thing came about from the beginning… We are born of a different generation. Although we respect and honor the age old standbys of horror’s past, we grew up on The Exorcist, The Evil Dead and The Omen! We grew up with the whole post-Apocalyptic end time message! That is what was scary to us as kids. So naturally that is the imagery that we project with our attraction… Not to mention we are all Metal heads! I mean what would Slayer be without Satan… Metallica? HAHAHAA! Kidding we love old Metallica too!

A haunted attractions actor’s can make or break the haunt. Let us in on the type of actors you have, do you have a rigorous audition process, or do you guys pretty much go on a gut feeling…like yeah this guys has THE look go scare the hell out of someone.
Well we throw everyone at you! It is a non-stop barrage of characters… We have over 350 volunteers! We tell all of our actors to just be intense. Most of our guys get it immediately and throw their own spin on intensity. Others may need a little bit of guidance. It is usually up to me to make sure everyone is up to snuff. Once you get inside there aren’t a lot of speaking roles, so a good bit of it is startle scares. Also we have characters just going crazy! They are all over the place with their range of emotions! I get off just sitting back in a scene and watching these guys go off… You see some funny stuff! Some really great performances!

Tell me who is in charge of your set decorations and make-up. From what I have seen they rival most big-budget movies, especially with such amazing attention to detail.
Our Art Director is David Carry and our Scenic Designer is Ern McCracken… They along with Harold Bufford have now started Dead House Designs and have already made their mark on the Haunt Industry this year with the most talked about booth at Transworld! It took some real cojones to set up shop right across from Scarefactory our first year in business… But I’d say we held our own! These guys are awesome but it is the Blood, Sweat and Beers that all of our members put in to make these scenes work! It is the dedication of our volunteers that make us what we are! We are really one big family… We hang out all year long and figure out what we can do to make The House of Shock better. We have group functions all year! BBQ’s, Parties for every occasion… You should see our New Year’s Eve party! If you thought we had a lot of pyro during Halloween? That ain’t S***!

Most haunters have that one prop or scene they really love. What’s yours?
Our cast! Props are just props… Our cast is what makes us different! The sheer number of them is intimidating enough! It never seems to end. Our patrons are physically drained by the time they make it out of the exit… I don’t know if this is a good thing, but a lot of our customers say they will never come back because we are TOO because we would rather wear that badge and do less people than to have our customers come out with no opinion! Love it or hate it… The House of Shock will leave an impression! Mostly that impression is WOW! Scary! That’s ok with me

Do you have anything new that is being added to bloody up the 2011 season?
2011 will see many improvements all over the place but our focus is before you even get in the door! We are adding to our already amazing cue line entertainment… We are adding more national bands, a lot more freaks walking around and of course more pyro if that is even possible! Overall we are making our outside set up more accessible and easier to enjoy for everyone. Our Halloween Festival will have more food vendors and more places to hang out to watch people get the crap scared out of them. So now people who are too scared to actually go in can still have a great time just hanging out at the outdoor festival… FOR FREE!

Can you let everyone know how to get a hold of the “The House of Shock” if they have questions about the upcoming 2011 season?
Very easy… and of course we are on Facebook too.
You can get in touch with me personally at I am always happy to answer whatever questions anyone may have about The House of Shock anytime! We hope to see you all this year down here in New Orleans! This is truly an October destination city… New Orleans itself is geared around all things Halloween! Not to mention we are less than an hour away from The 13th Gate! They are in my opinion the best all around Haunted Attraction in the country! Dwayne Sanburn and his crew have mastered the art of haunting! We always have a fun time there every year! We rent a big bus and go see them on our night off and they do the same for us! To have two of the consistently best Haunted Attractions in the country virtually next door to each other is unheard of! New Orleans is a one stop Haunting destination! Make sure you make your plans to come here and see what we have to offer… There is no better place to be than New Orleans for Halloween!

Thanks Ross for taking the time answer these questions and I look forward to coming down and getting a behind the scenes tour of the haunt.


  1. I'm a big fan of this haunt, so I really enjoyed this interview! Scream out for a kick-ass job, Gary, and thanks for sharing with us!!

  2. I LOVE this haunt. Thank you so much for this interview, really enjoyed it.

    BTW - it is kinda funny reading your blog while your segment on Hauntcast is playing on my iPod :)

    Thanks again!