Halloween in the Big Easy
She’ll be on vacation come Oct. 31.
Ranked as one of the best cities in the United States to celebrate Halloween, New Orleans has a history of horror unlike any other. Anne Rice, vampire novelist, calls the place home, as does one of the largest populations of voodoo practitioners outside of Haiti. There are countless graveyards, ghost stories and lore, not to mention some of the most violent neighborhoods in the country. Besides the endless partying and beer guzzling, New Orleans is a place guaranteed to give you a scare or two.
Free Voodoo Festival on Halloween! The 4th annual Voodoofest is in Armstrong Park (please use St. Philip & Marais Street Gate). It’s all free, and that includes… Opening & Closing Rituals to the Ancestors conducted by New Orleans Voodoo Priest/Houngan Elmer T. Glover, Vodou Priestess Luisah Teish & Haitian Priestess Mama Lola, as well as live entertainment from Bamboula 2000, Coco Robicheaux, Sunpie and many more.
There is also shopping in the festival’s arts and crafts village for handmade New Orleans voodoo dolls, local folk arts and crafts. There will also be Nawlins cuisine a’plenty, and you can also hit the Voodoo Education Tent for lectures and panel discussions by the top minds (and Spirits!) in the field.
The free Voodoofest is Halloween, October 31st (Thursday), noon-9pm, in New Orleans’ Armstrong Park. For more info, please call the VOODOOFEST INFOLINE: +1 (504) 914 8970.
Nothing has drawn more attention in recent years than The House of Shock. More than just a haunted house, it is one of the largest indoor haunted attractions in the country, with over 14,000 square feet of what creators even describe as “over-the-top Satanism, gore, and evil”. The House of Shock is not just your average haunted house these people take their jobs of scaring people seriously!
Founded in 1993 by singer Phil Anselmo of the metal band Pantera, and friends Ross Karpelman, Steve Joseph, and Jay Gracinette, they push the limits of horror as far as they can go. They had gone so far with live crawling maggots, impaled nuns, and aborted fetuses that it was only a few years before local churches had accused the creators of being part of Le Vey’s Church of Satan, trying to steal local souls. At one time, people had broken into the attraction to spread holy water and salt. But as many know, extreme shock just draws a bigger audience.
Set in an area of desolate warehouses on the Mississippi River, the House of Shock is a masterpiece of theatrics and special effects, as months before October workers build day and night. There are full-scale houses that visitors walk (or run!) through, as well as a cemetery, the catacombs, and a barn. Small groups enter through a huge altar that rises 20 feet over their heads, as very impressive and realistic madmen give Satanic sermons. The entire trip can last up to 25 minutes as hundreds of actors swarm around you, swing over your head, and take great pride in distracting and getting you when you are most vulnerable. Creator Phil Anselmo frequently notes that even grown men have pissed in their pants!
The House of Shock now attracts thousands of visitors every year, and lines can be extremely long. But the wait is never boring. Last year, a large drive-in-style movie screen was erected to broadcast some of the most brutally horrific and graphic scenes on film. Monsters come out to give “undercover” actors public beatings, which turn into an orgy of blood and violence while pyrotechnicians shoot flames high into the sky. In keeping with New Orleans tradition, beer and liquor is sold while you wait in line.
House of Shock co-owners Phil Anselmo (front) and Ross Karpelman a.k.a. Lord Belial, with demons Eih-was and Tyross.
Despite being brutally disgusting, violent, and evil, the House of Shock has tight security and actors rarely touch anyone. Because of the theatrics and the extreme nature of it, they now call it a “Horror Show and Interactive Haunted House”. Its increasing popularity has drawn visitors from all over the United States as well as around the world. In 2000, it was the site for VH1’s Rock Show Halloween Special. Besides the band members of Pantera, many other metal celebrities such as Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie, and Marilyn Manson take part in the event. You can never really be sure who is under the masks!
Its not for the squeamish or very small children, but mandatory for haunted house enthusiasts and anyone looking for a scare! Here are the vitals:
Hours: The House of Shock is open every Friday through Sunday in October, and every night October 26-31, 8 p.m. till late.
Location: 4951 River Road (Eastbank) under the Huey P. Long Bridge.
Price: Tickets are $12 at the gate. A portion of the profits are donated to various charities such as the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans and the Parish Police Bullet Proof Vest Fund.
Web site: www.houseofshock.com
Orleans Parish Sheriff Charles Foti puts on his annual Haunted House in an old pool in City Park. Sheriff deputies take part in the scaring which also includes artwork from Orleans Parish inmates. There are also a Haunted Hay Ride and a Train Ride through the park, which aren’t necessarily that scary, but they are very relaxing. The Haunted House runs every night in October in City Park from dusk to 11 p.m.; $7 for adults, $3 for children under 12. The train and hay rides are $4.50.
New Orleans Ghost Tours are given every night at 8 p.m. rain or shine. Learn about haunting and vampires in the Big Easy. Special magic acts are featured during the Halloween season. The tour departs from the steps of Washington Artillery Park every night between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets are $16. www.neworleansghosttour.com
Voodoo Music Festival is not necessarily scary, but it’ll have such musicians as Snoop Dogg, Missy Misdemeanor Elliot, G.Love and Special Sauce, Tool, The Black Crowes, and Better than Ezra to give you a good time. It’s held in City Park on October 27 at 11 a.m. Advance tickets are available through Ticketmaster.com for $25.
The Endless Night Vampyre Ball 2001 features live performances by DJ Skellington, DJ Jack Dean, and Saint Eve and Otto’s Daughter. Other events and activities include “Dark Bazaar” and the “Ceremonial Banquet of the Elders”. The event is held at the Conti Historical Wax Museum at 917 Conti St. Times are still TBA. Check Vampyre Magazine for more information.
Author Anne Rice’s Coven Ball (also known as the Memnoch Ball) used to be one of the best Halloween events in the city. For years it was held in the old St. Elizabeth’s Orphanage that she had bought, but it moved to the State Palace Theater in 2000 before coming to an end. There are rumors that it may come back in the future and there is also word that there may be a huge Halloween Ball at the State Palace.
The Chinchuba Institute (for deaf children) puts on an elaborate Haunted House every year, with more than 25 different scenes and mini skits including executions and beheadings. There are more than 100 actors in the attraction, with some impressive optical illusions. It all ends in a pitch-black maze, which for some can take quite a while to find the way out.
The annual Halloween Voodoo Ritual is known nationwide as one of the largest in the US and has been featured on the Discovery and the History channels. Places are not always set in stone every year, but interested parties should show up at the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum at 724 Rue Dumaine (between Royal and Bourbon streets) Around 7 or 8 p.m. Halloween night. Check www.voodoomuseum.com for more information.
New Orleans has recently seem to become the Gay Halloween Capital of the United States, with countless gay and lesbian Halloween events and parties. Check out www.gayhalloween.com for more information.
The New Orleans tourism industry has taken a severe beating due to the recent WTC attack and its effects on airline travel. Even some of the biggest hotels in town have been operating at 40 percent capacity (compared to a normal 90 percent) while the crowds in restaurants and bars have been quite thin. The local tourism board has been working to put together a variety of air/accommodation packages, which are expected to be dirt cheap as some hotels are giving 3 nights for the price of two. There are also numerous bargains to be had on the streets and on tours. Keep an eye open on travel agents and your Sunday section, as well as www.neworleans.com for bargains and sales.
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our North America Insiders page.