Oct 30, 2010 6:12 PM by Andrea Babin
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Ten years ago, when Larry Breaux decided he
wanted to work at the House of Shock, the haunted house in
Jefferson Parish didn't exactly have a family-friendly reputation.
In the 1990s, protesters picketed, decrying the place as
Satanic. Some even broke in and scattered holy water over the sets
and props, which included a decapitated statue of the Virgin Mary.
But Breaux, an aficionado of horror movies and heavy metal
music, fell in love with the mock demons and chainsaw-wielding
zombies roaming the place every time he visited. Cast members
appeared to be having a blast terrifying visitors - who paid $10
for the privilege - as they portrayed the undead in morgues,
butcher shops and chain-link mazes.
Breaux, a biker-type with a bald head and wild goatee, marched
through so often in his black leather jacket, black jeans and black
boots that several performers broke character and told him, "You,
again. Why don't you just work here?"
But his wife, Brandi, the mother of his young twins, told him
she didn't want him spending all his family time in a place like
that. If he wanted to be part of the House of Shock, he knew he had
to figure out a way for his family to be part of it, too.
Breaux joined the cast after introducing himself to one of the
owners, Ross Karpelman. On his first night, he had a bloody
pentagram painted on his forehead, clutched a fake bone, lay in a
grave and leapt out of it, shrieking, as customers wandered by. One
of Breaux's first victims fell backward and screamed. Breaux
thrashed the floor with his bone. The guest whimpered. Everyone
else erupted into laughter and teased the guest, "Oh! He got you!
He got you bad!"
"It was the greatest thing ever," Breaux said. "That
adrenaline rush got me hooked on it."
His next role did nothing to persuade Brandi, a Catholic, that
the House of Shock was a legitimate family hobby: Breaux became the
sullen-faced preacher of the haunted house's Satanic Church.
Standing atop a pulpit holding a microphone, Breaux, clad in all
black, taunted patrons with his deep, raspy voice: "Hail Satan!"
"Where is your God now?" "Join us!" "Feed me your soul!"
Actresses portraying bloodied girls in white communion dresses
rushed guests, reached out to them with their arms and shrieked,
"Help me! Make it stop!" Demons with heads of cow skulls and evil
altar boys wielding fake swords pretended to drag the maidens by
their hair, lift them off the ground and choke them.
Breaux mocked, "Behold the fate that awaits you!"
Back home, Breaux worked on Brandi.
"They need me, they depend on me," Breaux pleaded.
Brandi was not sold. "They don't need you," she would fire
back. "They need somebody - but not you."
Her husband spent 50 hours a week at his day job, producing
trade shows and conventions. In October, he spent his free nights
and weekends at the House of Shock. He made time to take the twins
- son Gage and daughter Brianna - to places like the zoo and park,
but Brandi wanted more help.
Then Gage told his parents he wanted to see the place where his
father spent so much time.
In 2004, when he was 9, they let him go during the offseason to
watch the crew build sets. Breaux introduced him to cast members,
making sure they were not in costume.
Two years later, Brianna wanted to see the haunted house. Breaux
followed the same routine.
Both kids enjoyed the craftsmanship. Their dad arranged for them
to walk through the House of Shock as regular guests - only he
asked his cast mates to break character when they spotted the
Breaux children in the hallways and greet them warmly.
Zombies and demons leapt from their hiding spots, waved at the
children and shouted, "Hey, Gage! Hey, Brianna! What's up?" The
twins became enamored with their friends' costumes and the
movie-like scenery around them.
Gage, now 15, said, "I'm a fan of horror movies and metal. This
place is all horror and metal!"
Brianna added, "It's like getting away from your life for a
little while. It's a lot of fun."
The children asked to join the cast. Brandi thought they were
old enough, and Larry secured them gigs - in his "church."
Strawberry-haired Brianna became one of the victimized communion
girls. Gage, his dark hair growing past his shoulders, became an
Then, in 2007, Brandi finally caved. The front office needed
help filing applications and maintaining contact information for
the House of Shock's 300 or so volunteers. She volunteered and
Breaux's role as a dark church preacher has earned him numerous
cast awards and induction into the House's of Shock's "Hall of
Souls." He displays the plaques in his office at work, alongside a
live caged python, voodoo masks and a severed zombie head with a
possum's skull hanging from the nose.
Brandi explained, "Larry is not in bar rooms. My kids aren't
running the streets with God-knows-who. If this is what it takes to
bring our family together, so be it."
The Breauxs don't surrender all their October nights to the
House of Shock. Recently, the freshmen at Haynes Academy elected
Brianna to the homecoming court. The band's drum line elected Gage,
a snare drummer, as their captain.
During a ceremony at the school's homecoming game on Oct. 14,
Gage performed with the band on the field. Nearby, his dad, wearing
a black suit purchased three days earlier, held Brianna's hand as
he escorted her across the field. Brandi stayed in the stands,
snapping photos all evening.
Several crowd members approached Brianna afterward and said, "I
never realized how beautiful you are!" Brianna, in high heels, a
gray jacket, gray skirt and matching fedora, enjoyed the
But to anyone looking closely, it was obvious the family's
involvement at the House of Shock wasn't far from her mind.
Printed on each of her shoes was the face of a zombie.