“Are you sure you want to get out here?” my Uber driver inquired as we arrived at House of Purge. He was hesitant to drop me off in a poorly lit industrial warehouse area anchored by a junkard and multiple massage parlors. I assured him that this was where I intended to go, and when I explained why, he was even more bewildered.
Rage rooms, sometimes called smash rooms, provide a release for those with pent-up rage or anxiety by providing them with a place to vent by breaking shit without having to be accountable for the damage. Owner Vantroy Green, a massage therapist by trade, launched House of Purge, Charlotte’s first rage room, in 2018 in west Charlotte after taking a business trip to Canada where he saw people taking lunch breaks at a small rage room.
“I wanted to create an environment … where you can come in and act in rage and just not be judged for it,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that need to vent [in ways] besides going to work out and meditation”
The name House of Purge reflects Green’s desire for the rage room to be a place of healing. “I want this to be a home where people can come to cleanse themselves, and their everyday life stuff,” he said.
I’d decided to check it out after a conversation with a few friends about how we deal with stress. I started 2019 suffering from chronic pain issues that were the result of an injury that never fully healed healed and the loss of a meaningful relationship compounded by the stress of an uncertain future and student loan payments that await me after I graduate college in a few short months. In addition to being overwhelmed, I felt a sense of anger creeping into my psyche and had no idea how to deal with it.
When faced with uncomfortable feelings, I exert every ounce of my energy, throwing myself into a flurry of seemingly productive distractions. I log hours in the gym, bury myself in work, take on projects and pick up strange new hobbies until I forget why I’m upset, and far before I get angry. This unhealthy coping mechanism usually does the trick. This time, however, I reached a breaking point where I was too exhausted to distract myself any further.
So, I invited my friend E, who despite maintaining a relentlessly positive demeanor, was dealing with similar feelings of anger and stress stemming from several weeks of long, overloaded hours at an office job — a familiar feeling to many readers, I’m sure — to join me for a night of smashing stuff. While we knew that the rage room experience was not a replacement for therapy and general self-care, we were excited to see what this unique experience would bring.
We stepped into a small storefront that resembled a Goodwill store. A rack of bright yellow helmets, protective jackets and miscellaneous safety gear stood at the back of the room, while the entire right wall is filled floor to ceiling with glass bottles, outdated coffee mugs, lamps and other thrift-store reject housewares.
While we were checking out the space, Green told us that the rage rooms have been described as a “women’s secret society.” He estimated that around 95% of House of Purge customers are women from ages 7 to 70 who come to “rage out and have a good time.” These women come in for predictable reasons like breakups, betrayals and loss, but also to host birthday parties and celebrations. Psychologists have referred patients to the rage room as part of treatment, and sometimes customers choose their own therapeutic twists to raging.
For example, a group of friends came in and wrote difficult things they were dealing with on plates before they broke them. Whatever brings them in, however, most of these customers leave with a sense of relief and release after their session.
After hearing these stories, we were eager to experience the healing power of rage for ourselves. After gearing up, we stepped into the large dark rage room, which looks like something out of a Saw movie, with concrete floors and brick walls covered in graffiti. Random appliances were scattered across the room and a used sedan was parked in the back corner, ready for our abuse. We turned on our playlist and grabbed our instruments of destruction (for her, a sledge hammer, and me, a softball bat).
First, we made our way over to the car and slowly started adding to its collection of dents. It took me a few minutes to shake the feeling that I was doing something wrong, as E and I took turns swinging at the car. After a couple of swings, however, hearing the dull thud of thick aluminum against the car frame became strangely soothing. I was honestly surprised by this feeling. Green had told us that sometimes women screamed and wept once they started smashing, and I thought this experience might bring out some unrooted and uncharacteristic intensity in both E and myself. But even while smashing the shit out of things, we were still us, and ended up “raging out” in a different way — by having reckless, unrestrained fun.
Once we got tired of the car, we wandered around the room handing each other various thrift store rejects to destroy. We threw coffee mugs up in the air then met them with my baseball bat, sandlot style, grinning every time we made contact. I couldn’t stop laughing as E, an overworked accountant, found a PC to gleefully smash, watching its shiny parts spill out across the concrete floor like confetti. We threw glass bottles and antique vases against the graffitied brick wall over and over again, giggling like delinquent middle schoolers as they shattered.
While we were played, smashed and stomped through shattered glass, we forgot about all of our stressors and anxieties, then left our session feeling exhilarated, tired and very much at peace. The experience especially stuck with E, as she said she plans to add the experience to her self-care regimen, because “even though I’m a very zen person … there’s just something really cathartic about smashing stuff.”
House of Purge is located at 722 Montana Dr Suite F in Charlotte. You can learn more or book an appointment online at http://www.houseofpurge.com/.