Road trip news, rants, and ruminations by the Editors of RoadsideAmerica.com
January 27, 2009
We’ve been to attractions that are haunted, and we’ve been to spook houses that capture you on video while you’re being scared. But The Paraplex in New Orleans, Louisiana, is something new: a real haunted house (a three-story 19th century ex-funeral home, surrounded by cemeteries) which offers edutainment in exchange for its visitors acting as ghost guinea pigs.
“We will be seeing, daily, how many people have experiences, and how the phenomena reacts to people coming in and out of the property,” said owner Larry Montz, a parapsychologist PhD. He calls Paraplex “a paranormal observatory,” but the observing here is done earthward, through a battery of 40 video cameras rigged throughout the house to record everything.
The attraction/laboratory opened this past weekend. By Montz’s reckoning it has nine resident “earthbound entities” (ghosts), and plenty of activities and exhibits to keep the living public occupied while they’re being watched. For a flat fee you can spend all day here, if you like, wandering wherever the spirit(s) take you.
The Paraplex features exhibits of ghost photos and ghost audio recordings, a collection of haunted objects, a theater/lecture hall, and a display of strange dolls sent to Anne Rice when she was writing vampire books. A parapsychology room allows visitors to play with tools of the trade. “Psychic testing stations” are set up to determine visitors’ abilities. Automated “video confessionals,” still being built, will allow people to describe any ghostly encounters at the Paraplex on the spot.
There’s a “Fear Experiment” in the basement, with leftover monsters from when this building was a haunted house attraction (“We’re not trying to spook anyone,” said Montz) and a “Séance Simulation” in a room where real séances can be held as well (Montz’s description of the simulation’s “something’s gone wrong!” introduction reminded us of the panicked geek scientist at Alien Encounter).
Montz explained Paraplex’s “Ghost Experience Simulator” with pride: “While audio explains what is going on you walk through this tunnel and you see things out of the corner of your eye and you’ll hear things, your hair will stand on end, you’ll think that a ghost touched you, and an entity appears, changing from solid to translucent to a fog, because that’s how people see ghosts. It’s a totally educational simulator.”
Montz concedes that he “had to compromise a little” in making Paraplex a little less para-scientific and a little more fun. But Paraplex is “not a haunted house attraction” — at least not in the fun house sense — and Montz cringes when people assume that it’s a Halloween spook house that’s decided to stay open all year long.
“For the last 20 years I’ve wanted to open a facility like this,” he said. “It’s like a Discovery Science Center if you’re interested in the paranormal.” And it’s also haunted, and its ghosts “seem to be pretty content,” according to Montz — which means that they’ll probably still be here if you visit.
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