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"Rage Rooms" Provide Fun, Stress Relief

A rage room allows people to vent their anger or frustrations in a safe environment.  Some find it therapeutic, many find it fun.
Tut Underwood
SC Public Radio
A rage room allows people to vent their anger or frustrations in a safe environment. Some find it therapeutic, many find it fun.

Rage rooms allow visitors to take out their frustrations by breaking old dishes, bottles, electronics and more. Some find it therapeutic. Most find it fun.

Across South Carolina, as with the United States in general, a phenomenon begun in Japan in 2009 is growing. Built with sledgehammers, baseball bats, golf clubs and crowbars, they’re called “rage rooms,” or “smash rooms,” and advocates say they offer a safe emotional release from the frustrations and anger that can build up in people in an ever more hectic society. In rage rooms, people pay to destroy discarded items such as bottles, dishes, old electronics and the like.

But most visitors to rage rooms aren’t actually venting their rage. Tiffany Winston of Anger Management rage room in Columbia says most of her clients come to break things for a new experience, and for fun.

“I think some people do have frustrations, or, I think sometimes they do come out for fun, but probably while they’re in the middle of breaking stuff, it’s like ‘you know what? I didn’t even realize that maybe I had this much tension built up.’ But I would say the majority of customers, honestly, this has been something fun to do. It’s definitely a stress reliever, of course. But everybody’s not mad or angry that comes in.”

But the appeal of smashing things is real, according to Jose Caballero, a client of Anger Management. “You get to work out, you get to let some anger out,” he said. “You get to just let things get loose and have fun with some friends, break some things. Everyone’s always wanted to throw a bottle at a TV or be able to hit a TV or computer, so it’s great to come here and do it in a safe environment.”

Winston explained how the business acquires the items its customers come to destroy. “We have about four or five bars in the area that gift us with their empty liquor bottles and beer bottles. In the beginning, we put posts on social media saying, ‘if you’ve got old TVs, electronics you don’t want, they’re broken, etc., we’ll come pick ‘em up for free.’ And we literally ended up with almost a hundred TVs and electronics in our garage in a matter of two weekends.”

According to Nodis Kijula, manager of the South Carolina Riot Room in West Columbia, different people react differently to the new experience of rage rooms. “Sometimes we have people coming in, they’re ready to go, they’re psyched,” he said. “Other people are a lot more cautious. You know, ‘how does this work?’ Other people, just right out of the gate, as soon as I close the door, they’re already breaking everything.”

The variety of actions is as great as the variety in people, said Kijula. “Some people come in, hit everything once and leave. Other people come in, break everything to dust, then ask for more.” But people who come in really like the experience by the time they leave, the manager said.

One of Kijula’s clients, Emily McCooley, finds taking a baseball bat to glassware and electronics to be good therapy. “I’m a social worker, and I see a lot of madness in the world. And to help other people, sometimes I just need to let things out in a healthy way.” McCooley, who separated from her husband a year ago, believes the experience is good for her. “It really helped get out some aggression.”

All visitors to the rooms are required to wear safety gear to protect them from flying glass and parts, say the managers, and are also allowed to bring some of their own items – such as photos of exes or hated bosses – to smash. Winston’s partner Carla Allen believes the rage room business is growing, and will continue to do so.

“We already have three businesses in our little town,” she said, referring to another rage room recently opened in the Midlands. “Just like escape rooms was a phenomenon, rage rooms, definitely. We’re in a lot of rage room business owner groups. What we learned is, you have to stay innovative.” Allen and Winston already are looking at expanding the business.

Looking to the future, she grinned. “We have a few tricks up our sleeves just to keep it interesting, to keep it relevant. I think it’s only up from here.”

Tut Underwood is producer of South Carolina Focus, a weekly news feature. A native of Alabama, Tut graduated from Auburn University with a BA in Speech Communication. He worked in radio in his hometown before moving to Columbia where he received a Master of Mass Communications degree from the University of South Carolina, and worked for local radio while pursuing his degree. He also worked in television. He was employed as a public information specialist for USC, and became Director of Public Information and Marketing for the South Carolina State Museum. His hobbies include reading, listening to music in a variety of styles and collecting movies and old time radio programs.