The door closes, and the primitive chugs of Pig Destroyer — my chosen soundtrack — boom from a heavy-duty speaker. I select a hefty claw hammer from the rack and set a VHS copy of Baby Geniuses on the dented metal cart. My eyes close on reflex as the hammer’s head crunches the plastic casing. They don’t on my second and third swing. Still, the destruction’s not catastrophic enough. I flip the hammer around in my gloved hand and strike with the claw, sending plastic in all directions.
After my rampage, Jordan Dash tells me he’d never thought of using the claw side of the hammer to break shit. He’s the co-owner of the venue for my grind-fueled escapade, Rampage Room, where customers can pay to suit up in safety gear and smash a package of everyday frustrations — alarm clocks, printers, TVs and more. He and wife Angel opened the business in early August, after about a year and a half of planning (i.e., securing an insurance provider and landlord willing to host them).
I hang up the hammer and set another VHS tape on the metal table, now selecting a massive hockey stick. One thwack, and the shaft fractures. I snap it in two, casting the blade aside, and obliterate the cassette with the shaft. Rest in pieces, 2003’s Hulk. (I’ll show you a “Hulk smash”...)
Jordan got the idea to start a walk-in-friendly rage room (there’s another in town called Anger Management that’s by appointment only) from similar businesses he’d seen overseas. At first, Angel was skeptical of the concept’s potential for success here; it took Jordan setting up a personalized smash room as a birthday present to sell her on the idea. Now, they offer smash packages ranging from $20 to $50 and up, allowing customers to go ham in a controlled environment. They source their breakables from all over, including customer donations, thrift and secondhand stores, and yard sales. Jordan says cathode ray TVs, alarm clocks and printers are in high demand.
After my smash session, Jordan guides me to the relaxation room, the most important part — he thinks it’s crucial for people to cool down between rampage and return to society. There’s an essential oil disperser, couches, water and other nature sounds, a fine comedown after the aggressive rush.
There’s a point of friction, though — Psychology Today warns that “blowing off steam” is an inaccurate metaphor; venting through aggression just trains the mind to convert anxiety into aggression. An Ohio State University professor named Brad Bushman has also published scores of articles in peer-reviewed publications on how such expression tends to be more a rehearsal than a release.
That factored in, Rampage Room’s no replacement for a good therapist and healthy stress management techniques. But goddamn is it fun.