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Pick your poison this Halloween? A new entertainment trend boiling up across the country and in Michigan asks a different question: pick your weapon.

Rage rooms -- venues that let customers use sledgehammers, baseball bats and wrenches to release some serious steam by smashing everything from dishes to computer terminals in an enclosed room -- are a new outlet for fun these days. 

Already well-established along the East and West coasts, rage rooms are slowly gaining steam in the Midwest, especially as people look for healthy ways to release frustration. Michigan has at least three -- one in Whitmore Lake, another in Madison Heights and a third in Grand Rapids.

Owners say these rooms offer some serious stress relief in a structured -- and legal -- way without the messy cleanup. 

"We get a lot of people who have been referred by therapists for therapeutic reasons," said Rachel Crawford, co-owner of the Destruction Depot Rage Room in Whitmore Lake, with her husband Matt. "We get people in for all different sorts of reasons."

Opened in 2018 in Brighton before moving to Whitmore Lake earlier this year, the Destruction Depot, one of the first rage rooms in Michigan, was a longtime dream of Matt, an Army vet. As an infantryman who served all over the world in the '90s, he blew things up all the time, he said.

"I said when I get out I would pay a place to be able to smash things," said Matt.

But no such thing existed. And then he saw an ad for a rage room in Europe. He told Rachel about his idea for opening his own rage room on their first date -- she thought he was nuts at first but warmed to the idea -- and today their business regularly attracts a wide range of groups, including divorce parties, work groups and bachelorette parties.

Matt says it's "cathartic" at times to break things.

"With normal,  traditional therapy -- and I mean no disrespect -- it's good to talk your feelings out," said Matt. "Other times you just get so stressed (and say) 'I just want to break something.' It's better to do it here and smash this printer then the one at work."

Located in a nondescript strip mall in a technology park in Whitmore Lake, the Destruction Depot is divided into several rooms. Just off the lobby is a space where guests change into coveralls to protect their clothes. They also wear gloves along with safety goggles or protective face shields (the Crawfords said guests can also sign a waiver and wear their regular clothes).

Nearby is a room with "breakables." Walls are filled with shelves and bins where customers can pick what they'd like to smash including glass bottles, punch bowls, Precious Moment figurines, electronic equipment and keyboards. Rachel says keyboards are especially fun to smash because the keys pop off.

Down the hall off the lobby is a large warehouse space where the three enclosed "rage" rooms are located, two smaller ones and one party room for groups of 10-12. On one wall outside the rooms is the Crawfords' "Wall of Weapons" for smashing, which guests can switch up, including baseball bats, sledgehammers, wrenches and hockey sticks. 

Rose Snowwhite of Dexter and Samantha Banda of Chelsea visited the Destruction Depot earlier this week for a little stress relief. They'd heard of it before -- they work next door -- but had never tried it.

"I thought it was amazing when I found out," said Snowwhite. "I just thought it was cool, the idea of being able to go and take out your aggressions."

Rachel says women are, in fact, they're No. 1 customers.

"By far," said Rachel. "And teen boys. Those are our top two demographics."

"I think especially for women they're always kind of have to be in control, composed, and not take things out," said Rachel. "This gives people an opportunity to break things and let loose and they don't have to clean up afterward."

Rachel says their smashables are collected from various sources. Some are donations; other items come from rummage sales or garage sales. An e-waste provider provides much of their electronics such as printers, fax machines and keyboards. On a recent day, dozens of printers covered nearly half of one wall.

"One of the neat things about what we do is letting people chose their own breakables," said Rachel. "People are drawn to certain things. We get a lot of office workers who are drawn to computers and keyboards and things like that. Maybe they're having frustration at work."

Rachel said most guests pay between $30 and $50 per person for a session that isn't timed -- it's a $20 room fee and then additional costs for the items they break. 

The Escape Room-Zone in Madison Heights, which also has a rage room, takes another approach. It costs $70 for two people for a 20-minute session. That includes a 25-item bin of perishables. Guests can also customize a soundtrack to listen to while they "rage."

During their visit, Snowwhite and Banda took turns smashing a fax machine, dishes and vases, switching up their weapons as they went along. Both said it was especially satisfying to smash glass.

As they left the room after about 30 minutes, their rage spent, Banda smiled.

"I fell like Godzilla," she said.

mfeighan@detroitnews.com

Rage rooms in Michigan

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