Jesus' Hell House
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Sat Oct 26, 2013 at 06:52:41 PM EST
This post was first published on October 10, 2006. The truths that it reveals about "Hell Houses" seem to be at least as true now as they were then. -- FC

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Halloween approaches, a holiday traditionally celebrated with haunted house attractions that draw children and teenagers like moths to a jack o'lantern's flame.  

But over the last several years, an increasing number of churches have begun offering more than the customary chills and thrills. Instead of haunted house ghosts and goblins, these houses of worship invite children and teenagers to enter Hell House -- where they are treated to graphic depictions of the eternal damnation and torment that await them, should they stray from the straight and narrow path of "Christian" purity.

The Hell House phenomenon was first publicized in Hell House, a 2001 film by director George Ratliff, whose movie focused on the production staged by the Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas. Most reviews of the film read a lot like this one.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingHell House is a movie full of contradictions. It's a documentary about a church that creates a haunted house every Halloween to teach visitors the perils of modern life.
:::
Throughout British history, there were books that would detail the lives of the saints. Often times, the saints were reformed sinners. Ostensibly the tracts would be about redemption, but in reality the tracts were like soft porn or horror (he was a sinner because he took the woman's breast in his hand slowly, etc. etc.) It was publicly acceptable to read them because they were "religious."
:::
That's what Hell House seems like to me. It's a way for the very suppressed religious right to act out in an environment that seems religious. It's a way for them to participate in raves, shoot people and pretend to have sex.
:::
There's also the glaring irresponsibility that Hell House presents as well. Hell House suggests that only gays get AIDS and all gays will eventually get AIDs. That abortions always equal death for the mother. And funniest of all, reading Harry Potter ... will lead to the service of Satan. How little Harry goes about tempting you to kill your parents, I'm not really sure.
:::
There is a nice little scene towards the end that shows how angry some people have been after being 'duped' into thinking Hell House was just another non-denominational haunted house.

Although Jerry Falwell is credited with originating the Hell House concept -- and his Liberty University is sponsoring an elaborate version, known as ScareMare, in Virginia this year -- any church can stage its own Hell House by purchasing an Outreach Kit from the Hell House Ministry of the Reverend Keenan Roberts, pastor of Colorado's New Destiny Christian Center ("Soaring at a Godly Altitude").

Being utilized to preach the Gospel from coast-to-coast and around the world! Hundreds of kits are equipping churches and ministries on the front lines of spiritual battle in virtually every state and eighteen foreign countries... and counting!
:::
Several years ago, the world watched, and the media was shocked as a church began to take an uncompromising stand on the red-hot issues facing our culture today!

Piece by piece, prop by prop, costume by costume - the master plan is organized in a comprehensive manual. A video of what Hell House in action looks like and a special-effects compact disc audio master are also included. This sizzling evangelism event is designed to capture the attention of our sight and sound culture!

"The method is timely! The message is timeless! Desperate times call for drastic measures! If your church or ministry is determined to take a stand against sin and the kingdom of darkness and to reach people for Jesus like never before, then this outreach is for you! Get prayed up and powered up and be prepared for the ride of your ministry life!"

Senior Pastor Keenan Roberts of New Destiny Christian Center,
Broomfield, Colorado
The author and creator of The Hell House Outreach Kit

For a basic charge of $299, with additional sin scene modules available for about $45 more, Pastor Keenan's kits provide all the resources a church might need to stage its own extremely realistic event as a "dynamic evangelism tool" -- including special effects CDs, advice on the best kinds of meat to buy to make stage prop fetuses, and ... oh, yes ... how could I have forgotten the guns?

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI'm gonna shoot straight with you. These guys and their blank firing products have given our productions a totally authentic look, sound and feel in every way when it comes to impressing a live audience with your props. The guns are well-built; they have the weight of the real thing, and they sound terrific. If you're on the look for theatrical guns, and/or five-star blank-firing ammunition, there's no better place to go than IAR. We have utilized their blank firing weapons and high-octane, blank-firing ammo for many years with great satisfaction. Click on their site, look over their amazing inventory and make sure you let them know we sent you when you place your order.

Pastor Keenan

What does a ticket to a Hell House buy? Sheer misogynistic, homophobic and anti-Semitic horror.

As one reviewer of Ratliff's documentary explains, there's no "sin" left behind.

[A] young Baptist pastor named Keenan Roberts dreamt up an alternative to haunted houses for the month of October: he called it "Hell House," and it featured different rooms that re-enacted the ways you could go to hell. Abortion, heavy metal, homosexuality, even the RU-486 pill is not spared.

The documentary [catalogs] throngs of kids lining up to see a room sprayed with fetal blood, and Roberts, who seems to be having WAY too good a time portraying Lucifer. It's a chilling journey into the reptilian hindbrain of American religion.

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Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAmong the high(low)lights: in one room a kid listens to some rock'n'roll and then blows away his entire classroom with a .357 magnum. In another, a woman has a botched abortion and tries to grab the unborn fetus from the doctor. In the best scene, a man with AIDS - pockmarked and covered in sores - is eaten in his hospital bed by a giant monster. And lastly, after descending into Hell itself, you meet a Hasidic Jew who is being ground into meat - and then you are granted audience with Lucifer himself.

When you watch the documentary, you see small kids go through Hell House, having the ever-loving SHIT scared out of them. By the time they get to "Jesus," they're ready to crawl back into the womb. There are endless interviews with vacant-eyed teenagers describing Hell with the brainwashed monotone of the recently-hypnotized. And there are THOUSANDS of kids that have gone through this thing without the slightest bit of irony.
:::
[I]t is NOT OKAY for kids to grow up thinking fags go to hell. It is TOTALLY UNCOOL for people to believe that Jews get churned into hamburger meat in the afterlife. In one Hell House scene, a girl is raped at a "rave," taunted by Lucifer because her dad had molested her, and then goes to Hell BECAUSE SHE COMMITS SUICIDE.
:::
Even living in an outrage-resistant world, "Hell House" is deeply deserving your attention and scorn. This is what we're up against, and it makes you wonder if this country is big enough for all of us.

[Photos: Hell House, 2001 and Amy Bench for the Daily Texan Online's report of an Austin church's annual Hell House production, "Virtual Hell"]

But this country apparently is big enough for hundreds of Hell House productions each and every Halloween.  This year the production values of the official trailer for the Cedar Hill church's DARK RAIL House (presumably the train to hell, since nearby Dallas' public transportation system is known as DART) far exceed those in Ratliff's original film.  

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The Cedar Hill church's elaborate production has grown into a tremendous moneymaker, but even more modest enterprises are effective. The following text and photos are excerpted from one Ohio church's account of its own 2005 Hell House production (all errors in the original).

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe funeral home where the descendent died from AIDS contracted from the so called Alternated Life Style, the funeral in progress. A young lady laying in a casket, mom, grandma and sisters weeping for their lose. They seen how Satan had deceived this young lady into believing that she was born a lesbian and she had died from aids. A  demon jumps out from behind the casket and informs the group how he had convinced her into believing that this was the way she was and how they had led her into hell through this deception without the hope of escape.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting [A] school class room where a troubled teen enters the room during class and shoots several students and the teacher, this depicting school violence we are plagued with today because of sin, no more bibles or prayer in our public school. A demon speaks to the young man with a gun hidden under a long black coat he carries out the mission the demon has convinced him to carry out. The demon is present during all of this as the groups looks on.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe abortion clinic, a young lady lay on the operating table as the medical staff take the life of another unborn child. The demon is present telling the tour group how he had convince this young lady to murder her unborn child. The young lady dies during the abortion.

The Tour Continues [t]o ... where kids are playing around with the occult, there is a satanic ritual taking place. The kids are worked up into a frenzy until a young man is pulled form tour group ... and is offered on a satanic altar as a human sacrifice.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingA teen girl is having trouble with her family, boyfriend, school, so called friends alcohol and drugs. A demon is convincing her no one cares or loves her. At the precise time as the demon talks to her she slowly brings a gun to her head the lights grow dim and a pistol is shot is heard ( a pistol loaded with  blank rounds is fired undetected) and she falls to the floor as the lights come back up.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThen the group is then led to HELL, It can't be described it has to be experienced!

People crying and screaming lock up in chains in a smoke filled rooms with eerie glow of fire. They seek help from the tour group as they cry out for help. Satan appears as he dooms the tour group to an eternity in hell.

Out of no where The Angel of The Lord appears and leads the group to heaven with all it's WONDER and GLORY they came face to face with JESUS CHRIST THE KING OF KINGS AND THE LORD OF LORDS!  (an actor of course) where they told the gospel story and given a chance to be born again. Councilors are stationed just out in the lobby to assist anyone that would ask.

And plenty of impressionable youngsters probably needed them.

As George Ratliff discovered in Texas in 2001, Hell House is an important event for the participants.

You're not going to believe this but after Hell House every year, they have their own Oscar award night. It's their prom and awards ceremony merged into one. It's a huge night of the year because they don't really have a dance or prom -- they have this. So they get dressed up to the nines, their best clothes, buy dresses, rent tuxes. It's a seated formal dinner in the church and they have awards layed out for, you know, "Best Rape Girl," "Best Abortion Girl" and so forth. And it's a full ceremony with the screens and clips. It's huge, huge deal for them.

And it's also a huge, huge deal for the thousands of impressionable children and adolescents who experience Oscar-worthy performances in countless other Hell Houses in churches across the country.

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Trick or Treat.




Display:
I've read that people have been locked in these "hell houses" and not permitted to leave when they wanted to.

Someone should look into that, since this has become a subject.

It wasn't that long ago that the fundies wanted halloween banned!!!  Now they've gone far beyond what the decried- and from the writeup here, doing the same old "blame the victim" nonsense.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 08:45:14 AM EST

Locked doors, lots of props and wiring, probable inflammable material in the props, possible use of pyrotechnics - one big fire code violation, potentially one big tragedy.

by NancyP on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 01:00:32 PM EST
Parent
............they're as exempt from safety regs as they are from employment regs. (See "Good one!" below.)

by anomalous4 on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 01:09:24 AM EST
Parent

because they can come to Jeebus before burning to death! Just like the martyrs! What an opportunity!

by Sharoney on Mon Oct 16, 2006 at 01:47:18 PM EST
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Locked in and not allowed to leave?  Sounds like a crisis pregnancy center.  

Which, come to think of it, is one more scene that should be added to Ross' "Theocracy House" list.

by moiv on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 07:10:51 PM EST
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I just HAD to laugh when I read about the hell house portrayal of a poor young "lesbian" in the casket, who because of her "alternated [sic.] lifestyle" died of AIDS.


This is just so hysterically wrong on so many levels.


Statistically, if you want to avoid AIDS, become a lesbian, since they have the lowest incidence. These extremists can't even get their facts right; but no, don't let a little thing like the truth get in the way of an opportunity to gay-bash.







by SharonB on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 12:08:39 PM EST
It reminded me of a letter to the editor of a local paper after they published an article (this goes back 15 years or so) quoting a diatribe from a fundy preacher about AIDS being God's punishment for sin. A woman wrote:

"That must mean lesbians are God's chosen people."


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Than the grandson of Fred Phelps (the mnister who runs godhatesfags.com) on a chat room once.  He was there damning homos to hell, and I asked him about AIDS, which he said was God's scourge on gays, and I mentioned that lesbians have the smallest infection rate of just about any society demographic.  I added that if God punishes those he hates with AIDS then by his own "logic," God must really love lesbians.

I then added that maybe that proves God really is a man.  He damned me to Hell and left.  The chat room though "cheered" me as they had been trying to get rid of him for an hour.

by TlalocW on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 11:36:36 PM EST
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Pesky things, those. They get in the way of the ideological narrative.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 02:35:53 PM EST
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I grew up in Ovilla, TX which is just a few miles down the road from Cedar Hill.  I also remember when this nonsense started up and how it created quite a stir in the community because the concept was from way out in Right field.  Ultimately though most people came to see it for what it really is; a cheesy attempt at scaring people to Jesus.  Most people go to regular haunted houses to get a giggle or two from the goofiness of it all.  While the same can't be said of Hell House that doesn't change the fact of their generally poor quality effects and terrible acting.  

I think it would be pretty cool for someone to set up an alternative to Hell House called Theocracy House where people get to view what this country might look like should the religious right ever really get their hands on power and change the U.S. over to biblical law.  In one room the visitor could view children being beaten with sticks while reading from James Dobson's book.  In another room we can watch a bunch of idiots trying to perform an exorcism on some kid with ADHD only to end up killing him instead.  The next room could feature some guy who is losing his house to foreclosure because he was duped by his church to give so much of his money to them only to find that they refuse to help him in his time of need.  Oh yeah, this has possibilities.  Anybody else have some ideas?  I could probably go on and on but I need to at least pretend to be working.

by Ross Raymond on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 01:54:31 PM EST

How about employees of religious organizations living under overpasses after getting completely screwed because the usual regulations don't apply:

In God's Name (a four-part series in the New York Times)

From part 1, As Exemptions Grow, Religion Outweighs Regulation, which discusses the regulatory disparity between "secular" and "faith-based" social service organizations:

Religious organizations ... are protected by the courts from almost all lawsuits filed by their ministers or other religious staff members, no matter how unfairly those employees think they have been treated. [...]

Exemptions in the civil rights laws protect religious employers from all legal complaints about faith-based preferences in hiring. The courts have shielded them from many complaints about other forms of discrimination, whether based on race, nationality, age, gender, medical condition or sexual orientation. And most religious organizations have been exempted from federal laws meant to protect pensions and to provide unemployment benefits.

Part 2, Where Faith Abides, Employees Have Few Rights, shows just how little recourse employees of religious-based organizations have against discrimination and arbitrary termination.

Then there's the woman who was fired from her job at the oh-so-upright-and-compassionate Focus on the Family in the wake of her daughter's rape and murder:

'Guys, I'm going through something here' (I wasn't exaggerating much when I referred to "living under underpasses"; the woman now lives in a 20-foot RV. Oh, and did I mention that she had two teenage sons at home while she was going through all this? So much for family values, huh?)

Just another of my usual two brass farthings' worth.


by anomalous4 on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 12:53:41 AM EST
Parent

...The usual suspects are portraying this as an "attack on Christianity (tm)." Actually, they bill it as more than that: It is an attack by the NYT on all "Religion" (ADF) and alternately an attack on "Religious Freedom" (PhiBetaCons).

see: 10 October version of http://alliancealert.org/ 

referencing:



More blather about the end of civilization & etc. See, the libruls want you to live in caves.



by SharonB on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 12:10:59 PM EST
Parent

By Diana Henriquez, who wrote the In God's Name series:

In the Congressional Hopper: A Long Wish List of Special Benefits and Exemptions

It's a good list of current RR attempts at legislation, with links to most of them.


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You may seriously be on to something here. Get it patented, and you could make at least as much money as the Hell House Ministry.

by SharonB on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 02:57:50 PM EST
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Could we also add Salem Witch trials ? Inquisitions ? There are many possibilities.

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In the review you referred to above, Alex Mestas says:

That's what Hell House seems like to me. It's a way for the very suppressed religious right to act out in an environment that seems religious. It's a way for them to participate in raves, shoot people and pretend to have sex.

No one has a dirtier mind than the prude.


by anomalous4 on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 01:18:32 AM EST




by Bruce Wilson on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 04:12:14 PM EST
You sure fooled me.

I thought it was Tony Perkins all dressed up for Trick or Treat.

by moiv on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 06:51:45 PM EST
Parent


St. Nicholas Eve - Krampus Day

Krampus is an evil fertility demon that has a long tail, fur, rattling chain, birch branch, and big black bag.

Santa's Not-So-Little Helper

Santa Claus may be a wonderful symbol of the holiday spirit, but time and consumer society have warped him to the point where he makes little sense. The idea behind Santa, originally, was to carrot-and-stick little boys and girls into good behavior -- he's got a list, he's checking it twice, and if you fall under the 'naughty' category it's switches and coals for you. But what child in America is at all afraid of receiving a lump of coal under the tree? What child even knows what a 'switch' is? Thanks to a range of factors -- Dr. Spock and Mattel are high on the list -- Santa's beneficence is a fait accompli.

Alpine Europe, on the other hand, doesn't have this problem. This is because years ago St. Nick's job was split -- while the jolly old elf delivered the goods, an evil, goat-horned spirit called the Krampus brought switches and bad dreams to the boys and girls of Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, and far northern Italy.

[T]he Krampus is alive and well. He even has his own day -- December 5. His success is certainly thanks in part to the lack of a parallel in American society. But he has stuck around mostly because Krampus Fest, like most holidays in alpine Europe, is a beloved excuse for small towns to get together and drink their brains out.

My italics. I think I like this guy! -----grin-----

OK. Back to being serious...........


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Even participants can be affected, as detailed in the Daily Texan story referenced above.

PromiseLand Church in East Austin has, for the past four years, created Virtual Hell, an evangelical haunted house that features "real life horrors," said youth pastor Ricky Poe - acted-out scenes of domestic violence, teen suicide, date rape, abortion, school shootings and fatal drunk-driving accidents. While critics call the house of horrors a fear-mongering conversion technique of the religious right, Poe says the aim is to reach youths on a spiritual level.
:::
Chris Higgins, as Satan, taunts them with what they've seen and the poor choices they've made.

For three of the past four years, Higgins has played the Devil.
:::
Higgins towers 7 feet tall over the audience. He wears a waxy, pitted mask and a long, black wig. His voice, distorted and demonic, projects from loudspeakers around the smoky room, booming over the wail of lost souls. Two people are chained to the wall. He circles through the audience. He caresses his "trophy case"- three glass boxes filled with his prized "sinners." Two of the cases hold an abortion doctor and nurse, their hands still bloody. The third case is empty, and Satan beckons audience members to enter his sinful world.

Higgins said this is the most demanding role he's ever played emotionally, physically (he leaps and growls and lunges for five hours straight every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, as group after group tours Hell) and spiritually.

"People might think I'm crazy, but, spiritually, I try to walk Christ-like. In this role, Satan throws everything he's got at me. I feel fatigue, I have nightmares."

Many cast members talk of this -headaches, sore feet-all signs, they say, that Satan is near and trying to undo the good they've done.

This, Poe said, is more than a haunted house; it's a kind of spiritual warfare.

Members of the PromiseLand congregation have been organized into intercessory prayer teams, Poe said, and 24 hours a day someone is praying for the Virtual Hell cast.

"Spiritual people can spiritually discern things," Poe said. "I tell the kids involved to keep prayed up. I don't want anyone getting hurt. The enemy's tool is fear."

Just imagine what it's like for the unprepared ... especially if they're only 12 or 13 years old.


by moiv on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 02:10:30 AM EST

Does that mean he's the enemy?

See also Virtual Hell online, courtesy of Just 4 Kids Magazine

Sick. Sick. Sick.


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The dominionist church I left has operated one of these "Hell Houses" for the past fifteen to twenty years running, and they seem to be quite popular in Assemblies churches in general.  (It probably shouldn't shock people to know that New Destiny Christian Center is an Assemblies church (and in fact "Destiny" is becoming a codeword, just like "Liberty" and "Christian Life Center" and "World Prayer Center", for neopente churches in general and Assemblies churches in particular that are dominionist and into "spiritual warfare" theology).  "Hell House" kids have been sold to Assemblies churches as early as the early 90's, in fact.)

by dogemperor on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 11:38:19 PM EST

I am really surprised at how many comments this article has generated.  Looking around T2A's website you normally see anywhere from 3-7 comments.  My comment here will be number 23.  I guess Hell House really does hit on some people's nerves.

by Ross Raymond on Wed Oct 18, 2006 at 03:10:42 PM EST

It seems as if the fundies are replicating the initiation rites of the old 'mystery religions' and possibly some of the Masonic stuff also.  I'm going to see if any of our local 'churches' are doing this.  Hell, I might forward this to my own pastor and see if he's interested.  but then I'm Eastern Orthodox so I suppose not.....
We had a sermon today about demons, but it was mostly a response to the Gospel reading about the Gaderene swine, and how demons have no power except that of boldness and suggestion. Gives one hope, eh?
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