Hell houses, judgment houses, etc. at Halloween
A Hell House consists of a group of horrific scenes within a type of haunted house. The customer
walks through a sequence of tableaus designed to create terror and
revulsion. The last scene is different; it is typically a portrayal of
heaven. The visitors are then asked to accept salvation
by repenting of their sins and trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Hell Houses are a relatively new evangelistic technique used by
many hundreds of fundamentalist and other evangelical churches in North America. One intent is
to proselytize the unsaved public.
Another is to promote certain conservative Christian beliefs, such as:
That abortions kill human persons;
That sexual orientation is a
matter of choice, is changeable, and that God hates same-sex behavior;
That everyone who is not saved
will go to Hell when they die. They will then be eternally tortured without any
hope of mercy or release;
That underground Satanic cults engage in widespread
sacrifice of humans.
Some hell houses are disguised to resemble conventional secular
haunted houses. The customer only realizes that they have a religious theme
after they have bought their ticket and gone part of the way through the scenes.
Typical scenes are:
A phoney reenactment of the murder of Cassie Bernall, a teenager victim at the Columbine High School in 1999-APR. She
was allegedly asked whether she believed in God, answered yes, and was
murdered on the spot. The incident never happened.
But the story has taken on a life of its own. She is frequently referred to
in conservative Christian magazines, books, and radio programs as a
A person being sacrificed during a Satanic
ritual. The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) web site warned of
Wiccan rituals and stated "... evidence persists that some Satanists and
voodoo groups offer sacrifices -- usual animals, but, possibly, human
babies" at this time. Satanic Ritual Abuse was a widespread hoax that
was commonly believed during the 1980s and early 1990s. 1
Women undergoing very bloody late-term abortions,
complete with screaming, lots of blood, and particularly insensitive,
providers. Some of these scenes have been partly abandoned in recent years in favor of a
portrayal of guilt and depression arising from Post Abortion
Gays and lesbians being tortured
in hell for all eternity because of their same-sex behavior while they were alive on earth.
The dangers of "dabbling" in the occult
and becoming demon possessed.
Personal tragedies arising from pre-marital
||Disastrous tragedies and loss of life resulting from drunk
||A man having an argument with his wife and is later seduced by
Witches pressuring a depressed
teen to murder his fellow students.
||A 9/11 ground zero scene.
History of Hell Houses:
The earliest hell house may have been created by Trinity
Assembly of God in Dallas TX. It was popularized by Rev. Jerry Falwell in the late 1970's. The concept was picked up in 1992 by Keenan Roberts.
His first Hell House was in Roswell, NM. Since then, he has become a pastor of the Abundant Life Church in Arvada, CO. He sells "Hell
House Outreach" kits to other churches. Included is a 263 page manual which
covers "everything from media publicity to casting and costume."
2 A few excerpts from the The 1997 Hell House Outreach
Included in the kit is a video of the previous year's Arvida Hell House and a special
effects CD. 3 According to Roberts' literature, the CD
includes "the voice of suicide, the voice of God, and the bone-chilling
demon declaration of 'HELL HOUSE' in the opening scene..."
||"Pieces of meat placed in a glass bowl to look like
pieces of a baby... purchase a meat product that closely resembles pieces of
||"Theatrical Blood. Because a large amount of blood
is used in this scene and in others, someone should be responsible for
mixing a vat of it each evening..."
||"Chrissy [the woman having an abortion] starts
crying. She is extremely distraught...the medical staff is cold, uncaring,
abrupt, and completely insensitive..."
1999 price of the kit was $199 U.S. It later went up to $208.80. He commented to National Public Radio: "We're
not doing this to win a popularity contest. We're saying look, sin is hurting
our nation and Jesus Christ is the answer to what you're going through."
Roberts has received international attention through an appearance on the Phil
Donahue Show, and reports in the London Times, MS Magazine, New York Times,
Newsweek, etc. He told the Denver Post that the exhibit was designed to
"show young people that they can go to hell for abortion, adultery,
homosexuality, drinking and other things unless they repent and end the
In his first three years of business, Roberts sold 300 kits,
20,000 guests. His own Hell House reports about 7,000 or 35% Christian conversions (instances of
personal salvation). Admission is $7.00 U.S. or $6.00
if you have brought canned goods for the needy. Bill Geerhart has recorded a
somewhat unsympathetic blow-by-blow account of his passage through the Arvada
Hell House. 5
Roberts will not have a display in
2004. He told the Associated Press: "It's not gone away; we're just
taking a year off." He said that his Hell House idea is now used by more
than 500 churches in 14 countries. 6
The American Atheists website stated in 1998:
"Another example of a 'Hell House' extravaganza is in
Kingsport, Tennessee where the Higher Ground Baptist Church
estimates it will attract nearly 9,000 visitors to its gallery of
horrors. Dubbed 'Judgment House,' the tour includes nine scenes and a
cast of 200 actors. The themes mimic previous shows which stretch back
to 1993 -- drunk driving, suicide and teen rebellion. This year, one
exhibit will attempt to portray a teenage girls who dies after having an
abortion. The minister in charge of the 'Judgment House' presentation
told reporters, 'We have all kinds coming... Devil worshippers,
Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, everyone'." 1
Criticisms of the Hell House concept:
The Colorado Council of Churches, criticized the
scare tactics used in the Arvada Hell House. They were also critical of the
literal demonization of homosexuals and abortion providers.
Rev. J.T. Tucker, director of youth ministries at Northway
Church in Dallas, TX suggests that any shock value wears off quickly in a
society saturated with violent images. He commented: "I detest those
things...Trying to scare people into a decision [for Jesus] is very wrong...If you consider
all the money, along with ministry hours...if they would refocus those areas on
missions in urban Dallas, I think they would have a lot bigger return..."
The Human Rights Campaign is a group which promotes equal rights for
gays and lesbians. They note that homosexuals are frequently demonized in Hell
Houses. The reality of sexual orientation is also distorted. A Florida house
features a "demon" who dances around the coffin of an AIDS
victim, overjoyed that the dead man is now suffering in hell. He declares "I
tricked him into believing he was born gay! Have you ever heard something
so silly?" HRC spokesperson Wayne Besen calls such displays
"pornography for the soul...It's poising the minds of people...It's
especially hurting gay and lesbian youth who are already under pressure."
The Rev. Ballard's "Hell House" in Warren County
OH was criticized by Doreen Cudnik, executive director of Stonewall
Cincinnati. She said that the display "is out of touch with AIDS in
the year 2000. To say gay equals AIDS equals burning in hell has the
dangerous potential to lead to hate crimes against the gay community."
The Merced, CA Sun-Star newspaper criticized the New
Beginning Christian Center for what the paper called an "unnecessarily
brutal and insensitive" event. The church's pastor, Mike Duckworth,
said: "We're going to scare the hell out of people and, at the end,
show them there's a way out--Jesus Christ. We're bringing controversial
issues to the forefront and then giving an antidote." 6
A Christian radio station in Fairfield, OH terminated
ads which promoted Kings Point Church of God's Hell House because
the ads invited listeners to "come see the funeral of a homosexual
AIDS patient." The Cincinnati Enquirer said that the ads were "blatant
gay bashing." 6
Hell Houses appear to
spread misinformation and disinformation about a variety of topics:
We feel that their credibility will eventually suffer in
the eyes of the public. Their Hell Houses may do more harm than good to the
cause of their sponsors.
||The nature of abortion: 90% of all
abortions are performed in the first trimester. The percentage of
third-trimester abortions -- as portrayed in the play -- is less than
1%) and are often performed because of a major genetic abnormality in
||The motivation and demeanor of abortion
The appearance, beliefs and activities of
Witches and other
The Satanic ritual abuse hoax.
The nature of sexual
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"At the cusp of Halloween, a nod to religious origins," American
Atheists, 1998-OCT-29, at:
"Hell House," Abundant Life Christian
Center, at: http://www.alccdenver.com/
Conrad Goeringer, "Church groups operating Halloween
hell hoaxes," AANEWS, American Atheists, 1999-OCT-24. To subscribe,
send a blank message to [email protected]
Bill Berkowitz, "Christian Right plans holy havoc
for Halloween," AlterNet.com, 2000-OCT-16, at: http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=9937
Bill Geerhart "Halloween Hangover," at: http://www.postfun.com/pfp/features/98/nov/hellhouse.html
Andy Butcher, "Halloween 'Hell Houses' Come Under Fire. Christian 'shock
evangelism' program criticized for insensitivity," Charisma News Service,
Copyright © 1998 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-SEP-01
Author: B.A. Robinson