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Hell houses, judgment houses, etc. at Halloween
A Hell House consists of a group of horrific scenes within a type of haunted house. They are often set up by evangelical Christian congregations. 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 in North America and elsewhere. One intent is
to proselytize the unsaved public.
Another is to promote certain conservative Christian beliefs, such as:
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 -- usually 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
Such beliefs are rare today, because back in the 1990's, many people realized that there was no hard evidence that such sacrifices actually happened.
|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 showing the collapse of the World Trade Center's buildings.|
History of Hell Houses:
The original 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
|"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..."|
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
"... the voice of suicide, the voice of God, and the bone-chilling
demon declaration of 'HELL HOUSE' in the opening scene..."
1999 price of the kit was $199 U.S. It later went up to $208.80. He commented to National Public Radio:
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 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. . His own Hell House reports about
20,000 visitors and 7,000 (or 35%) Christian conversions (instances of
personal salvation). Admission is $7.00 U.S., or alternately $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 did 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 was being 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 [of visitors] coming. ... Devil worshippers,
Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, everyone'."
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 (HRC) 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:
tricked him into believing he was born gay! Have you ever heard something
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 belief that a homosexual orientation is chosen by the individual was nearly universal among religious conservatives -- and many others -- until recently. However, the actual cause is not a person's choice nor is it determined by a person's DNA. The cause has been traced to Epigenetics. It is a layer of chemicals covering a person's DNA. It remains unchanged through the embryonic and fetal stages of pregnancy, childbirth, childhood, and adulthood. Researchers have recently developed an epigenetic test involving the analysis of saliva samples from a group of male identical twin adults of opposing sexual orientations. They were able to extract data from their epigenetic layer, and predict which twins have a homosexual orientation, with an accuracy of 83%.
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 was:
"... 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,
"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%. They are often performed because of a major genetic abnormality in
the fetus or a threat to the life of the mother. The probability of a woman dying as a result of having an abortion in a medical clinic or hospital is less than if she did not have the abortion and continued the pregnancy to childbirth.|
|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 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2018-NOV-01
Author: B.A. Robinson